We asked our Horticulture Team for their best Tips and Tricks for growing healthy, delicious, gorgeous Blueberries in a permaculture garden. People across the country can successfully grow these wonderful bushes.
There are 5 main growth habits of Blueberries, including: Northern Highbush, Southern Highbush, Lowbush, Hybrid Half-high and Rabbiteyes. These varieties range widely in chill hours, cold hardiness, different fruiting seasons, size, and flavors.
Selecting the right variety is key to successfully growing blueberries. Nature Hills offers many varieties, and one will work best for your area.
Zones 3 and 4 can grow Half-Highs, including Northblue, Northcountry and Polaris.
Zones 5 and 6 can reliably grow Northern Highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum), including Earliblue, Draper and Pink Lemonade.
Southern and Western gardeners can grow both Rabbiteyes (Vaccinium ashei) like Climax and Tifblue; or Southern Highbush like Southmoon and Misty.
Location: Blueberries prefer full sun and will produce more flavorful berries for you if you can provide it for them. Protect your plants from the hot late afternoon sun if you live in an area with low humidity.
Soil Type: Blueberries will perform well in acidic soil that is high in organic matter. Much like Azaleas, these plants are naturally found in thin mountain soil, so you'll need to recreate that environment. It is recommended to get a reading on your soil Ph before planting. Northern Highbush and Rabbiteyes Blueberries prefer an acid rich soil with a pH of 6.0 or lower for the best fruiting. For the Half-Highs, an even lower pH of 5.5 is needed. A simple soil test kit or meter should be used to meter and monitor your soils pH.
Adjusting Ph: If you need to adjust the pH down, start working on it several months before planting. Soil sulfur, peat moss and chucked coir all help to reduce Ph. Once you've planted, it's a good idea to use a soil meter to check the Ph regularly. Amendments should be added as needed to achieve and maintain the required Ph. The addition of organic fertilizers such as Feather Meal, Cottonseed or Fish Meal will help to adjust the Ph down.
Planting: Blueberries like to grow in soil that is rich in organic matter. When planting, dig your hole as deep as your plant’s container and twice as wide. Add a 25% mix of either compost, oak leaf mold or aged saw dust to the back fill. Remove the plant from the pot and with high pressure water spray the soil away from the bottom of the root to loosen. Spread the loosened roots out and backfill into the hole. Do not plants any deeper than the soil line that exists in the container. Pack soil in firmly around roots.
Mulch: Blueberry roots are shallow and really benefit from a good layer of mulch 4 inches deep and spread out to 2 feet outside of the perimeter of the canopy. This will help keep the roots cool.
Watering: Blueberries like it moist, and mulch helps retain the water. Determine the proper amount of water necessary by sticking your index finger into the soil to the second knuckle just before you water. If the soil is moist, delay watering another day. Our team recommends that you study your plants to become familiar with what is required. Then, make adjustment for extreme heat, cold or rain. Use rain water where you can, as many municipalities have high pH alkaline water.
Fertilizing: Feeding Blueberries in the ground is determined by the soil characteristics and pH. Areas with high organic matter and low pH will require limited fertilization. It's a great idea to do a soil test to determine if your soil is lacking any specific element.
First Year: There is really no proven consequence to removing the fruit the first year, other than having faster growth.
Blueberries are wonderful plants for container gardening. You can control the soil pH better in containers, so this technique is highly recommended.
Choose a container that is 2 to 4 inches wider than the pot that the plant comes in. Make sure that the pot has plenty of drainage holes in the bottom.
In cold winter climates, move your container to a protected location. Cover the container with straw or wrap it with burlap to protect the roots from freezing.
Apply fertilizer every three months in younger plants (1 to 5 years old) making sure that the plant is well fed going into dormancy in the fall.
In older plants (5 to 30 years old) fertilizing increases to every other month.
All Blueberries require some pruning. Blueberries should be pruned regularly after they reach 3 years of age. Blueberry bushes are best pruned when they are dormant, and early spring pruning can help eliminate any winter damage to the plants.
Northern and Southern Highbushes and the Rabbiteyes need more aggressive pruning than other growth habits do. Half-Highs and Lowbush require major pruning only when grown in patches to avoid crowding.
Major pruning for the Highbush and Rabbiteyes begins in the third season after planting. The object is to remove all of the 3-year-old wood to stimulate new shoots to form and to open up the plant for good air circulation. Alternate the plants that are pruned from year to year to maintain production.
Blueberries are partially self-fertile, so you will harvest more and larger berries by planting two or more varieties with the same growth habit. Planting more than one variety can also extend your harvest season.
Choose varieties from an Early Season, Mid-Season and Late Season to extend your harvest season. We've made recommendations for partner plants on the Blueberry product pages.