We are continuing our series on growing blueberry bushes sponsored by a plant donation from Monrovia®. If you are wondering where to buy blueberry plants, you can see the huge variety they have at their site here, or look for the Monrovia brand at your local garden center. This article is about proper blueberry plant care and planning your garden.
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Today, we are talking about planning your blueberry patch. Before you even think about buying blueberry plants, you need to know what you have available on your property and what you expect out of it. Blueberries can be easy to grow. But, blueberry plant care starts with planning. If you take the time up front to plan your garden and learn the proper care of blueberry bushes, your harvest will be fantastic.
One of the first things you will want to do when planning a blueberry patch is to consider how much space, sun, and water you have available. You will also have to consider the chill hours of the climate you live in and what your expectations are for your harvest. Different varieties of blueberries require different climates, have varying tastes, are vastly different in size, and produce fruit at different times of the summer. In this post, I am going to cover all the planning needed to get you ready to buy your blueberry plants.
Considerations when planning a blueberry patch:
How much space do you have / need?
Part of blueberry plant care is giving the plants the space they need to grow. Some varieties of blueberries can be quite large, while others like wild blueberries are barely more than ground cover. For example, the BrazelBerries® Jelly Bean™ Blueberry reaches only 1-2 feet tall and wide. Meaning, you will be able to plant many more of them per square foot than other larger varieties. On the other end of the spectrum, I will be planting Chandler Midseason Blueberries. These get five to seven feet tall and four to five feet wide. With five of these plants, my garden will be roughly thirty feet long! Make sure you think about your new blueberry patch and search the blueberries on the Monrovia site here for size and planting recommendations.
Or, if space isn’t the concern and you would like to plan on having food for your family, count on two plants per person with a larger variety of bush.
What kind of soil do you have?
Another part of blueberry plant care is the soil. Blueberries have shallow nets of roots, not long deep reaching roots. This means they like well draining soil that is watered regularly. Blueberries are not drought tolerant and need moist soil. They also prefer to have a lot of acidic, organic material. Plan on about one cubic foot of organic material for each plant in your garden.
Unless you are already growing acidic-loving plants like azalea, or rhododendron successfully, you probably don’t have the soil to plant your blueberries quite yet. I added the links to these to help you identify whether or not you already have these. If not, these would be great adjacent to your new blueberry path (… nudge).
Testing soil is easy. You can send it in to get tested in your area, otherwise, there are ph kits like this you can buy. I have read that the ideal ph for blueberries is around 5 but that something in the range of 4.6 to 5.2 is great as well.
I will be planting in what is now clay. Obviously, I will need to add organics and lower the ph. I have some rotting pine trees and coffee grounds that I will be throwing into the soil to start. I will likely need more to adjust the ph to the proper levels though, I will be tilling in some peat or azalea mix to help with this. You will be able to find these at your local garden center. If you keep reading, I will have a post on this soon.
Consider the climate in your blueberry plant care. Take into account your zone for cold hardiness and chill hours. You need to find the right balance between having enough chill hours each year and still be hardy enough for your minimum temperature. Your local garden center will help you find the right plants for your area. Otherwise, read through the descriptions of what each blueberry variety needs on Monrovia’s website.
I already mentioned blueberries need moist soil. If you live in a climate that provides this naturally, then great! If not, then you should set up an automatic sprinkling system. I don’t care how much you think you will be able to water regularly. It just doesn’t happen. Besides, I am a lazy gardener. I prefer to have in-ground systems, or soaker hoses. If you do get any kind of mold, bugs, or fungus, why would you want to spray it all over with sprinkler heads?
One solution that I found to be cheap, easy, and effective is to get a water timer and some irrigation hose. This set up workes great on my straw bale garden and I totally recommend it. You can read about my set up here. My plan at this point is to set the water for early morning and let it run for 10 minutes each day.
Most blueberries Monrovia grows are self-fertile. For example, the Brazelberries varieties are self-pollinating. Some blueberries do need a companion blueberry for pollination in order to produce a good crop of berries, but the companions do not have to be the exact same variety. However, they should be of the same type, such as Northern Highbush, Southern Highbush, Lowbush, etc.
Mulch is a great thing in a perennial garden. Two to four inches of mulch will prevent weeds, conserve water, and add organic material into your garden. For a blueberry garden, you can use sawdust, pine bark, grass clippings, and acidic compost to help maintain the acidity.
Use an azalea or rhododendron fertilizer that is similar to 10-20-10 in late spring. Blueberries can be sensitive to over fertilizing, so be careful not to over-fertilize. Talk to your local garden center as they will know more specifics about your climate and area and will be able to give you good advice.
Here’s your quick checklist for planning a blueberry patch before buying your plants:
_ Space for 2 plants per person for feeding your family, or the correct number of plants to fill your existing space considering the size and spacing recommendations of each variety.
_ Organic rich, acidic, well draining soil.
_ Check your zone and buy blueberries that will grow in that zone. Check both cold hardiness, and chill hours.
_ A consistently wet climate with full sun, or a watering system.
_ Make sure the varieties you pick can pollinate. Most just need a companion of the same variety. Check your variety.
_ Get an acidic mulch to prevent weeds, conserve water, and add organic material.
_ Fertilize in late spring with an acidic fertilizer.