Blueberries for the Home Garden
Posted: May 31, 2011
Blueberries are becoming a very popular home garden plant, and for very good reason. Once they are established and growing well, few plants in the home landscape are as giving as the highbush blueberry. Not only do these plants, if well cared for, produce tasty, healthy berries, but their graceful shape compliments most landscapes, and the foliage turns a beautiful burgundy red in the fall.
Other than birds snapping up ripe blueberries before you can get to them, blueberries are relatively pest-free. The real trick to blueberries is choosing the right site and doing proper site preparation before planting. First and foremost, blueberries need an acid soil, between 4.5 and 5 on the pH scale. For most gardeners, that means adding amendments such as elemental sulfur to lower the pH before planting, and continuing those applications over the lifespan of the plant.
Because blueberries are very sensitive to fluctuating soil moisture, mulch and irrigation are essential for a healthy planting and for consistent yields. Plants should be kept well watered, particularly through hot spells in the summer. Hardwood bark mulch and rotted sawdust are good mulches. And believe me, there aren’t too many cultivated crop plants for which we recommend using a sawdust mulch! Mulch should be applied to a depth of 4 inches and replenished whenever necessary. Avoid mulches with high pH such as mushroom compost or non-composted leaves, which may be high in natural toxins.
For more information on growing blueberries, including variety selection and pest management, see the Penn State publication “Fruit Production for the Home Gardener” at http://agsci.psu.edu.