How to Grow Blueberries

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“Blue skies smilin’ at me
Nothin’ but blue skies do I see
Bluebirds singin’ a song
Nothin’ but blue skies from now on.”

Irving Berlin

 

Blueberries are such a wonderful and easy fruit to grow, it will have you singing! Here’s some tips to get the best blueberries you can.

Blueberries need sun but will tolerate a little dappled shade. They need a fair amount of water to get those juicy berries. Daily watering in high heat is essential.

Purchase blueberries in 5 gallon containers. I would avoid bare root plants. You can buy and plant them anytime of year, even though they only fruit in Spring and if you’re lucky into Summer. Blueberry plants live on for years.

Blueberries enjoy containers as well as being planted in ground. Your main concern will be the pH of the soil. Blueberries must have an acidic soil. To accomplish this goal, plant your blueberry bush in an acidic potting soil, usually called an azalea mix. I then add a blueberry fertilizer. Lastly you can also add peat moss, redwood chips and extra soil sulfur. It’s a great idea to mulch the soil around your plants with redwood mulch. Blueberry plants have shallow roots which means the roots stay near the surface. So covering them with the mulch protects those roots. Also, don’t plant anything else too close to your blueberries as you don’t want to hurt their tender roots with digging.

You should plant more than one variety as cross-pollination between varietals increases fruit production. Here in Los Angeles we need to plant low-chill plants. These plants need only 150-180 “chill” hours to produce fruit. These are called Southern Highbush plants and they are appropriate in zones 5-10. My favorite varieties are Southmoon, Misty, Sunshine Blue, Sharpblue, Jubilee, O’Neal and Star. Jewel grows well but is very tart. Pink Lemonade is good too but the fruits don’t get blue (they stay pink!) so that can be confusing to novices.

Blueberries make great ornamental plants in your landscape. The shrubs themselves are attractive and their flowers and fruits are pretty.  Although they are mainly deciduous, some varieties also have fall color, including Jubilee, Misty, O’Neal, Sunshine Blue and Star.

Because of the high acidity blueberries need, not everything will grow around them. I pair them with strawberries and herbs which can tolerate a low pH. Don’t forget some nice flowers like sweet alyssum to bring pollinators.

Birds LOVE berries and if you would like some too you may need a bird netting. It’s very effective. You can reach right through it to harvest but the birds are afraid of it.

Enjoy your blueberries!

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