Unlike most of the other berries grown in the North America, blueberries are natives. Gardeners in zones 2-9 can enjoy growing their own. Although there are cultivars that require cross-pollinations, most blueberries are self-fertile, but seem to grow bigger, more robust crops if planted near one or two other companion plants-specifically other varieties of blueberries. Planting a variety of cultivars with different ripening seasons will also extend your harvest. Try Earliblue, Bluecrop and Coville for respectively early, mid-season and late-season crops. Select virus-free plants in one of 4 types, depending on which is most suitable to your region: highbush (zones 4-7), lowbush (zones 2-6); midbush (a combination of the highbush and lowbush varieties) and rabbiteye, or southern highbush (zones 7-9).
Blueberries prefer nutrient-rich, highly acidic soil (a pH of 4 to 5) and full sun exposure. They will tolerate partial shade, but yields will be lower. Prepare your site 6 months to 1 year in advance by working acidic amendments like peat, wood chips and pine needles into the soil as necessary. Alternatively, consider creating raised beds. A combination of equal parts builders-sand and peat moss mixed with a bucket of compost will provide an acidic base rich in nutrients. Avoid planting in low spots and in areas where water tends to stand, or within 300 feet of wild blueberries.
In warmer areas, plant bare-root blueberries in late fall or late winter. Cooler areas should plant blueberries in the early spring after the danger of heavy frost has passed. Container blueberries can be planted anytime during the spring and summer. Highbush varieties should be spaced 5 feet apart, rabbiteye varieties 8 feet apart and lowbush varieties 2 feet apart in each row.
Blueberries will stay healthy and productive if pruned regularly. Young bushes up to 2 years old should be trimmed only to remove dead or diseased canes removed. Mature bushes (3 to 8 yrs.) require removal of prostrate canes and canes longer than 2 feet in length. Lowbush varieties can be pruned with a lawn mower. Because they will not produce berries the year following pruning, cut back half of the bushes each year and keep the other half of your plants in production.
Blueberries should be taste-tested before harvesting. Berries that have just turned blue are not the best tasting. Gently shake a cluster of berries to determine ripeness. The ripe ones will fall easily off the bush. Store blueberries in the refrigerator immediately after harvesting. Cooler temperatures than the average refrigerator (31 to 32F) will keep them fresh for up to two weeks.
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com
We live in the Seattle/Tacoma of Washington State & have been looking for easy-to-read directions on growing Blueberries. I was just thrilled when I saw your wonderful article! It's easy to read, concise & informative. Thanks for taking the time to write it!
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