Growing blueberry bushes in your garden can be fun. Growing these bushes is not too difficult if you know how to plant blueberry bushes. They are perennial bushes.
Therefore, you will be able to harvest blueberries every year. Those fruits are not only great for cooking and eaten fresh. But, they are also loaded with beneficial nutrients. As a result, you will get many health benefits from blueberries.
If you want to grow blueberry bushes in your home garden, you need to know more about this particular plant. Having this knowledge will give you more chance of having a nice harvest each year. These are some facts that you need to know before starting the process of how to plant blueberry bushes.
1. Origins of Blueberries
Blueberries are shrubs from the family of Ericaceae and included in the genus of Vaccinium.
This plant is originated from Northern America, northern Europe, and certain regions in Asia. Years ago, this particular plant only grew in the wilds.
Native Americans collected blueberries in the forest and use them for various purposes. They use blueberry juice for medication.
Moreover, they also used crushed dried blueberries for seasoning meats. In addition, these fruits were also used for dyeing clothes. When the European colonies came to North America, they tried to cultivate them.
It was not an easy task because these fruit plants lived in the wild. However, Frederick Coville and Elizabeth White finally succeed in cultivating blueberries for the first time. Later, in 1916, the first cultivated blueberries are sold in the market.
2. Blueberry Bushes Characteristics
Blueberry bushes are deciduous plants with elliptical leaves. Generally, there are three types of them. They are lowbush blueberries, highbush blueberries, and rabbit eye blueberries.
The three of them have slightly different characteristics. That’s why you must know those characteristics when performing the process of how to plant blueberry bushes.
Lowbush blueberries or Vaccinium angustifolium will grow up to 24 inches tall. As a result, you can plant these bushes in pots. Moreover, it is perfect for you who have a small garden.
Meanwhile, highbush blueberries or Vaccinium corymbosum will grow up to 6 feet tall. Therefore, it is better for you to plant them directly to the ground.
In addition, rabbit eye blueberries will grow pretty high, almost as high as the highbush blueberries. But, they differ in hardiness. Rabbit eye blueberry is more suitable for areas with a warmer climate.
Generally, blueberry bushes can thrive in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 10. However, different types or varieties usually have different levels of hardiness. Therefore, it is important for you to choose the right blueberry varieties which are suitable for your area and climate.
This particular fruit plant can only grow on soil with a certain condition. Therefore, you need to make sure that you meet its growing condition.
Blueberry bushes require acidic soil. It is recommended to plant them in soil with a pH levels between 4 and 5. In addition, the best spot to plant these bushes is in an area with full sun. At this spot, those plants will thrive and produce a big crop.
Blueberry bushes are actually tolerant of shade. But, they will not give you a nice harvest if planted in this area. Blueberry bushes may start producing fruits when they are four years old. But, that year, they may not reach full production yet. Full production is usually achieved when the bushes are 6 years old.
Once they start fruiting, those bushes will produce fruit once a year for almost 20 years. Each bush usually produces 4 kg to 7 kg of blueberries between June and August. Blueberry leaves will turn into red or brown in the fall. Meanwhile, these plants will go dormant in winter.
They require a certain amount of chilling hours in order to produce fruits. Different varieties usually need different amount of chilling hours per season, between 150 and 525 hours.
The best time to plant blueberry bushes is in early spring. However, you can also plant the bushes in the fall. But, if you choose to plant them in that season, you need to do it between late September and early October.
Blueberry bushes usually bloom in the spring. The flowers are small and clustered. Some of them are white and others are pale pink. Blueberry flowers from the highbush type are self-fertile. They do not require flowers from other plants to pollinate.
However, if you want a larger size of fruits, you can plant two different blueberry varieties in your garden. Therefore, they will cross-pollinate and produce bigger fruits.
4. Fruits: Nutritional Value and Uses
Blueberries are small. Its size is between 0.5 cm and 1.5 cm in diameter. The round fruits have dark blue or purple skin. The pulp of these fruits is white. In the middle of the pulp, there are some tiny seeds. Blueberries are juicy.
They taste sweet but tart. This particular fruit is an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin K, manganese, and vitamin C. Moreover, it also contains a small amount of other nutrients, such as vitamin B, vitamin E, iron, potassium, and zinc.
Meanwhile, the skin of this fruit contains antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins which are classified under polyphenols. Blueberries are commonly sold fresh or frozen. They are usually used for making pies, jelly, and sauce. Moreover, they are also sold in the form of juice.
However, if you want to get the most benefits of blueberries, you must eat them fresh. And to get the fruits readily at home, you must start the process of how to plant blueberry bushes next spring.
Before you start the preparation of how to plant blueberry bushes, you must consider what variety to plant. Different varieties have different growing condition requirements. That’s why it is important for you to choose the right one. These are some blueberry variety that you can plant
It is one of the most favorite blueberry varieties. Bluecrop is perfect for you who live in the northern part of the U.S or hardiness zones 4 to 7. This highbush blueberry can grow up to 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide.
Therefore, you need to provide enough space to grow it. In addition, this plant is resistant to diseases and tolerant to drought. This particular plat has a medium growth rate. It will bloom in May. Then, you can harvest the fruit in early August.
This late-season blueberry has medium-size fruits. They are light blue and tasty. Moreover, the fruits are also resistant to cracking. In order to have a nice harvest, you need to plant it in a sunny spot. Moreover, the soil must be rich in nutrients. This blueberry variety also requires well-drained soil with constant moisture.
