Planting Blueberries

First, a disclaimer.  I am certainly no authority on blueberries, having tried twice before to grow them and having failed both times.  But having decided to try again, here’s a little basic information for anybody else who might want to give it a try.

Blueberries require acidic soil.  So before planting it’s necessary to do a soil test.  Ideally the soil pH should be 4.5 to 5.0.  If the pH is too high, you can bring it down by applying sulfur.

We have a new garden with a pH of 5.3, which is too acidic for most things.  We decided to dedicate a bit of it to blueberries.  Even though we’re a little higher than the recommended pH, it seemed close enough to me, especially considering the way I planned to plant them.

We decided to plant rabbiteye blueberries, which are native to the Southeast, as opposed to highbush blueberries, which are native to the Northeast.  For improved pollination it’s best to plant at least two varieties.  We chose Powderblue and Tifblue, and we ordered our plants from Ty Ty Nursery, in Ty Ty, Georgia.

There was snow on the ground when they arrived, so we kept them in a refrigerator until we could work the ground.  I tilled in some compost and spread some bone meal (because the soil was deficient in phosphorous). Then I dug holes for the plants, filling in the holes with about 2/3 peat moss and 1/3 topsoil as I planted the bushes.  After that I put a thick layer of pine bark mulch around the plants and watered them thoroughly.

Planted

Planted

Mulched

Mulched

Deer destroyed our last attempt at blueberries, so this time I put a wire cage around each plant. If they grow as they should I’ll have to remove the cages before too long, but at least this will give them a good start.

Caged

Caged

This year we’ll pinch off any blooms and let the plant spend all its energy establishing itself.  Maybe next year we’ll get a few berries.  The year after that we should be getting plenty and if all goes well they’ll continue to produce for many years.

At least that’s what we’re hoping for.  If any blueberry experts happen to read this and want to offer some advice, I’ll be happy to receive it.

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8 comments on “Planting Blueberries

  1. Eumaeus says:

    I think you’ve got a good start and made a wise choice in a variety perhaps more adapted to your area.
    We tried making the soil more acidic using peletized sulfur.
    High-bush varieties were almost all sclerotic we did foliar applications of iron.
    I think that we may have mulched too heavy. Blueberries are very shallow rooted.
    My coworker says that all established blueberries need is some pine needle mulch each year.
    Good luck, Bill.

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks. Hoping these will take. I bought a bale of pine needles but it didn’t go far. At $4/bale I need to find a place I can gather my own for free. Unfortunately there is no such place on this farm.

      I love the idea of having blueberries. But I’m sure the deer do too.

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  2. nebraskadave says:

    I’ve not met anyone in Nebraska that has tried blueberries. Most often grown berries in Nebraska are strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and mulberries. Oh, yeah, and elderberries. I’m eventually going to try to plant some berry bushes. I have a promise of some blackberries when thinning time comes from a friend. Maybe this will be the year for that.

    Third time is a charm, so they say. Good growing. Have a great blueberry planting day.

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    • Bill says:

      We gave up on strawberries. They were taking way too much of our time. Here unless you use plastic mulch or herbicides you end up spending tons of time weeding, and still can’t keep up. We have lots of wild blackberries around so we decided to let that be our berries. But I like the idea of permanent blueberry bushes so we’re giving it another shot.

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  3. shoreacres says:

    Blueberries are pretty common in Texas, now. The most well-known farm is Moorhead’s, north of Houston. I know there was some trouble getting them started, but I think I remember hearing the gurus over at Texas A&M developed some new varieties that do better. For one thing, the bushes at Moorheads grow at just the right height for picking – no serious bending over!

    They have a facebook page, too, but I couldn’t check that out. I’ll bet they’d be more than willing to answer questions or provide tips.

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    • Bill says:

      I read a Texas A&M publication when I was doing research and I think you’re right. Here we’re sort of in the middle zone where we could grow either type (and where either type might not succeed). I’m optimistic. My biggest concern is the deer.

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  4. My expertise in blueberries runs in the eating of them, preferably after I do the picking. May the deer intuit the boundaries … :))

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