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How to Care for Blueberry Bushes

How to Care for Blueberry Bushes

Stringent care for blueberry plants is required during the first year after planting, to get a good yield in the following years. Learn how to care for blueberry bushes, before you incorporate them in your garden.
Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
Growing fruit trees in the yard has an added advantage over ornamental varieties. They not only beautify the landscape with foliage and flowers, but give edible fruits during the peak fruiting season. While blueberry bushes hold the reputation for ease in growing, you cannot just plant and leave them. To get a good yield, spend some time to nurture your fruit plants and check for any growth problems. There are certain things that should be taken into consideration for growing blueberries.

Planting Blueberry Bushes

There are several varieties of blueberries, and selecting the best one that adapts well in your area is a prerequisite. Also, you can think of planting early season, mid season and late season blueberries. While early season and mid season fruits ripen in mid June and mid July respectively, the late season variety can be harvested in late July and August. Whichever cultivar you have selected, take a note of the following points while growing blueberry bushes.
  • Hardiness zones: USDA zones 4 - 9
  • Planting location: Raised bed or elevated area
  • Planting soil: Acidic soil, preferably pH 4.5 - 5.2
  • Soil type: Fertile and well-drained soil
  • Plant spacing: 6 feet between two bushes
  • Water requirement: Frequent irrigation
  • Mulching: Require 2 - 4 inch layer mulch
  • Fertilization: Regular fertilizer application
  • Pruning: Required after 3 - 4 years to restore vitality
  • Pest problems: Resistant to common pests
Tips on Caring for Blueberry Bushes

While purchasing blueberry starter plants from nursery centers, select those having healthy roots and leaves. Avoid plants that have less roots, as they will have less vigor at maturity. Also, correct soil preparation is a necessity for growing healthy blueberry plants. So, take utmost care about the soil pH, fertility, draining problem and soil texture. If required, supplement the garden soil with peat moss, sandy soil and organic matter to meet the required soil aspects. The following info deals with how to plant and care for blueberry bushes.

If applicable, you can install a drip irrigation system for watering blueberry plants. With these fruit bearing plants, heavy irrigation once in 2 - 3 days is better than daily watering. The water requirement for blueberries is about 1 inch per week. This may fluctuate a little depending upon the soil moisture levels and climatic conditions in your area. Ensure that the planting soil is moist and drains properly, without water logging problem.

Blueberry plants require ample amounts of nutrients right after they get established on the soil. The first dose of fertilizer can be applied within 1 - 1½ months of plantation. You should purchase an acidic fertilizer that is suitable for these fruiting plants, and follow the suggested concentration. In general, fertilization is done three times in a year, first in spring before the flower buds develop, second during active growth season and lastly in late summer.

Caring for Young Bushes
Most likely, blueberry bushes will produce blooms from the first year of planting. However, don't encourage the flowers to pollinate and produce fruits. Instead snip off the flower buds, before they open and start producing berries. This blueberry bush care strategy is extremely important to promote stem growth before fruiting, and also, to get a well-established and healthy root system.

Laying mulch around the blueberry plants gives dual benefits - it helps in retaining the soil moisture which is crucial for optimal growth, and also mulching hinders the growth of unwanted weeds. To reap these benefits, make sure you use a thick layer of sawdust and wood chips around the main stems. It is observed that blueberry bushes maintained without competing plants give a higher yield.

As with other fruit trees and bushes, pruning blueberry plants is imperative for maintaining a healthy growth. Allow your plants to grow continuously without trimming for 3 consecutive years, though you can remove weak or diseased twigs anytime. After this period is over, prune down older canes from the base and center to encourage light penetration. Total number of canes in a healthy plant should not exceed 12. Preferably, branches that are very short, or large in diameter should be removed.

Provided that you follow the basic growth and fruiting requirements, they will yield a good harvest. Commercially planted blueberry plants are replaced only after 20 - 30 years. So, doesn't that sound interesting? You plant these fruiting bushes once, follow the basic care tips and enjoy juicy fruits for many years to come.
Blueberry Farm