How to Blueberry (Planting and Pruning)
One of the biggest nutritional powerhouses that you can eat comes in a very small package. Blueberries are packed with more cancer-fighting, anti-aging, eyesight-saving, and disease-fighting antioxidants than foods like spinach and salmon. The best way to get more blueberries is to plant a number of varieties so they cross-pollinate. More varieties mean that you'll have an extended ripening period, which is always wonderful.
- Height: 4-6 ft tall
- Spread: 3-4 ft.
- Space: 4-6 ft. apart
- Yields: 10-20 lbs.
- Harvest Time: Early to Mid Season - July
‘BLUE CROP’ Blueberry plants
Bluecrop produces big clusters of large, light blue, blueberries that are firm and somewhat tart—great for preserves, baking, freezing, and fresh eating. It also provides some nice landscape value with blooms in May, with white (possibly tinged pink) flowers covering the plant and fiery red color in the fall.
Blueberry plants are self-fertile, but cross-pollination produces a better crop—creating larger yields of larger berries. So it is best to plant more than one variety with the same bloom time.
Has a chill hours (CU) requirement of 600–1000. (Chill hours are the average hours of air temperature between 32° and 45° F in a typical winter season.) Grows in a rounded shape.
‘BLUE RAY’ Blueberry plants
Blueray is a home garden favorite with large deep blueberries that matures a few days earlier than Blue Crop. They are good for fresh eating, jams and jellies, freezes well, and baking.
With Blue Ray Blueberry in your garden, you'll be in good company; its one of the most popular home blueberries throughout the northeast and midwest. They are famous for heavy crops and dependable winter hardiness. Grows as a shrub with large aromatic sweet fruit.
Planting in a full sun location is a must!
Your ideal condition for these shrubs is at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day. Identify a sunny spot, and then adjust accordingly. Provide very acidic soil that is well-drained but moist, infertile (“Yes, you read that right?”) and high in organic matter. If drainage is a problem, consider raised-bed planting. Start with a soil test. "If you're lucky enough to have a pH of between 4.5 and 5.5, then you can grow blueberries all day long." Our greenhouse soil’s PH is around 7.4 - 7.8.
The best way to plant blueberry bushes is in the ground. Plant them 4 feet apart - in rows that are 10 feet apart.
1. Dig a hole about 2-1/2 feet wide and 1 foot deep. Remove most of the native soil. Save a small amount to mix with Back to Nature’s, ‘Acidified Composted Cotton Burrs.’
2. In the bottom of the hole mix 4 cups native soil with 4 cups Cotton Burr.
3. Remove the plant from the pot and lightly loosen the bottom of the root ball to release the roots as you set it in place in the hole.
4. Keep the top of the root ball even with the soil surface and fill in around the roots with the ‘Acidified, Cotton Burr Compost’. Lightly tamp dirt around your newly planted blueberry.
5. Build a basin around your plant and water well. Add additional soil if necessary and water again. Blueberries like moisture because they're shallow-rooted, so water deeply. Continue watering the plant’s first few years in the ground. (Speaking of water, did you know the pH of water can vary enormously and affect the acidity and alkalinity of soil? Meters to measure pH levels, as well as test soil kits are widely available to help with any necessary adjustments during the growing season.)
6. Mulch to a depth of about 3 inches with wood shavings and chips, pine needles, autumn oak leaves, or sawdust. Replenish the mulch each fall, after leaves drop.
7. Fertilize in the Fall (feed/sprinkle the plants) with 2 ounces of Bloodmeal (12-0-0) Slow-release Nitrogen. Also, fertilize with Fertilome’s ‘Acid Loving’ Fertilizer (31-11-11) when the buds appear in early spring, and then again once the fruit is established.
8. Retest the soil pH every few years, and adjust with more Hi-Yield® Soil Sulfur as indicated.
If growing in the type of environment they love - acid soil, not too much competition from weeds, full sun - blueberry bushes are very prolific berry producers. And ironically, it's their high productivity that wears them out. Canes that are more than seven years old become less productive. To keep them producing well, blueberry bushes need to be pruned every year. If your bushes have never been trimmed, be careful not to go overboard the first year.
WHEN TO PRUNE?
Prune in March when Blueberry bushes are dormant. The sap is not flowing and the leaves have dropped off.
Start by viewing the entire bush to come up with a pruning strategy. Look for healthy canes you would like to keep. (10-15 canes) Prune about 25 - 33% of the bush each year to encourage new growth. Reduce flower buds. Clip out the smaller brush. Prune out anything that is crossing branches or growing back into the plant. Prune canes as close to the ground as possible. Prune old gray thick canes with bark and tips that have died off.
Prune diseased or broken branches with few buds and dead tips (least productive). Look for twiggy old canes. You want the bush to have a narrow base and a wide, open-top that allows sunlight and air in. Remove canes from the center if growth is heavy to facilitate air-flow and sunlight. Clean your pruners in a mixture of Clorox and water to avoid spreading disease.