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Blueberries

Several blueberry species are indigenous to the United States.

These include the lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), which is of commercial importance in Maine and Canada; the rabbiteye blueberry (V. ashei), which is grown commercially in the southern United States; and the highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum), which is the commercial blueberry of importance in Pennsylvania and in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern regions of the United States. The information that follows pertains solely to highbush blueberry production since this type of blueberry is of primary interest. Managing lowbush types in a home garden tends to be a challenge because the plants spread and form a dense mat. Rabbiteye blueberries can be grown in the extreme southeastern part of the state; their culture is similar to that described below for highbush production. Little information is available on performance of various rabbiteye varieties, however. Production of rabbiteye plants in cooler areas of the state has been very variable.

Although the highbush blueberry plant is indigenous to North America, its value as a commercial fruit crop has been exploited only in the past 60 years or so.

Blueberries have specific requirements so careful consideration needs to be given when choosing and preparing your site.

Appropriate variety selection is crucial for any perennial crop. Blueberry varieties can be selected so they can be harvested from July through mid-September, if desired.

As with other small fruit crops, a blueberry planting should be planned at least one year in advance. The soil should be tested and sulfur and phosphorus applied (if needed) during the fall prior to planting.

If the soil is properly prepared prior to planting, only nitrogen fertilizer is required on a routine annual basis. Do not fertilize in the first year since the root system is very susceptible to root burning at this stage.

Most plantings will produce satisfactory crops when only one variety is included, but pollen from other varieties generally will result in increased yields, larger fruits, and earlier ripening.

Pruning controls the crop load, thus increasing fruit quality. It also invigorates the plant, forcing essential new growth from the base of the plant.

A mature blueberry plant will produce 6 to 10 pounds (7 to 10 pints) of fruit per year. Harvest begins in June for varieties such as Earliblue and may continue through mid-September for latest varieties.

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Blueberries

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