How to plant a blueberry bush

Farm & Dairy

Native blueberries are found in sunny areas with acidic, moist but well-drained soils

Vayda planted her blueberry bush in a sunny spot near a creek with well-drained soil. (Sara Welch photo)

Vayda planted her blueberry bush in a sunny spot near a creek with well-drained soil. (Sara Welch photo)

(FARM AND DAIRY) – This year for Easter I got my daughter a cutting from a blueberry bush to grow at home. It seems the more time we spend here, the more we are looking for projects and as the weather gets nicer those projects are almost always outdoors. So we’re going to give growing a blueberry bush a shot this summer.

I picked a blueberry bush because I know that there are a few native varieties of blueberries the grow in northeast Ohio, which means the natural conditions in my backyard are already close to ideal for growing blueberries. Additionally, planting native plants helps pollinators and other wildlife.

We want to make sure our blueberry bush gets a good start and has a healthy growing season this summer to get established. The healthier our bush is after the first growing season, the less maintenance it will need the following season. So we started with some research to learn how to get our blueberry bush off to its healthiest start by meeting all of its growing requirements when we plant it.

Growing requirements

Native blueberries are found in sunny areas with acidic, moist but well-drained soils. These areas include open woods, thickets and clearings. They also tolerate boggy or swampy areas.

Incidentally, cultivated varieties have a lot of the same requirements.

Soil pH. When finding a prime location to plant a blueberry bush, ensuring acidic soil is key. Blueberries prefer a soil pH between 4.0 and 5.5. You can test your soil to make sure the pH is ideal or you can roll the dice and hope your soil meets the plant’s requirements. The nice thing about planting native plants is more often than not the natural planting conditions do meet the plant’s requirements.

If you chose to do a soil test and the location you’ve selected is not ideal you can add soil to the planting site to ensure success. Dig out an area about three to four feet in diameter and two feet deep for an individual plant. Then backfill the hole with a mixture made up of half bagged organic garden soil and half peat moss. Plant your bush in the backfilled area.

Drainage. Blueberries like to grow in moist, but well-drained areas. They develop shallow root systems that spread out and take up the top few inches of topsoil, so it’s important they have plenty of water to avoid drying out. However, if the planting location is in a low-lying area that typically retains water or if the soil is heavy clay and retains a lot of moisture year-round, your blueberry bush could become susceptible to root rot. Make sure the planting site is moist but drains easily. You can improve drainage in a potential planting site by adding organic matter. You might also consider adding a layer of mulch over the soil where your blueberry bush is planted to keep the moisture close to the surface of the soil where the roots need it most.

Choose a sunny location. Blueberries will tolerate partial shade but produce more fruit in full sun. If you would like to optimize your plant’s production chose a location that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight a day during the growing season, which stretched from late spring to late summer.

Ensuring pollination for fruit production. The blueberry bush I chose is a self-pollinating variety, but many aren’t, which means you need at least two different varieties to pollinate one another and ensure fruit production. You might also stagger your berry production by choosing varieties that ripen at different times, so instead of getting a ton of blueberries all at once, you get fewer berries over a longer period of time.

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