Blueberries are the perfect food.
Besides their fantastic taste, by now almost everyone has heard about the health benefits of blueberries – plenty of vitamins, high in antioxidants, to name a few. But did you know that blueberries are one of the easiest plants to manage? They have beautiful foliage – especially in the fall. They’re simple to grow, they rarely suffer from bugs or diseases and they’ll produce for years and years with only minimal maintenance.
There are two main types of blueberries, rabbiteye and highbush. Rabbiteyes are better in warmer climates and highbush do better in the north, in mountains and along the coast. Check with your garden center for what’s best in your area. Whichever you choose, plant several cultivars. Different plants will cross-pollinate producing a greater harvest.
Here’s a trick. Choose plants in groups of three and select early, middle, and late maturing varieties. Your garden center should be able to tell you which is which. Instead of harvesting twenty pounds of berries over two weeks and running the risk of having too much of a good thing, you can end up with a similar harvest over a four or even five week period. Look for one gallon plants at your local hardware store or garden center. A fair price is $10 – $15.
Planting blueberries is easy, but takes a few steps to get the best results. Blueberries like full to partial sun, acid, well-drained soil and they don’t like weeds. Here’s how to proceed.
Remove and discard your sod and dig a shallow hole six inches at the deepest point. Set the dirt aside.
Poke some holes in the ground to improve drainage. Get a matching amount of ground pine bark – often called “soil conditioner.” It’s the fine material left over from processing pine bark nuggets and often comes in two cubic foot bags. Also pick up some Holly-Tone or other organic fertilizer that is for acid-loving plants like azaleas. Mix it all together and place it in your hole. You should end up with a mound of soil.
Remove your blueberry plant from its pot. Tease the roots a bit if they’re crowded, and plant it so it is at the same level it was in the pot, which means it will be somewhat above the original soil level. Mulch with two inches of pine bark nuggets, but don’t bury the stem.
Make sure you keep them well watered as they become established. Place the plants about five feet apart.
As they grow, remove any crossing branches, and any three year old canes (they’ll be woody looking and have deteriorating bark). Then sit back and wait for a fantastic harvest of blueberries every summer for years to come!