How to Grow Blueberries
by Linda Paquette
Along with lip-smacking sweetness, flower and foliage are also worthy
reasons to grow blueberries. White, bell-shaped blossoms make a lovely
addition to a spring garden and fiery scarlet foliage adds drama to a
fading autumn landscape. In addition to taste and appearance,
blueberries are ripe with medical advantages; they help lower
cholesterol and studies suggest that blueberries also reduce the risk
of some cancers.
Types of Blueberries
1. Highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) are those usually found
in the produce department of your grocery. As you might expect, they
are named because the bushes grow to 6-feet in height. Fruits are
large, from ˝ to an inch in diameter. Depending on variety, highbush
blueberries are hardy from Zones 4 through 11.
2. Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) generally reach no
more than 18-inches in height. Propagated from shoots spread through
underground runners, lowbush blueberries form low mats of plants that
produce best on a two-year cycle. The first year is the growth year
and the second year is the fruiting year. The sweet, quarter-inch
fruits of lowbush blueberries commonly are known as Wild Blueberries
and are hardy in Zones 3 through 6.
3. Half-high blueberries (V. corymbosum x V. angustifolium) are a
hybrid between lowbush and highbush cultivars. Although shorter than
high-bush blueberries, half-high grow in much the same way as their
taller relatives. Taste and size meet halfway between highbush and
lowbush. An extra advantage for the northern grower is that half-high
blueberries were especially bred to withstand the heavy snowfalls and
cold winters of inland North America and are hardy to Zone 3.
4. Rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei), native to the
Southeastern United States, are the tallest of the blueberry bushes,
reaching up to 10-feet in height. Because of their thick skins,
rabbiteye blueberries are able to withstand southern heat in zones
seven through nine.
All types of blueberries grow best in full sun. Plants tolerate
partial shade, but production declines as shade increases. Blueberries
are shallow rooted and poor competitors against large rooted trees,
shrubs, and weeds that compete for water, nutrients, and crowd airways
necessary to good blueberry production.
The most important element is growing blueberries is soil composition.
To make the most of your blueberry planting, begin necessary soil
amendments the year before planting. Blueberries grow best in loose,
sandy loam. Although you may run across wild blueberries growing in a
bog, on closer inspection you’ll see that plants grow on small,
Blueberries need moisture retentive, well-drained, humus-rich soil
with good aeration. Soil acidity is also very important in growing
blueberries. Plants need a pH of 4.0 to no more than 5.0 to thrive.
Initially, bring the pH down to acceptable levels with sulphur or 4 to
6 inches of acid peat mixed into the first 6 to 8 inches of topsoil.
Also, enrich soil with good organic compost.
Although most blueberries self-pollinate, plant two or more varieties
within a type for a larger harvest of more voluptuous fruits. Five
plants provide enough blueberries for fresh eating, drying, and
preserving for a family of four.
Plant blueberries in spring after all danger of frost passes. When
growing several plants, you may find it easier to prepare a bed rather
than digging holes for individual plants. Add a generous portion of
peat moss to your trench or hole both to increase the organic content
and to ensure continued soil acidity.
Standard spacing for highbush, half-high, and rabbiteye bushes is five
to six feet apart in rows eight to ten feet distant. Dig holes or make
your row three to four inches deeper than the size of the root balls.
Pack soil firmly around the roots of each plant.
Plant lowbush varieties one to three feet apart in rows three to four
feet distant. Cover about a third of the top stems with soil to
encourage runners to develop.
Once established, a blueberry bush may remain productive for decades
with just a minimum of care.
The second part of this article is available on the site the author
Linda is an author of
Gardening Tips Tricks and Howto`s of Gardening Guides and the
Lawn Care section of the Lawnmower Guide.