This particular blueberry variety is also suitable for hardiness zones 4 to 7. It is perfect for you who want to plant blueberry bushes in containers. Its maximum height is about 24 inches. Meanwhile, it spreads up to 2 feet wide.
Top Hat blueberry bushes love to grow in areas with full sun. Moreover, it requires well-drained and acidic soil. Despite its smaller size, this plant bears full-size fruits. You can harvest them between July and August. In addition, its flowers are capable of self-pollination. Therefore, you don’t need to have a company plant for it
This variety of blueberry is suitable for hardiness zones 6 to 9. This highbush blueberry can grow up to 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide. This variety is included in the rabbit eye group. It has a moderate growth rate. This plant requires a sunny planting site.
Powder blue will bloom between late spring to early summer. However, it is recommended for you to plant another rabbit eye variety to help the pollination of those flowers.
In between June and July, you will be able to harvest the fruits. Their color is powdery blue. Moreover, they are medium-sized and sweeter than certain varieties.
This type of blueberry is perfect for you who live in the southern part of the U.S. It is suitable for hardiness zones 8 to 10. This plant has a fast growth rate. Its maximum height is 6 feet. Biloxi produces medium-sized fruits early in the season.
Actually there are two methods of growing blueberries. You can grow them from seeds or from bushes. However, planting from seeds may take more time.
In addition, the resulted plant may not be the same as the mother plant. Therefore, it is more recommended for you to plant them from bushes.
To plant them, of course, you must know how to plant blueberry bushes. Growing blueberries from bushes will give you some advantages. First of all, it will allow you to harvest the fruits within a year or two.
Moreover, the bushes usually will grow into a healthy plant that is similar to the mother plant. In consequence, you will likely have a high-quality harvest. In order to be successful in planting them, you must check these tips on how to plant blueberry bushes.
1. How to Prepare The Planting Site
To give the right growing environment for your blueberry bushes, you need to prepare the planting site first. Choose an area that gets full sun. In addition, it must have good drainage.
In consequence, you may need to make a raised bed for them. Moreover, it must be acidic enough for the bushes to grow. To know the acidity level of your soil, you need to test it first.
If your soil is not acidic enough, you can mix the soil with granulated sulfur. A small amount of sulfur will make the soil acidic.
For better results, you had better do it a couple of months before planting the bushes. Aside from sulfur, pine needles, pine bark, and peat moss can also make the soil more acidic.
Moreover, you must also add some nutrients to the soil. You can use organic matter for it, such as compost. Therefore, your blueberry bushes will get enough nutrients while growing.
If you are going to plant the blueberry bushes in pots, you must make sure that the pots are big enough. Moreover, they must also have enough drainage holes.
Moreover, you need to fill these pots with a potting mix that is designed for plants which require acidic soil to grow.
2. How far Apart to Plant Blueberry Bushes
Since blueberry bushes can grow wide and tall, it is important for you to provide enough spacing for your bushes. It is recommended that your bushes are 5 feet apart from other holes in the same row.
Moreover, you also need to have 8 feet of free space between rows. Therefore, you need to dig the holes with these spacing in mind. In digging the holes, you need to make sure that it is 18 inches wide and 20 inches deep.
You need to fill the bottom part of the hole with a mix of 67% of loam and 33 % of peat moss, oak leaf mold, compost, or aged sawdust. After that, place the bush on it. You need to spread the roots and make sure that you plant it as deep as it was in the nursery container. Then, fill the hole with compost.
3. How to Care for Blueberry Bushes
In order to have healthy blueberry bushes, you can perform these caring tips on how to plant blueberry bushes.
You need to fertilize your bushes a month after planting them. The best fertilizer at this stage is 10-10-10 fertilizer. You must apply half an ounce of that fertilizer around the plant.
It is important to remember that you need to give at least six inches of space between the fertilizer and the plant. In addition, you must fertilize them once a year. The type of fertilizer is similar to the previous one. However, the amount is an ounce per bushes. When they are matured, you need to apply 8 ounce of fertilizer.
Proper watering will help your blueberry bushes grow well. They need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. But, you need to divide it into two or three times watering. It is important to keep the soil moist. But you must not let the soil soggy.
Moreover, to maintain the moisture of the root system, you need to mulch the soil. You can use pine needles, sawdust, or woodchips for it. Its thickness must be between 2 and 4 inches. In mulching the soil, you must not mulch the area near the trunk of the bush. It is done so that the plant will get enough airflow.
You don’t need to prune blueberry bushes when they are young. But, when they start producing fruit, about 4 years, you need to prune them once a year.
The best time to do it is in late winter. You can also be doing it in early spring though. In pruning them, you need to snip old, weak, broken, or dead shoots.
Pruning will stimulate the bushes to grow new shoots. Therefore, you will get a nice harvest in the summer. However, you need to pinch the first flowers of your blueberry bushes.
It is understood that you want to harvest your blueberries as soon as possible. But, letting them fruiting will make them a week. But, if you pinch the first flowers, these bushes will be able to use their energy to strengthen their roots and establish themselves. Therefore, you will get a better harvest next year.
Matured blueberry bushes are usually ready to be harvested in the summer. It is important for you to pick the fruits that are really ripe. Therefore, you will get juicy and tasty blueberries.
Ripe blueberries are usually blue. However, you need to wait a couple of days after they turn blue. In addition, the ripe ones are usually very easy to pick.
Blueberry bushes will not only give you delicious fruits. But, they will also make your garden looks attractive in the fall. However, it is important to remember that birds also love blueberries. Therefore, you need to consider covering your bushes with bird nets when your bushes are fruiting.