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Blueberries

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How to choose and grow blueberries

Ericaceae
Deciduous, Edible fruit, Shrubs

BLUEBERRY

Native to eastern North America; for ornamental species, see Vaccinium.

Most blueberries grown for fruit are also handsome shrubs suitable for hedges or shrub borders. Leaves, to 3 in. long, are bronze when new, maturing to dark green, turning scarlet or yellow in fall. Tiny, urn-shaped spring flowers are white or pinkish. Summer fruit is decorative.

Blueberries thrive under conditions that suit rhododendrons and azaleas, to which they are related. They need cool, moist, well-drained acid soil (pH 4.5–5.5). Where soil isn’t acidic enough, either create proper conditions in garden soil or grow in containers filled with acidic potting mix.

For more information about how to grow blueberries, go to How to Choose and Grow Blueberries.

How to choose and grow blueberries

Blueberries thrive under conditions that suit rhododendrons and azaleas, to which they are related. They need cool, moist, well-drained acid soil (pH 4.5–5.5). Where soil isn’t acidic enough, either create proper conditions in garden soil or grow in containers filled with acidic potting mix.

Set plants about 3 ft. apart for an informal hedge; as individual shrubs, space at least 4–5 ft. apart.

Blueberries are available bare root or in containers. Plant in early spring in cold-winter regions, autumn in mild climates. Position the crown so that it is no deeper than 1/2 in. below the ground. Blueberries have fine roots near the soil surface; keep them moist, but don’t subject them to standing water. A 3/4-in.-thick mulch of sawdust, ground bark, or the like will protect roots, help conserve soil moisture, and keep weeds down. Don’t disturb roots by cultivating around plants.

Use acid-forming fertilizers. California growers in particular may need to correct chlorosis with iron sulfate or iron chelate.

Prune to prevent overbearing. Plants shape themselves but often produce so many fruit buds that berries are undersize and plant growth slows down. Keep first-year plants from bearing by stripping off flowers. On older plants, cut back ends of twigs to the point where fruit buds are widely spaced. Or simply remove some of the oldest branches each year. Also prune out all weak shoots.

Plants seldom have serious problems requiring regular control in home gardens. Netting will keep birds at bay. Plant at least two varieties for better pollination, choosing kinds that ripen at different times for a long harvest. For sufficient fruit throughout the season, allow two plants for each household member.

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