Most people don't think of growing blueberries as a landscape plant but these beautiful shrubs make a colorful addition to the garden. They are covered with attractive flowers in early spring, delicious berries in the summer, and gorgeous crimson foliage in the fall. What's not to love! Plus - the berries are really GOOD for you! They are full of fiber, low in fat, packed with vitamin C, and have antioxidant properties!
As I mentioned, blueberry shrubs make an attractive addition to the landscape providing interest for the entire season. The clusters of white or blush flowers that cover the shrubs in the spring are not only beautiful but give the added bonus of delicious blueberries in the summer. The shrubs have an attractive shape with lovely deep green foliage throughout the summer. In the fall, the leaves turn a brilliant scarlet and provide striking color in the garden.
Blueberries should be planted in a group with at least two different cultivars for best berry production. They can even be planted as a colorful hedge. Choose a nice selection of a few different but compatible varieties. Many cultivars are listed as self pollinating but by planting a variety of different kinds, you will not only improve your berry yield, but you can extend the berry picking season by including cultivars that ripen at different times!
Blueberries are easy to grow, especially if the planting site is prepared well initially. They should be planted in an area that receives full sun and has good moist soil that is rich in organic matter.
In addition and just as important, they require acidic soil (pH between 4.5 and 5.5). It is important to test your soil first, but most garden soils are not normally this acidic and it's usually necessary to add a soil acidifier. Sulfur in some form is the most effective way to acidify your soil. Straight chemical or elemental sulfur is commonly used and will successfully lower pH if applied according to the label directions. Iron sulfate adds iron to the soil as well as lowering pH. When you plant, mix in plenty of good quality compost and peat moss; this will help retain moisture and nutrients in the soil. Mulch the plants with about 3" of pine mulch or pine needles.
Once planted, blueberries don't require much maintenance except to maintain the lower soil pH and keep them weeded and watered. Add some good compost around the plants in the spring and fertilize them with Holly-tone and some cottonseed meal in the spring and fall.
Another nice thing about blueberries is that they make great container plants! You don't need a big garden space to grow them! Plant them in a large container placed on a deck, patio, or sunny porch. Just remember to plant more than one variety for the best berry production.
Some minor pruning is recommended on older blueberry shrubs and this should be accomplished in late winter or early spring before growth begins. The best way to prune them is to thin them; removing any crossing branches, broken branches, and weak, drooping branches. You should also remove older branches that are no longer productive and any really twiggy stems, but do not remove more than 20% of the growth in any one season. Tip back branches that are too tall and thin out some of the end twigs to encourage more fruit production.
In general, blueberries have very few pest and disease problems. Animal marauders are the most serious pests that we have had to deal with in our blueberry patch and after sharing them with the deer for a few years, we finally surrounded the whole patch with a welded wire fence. Now we just have the birds to contend with. Every season they take their share and every year we vow to cover the blueberries with netting - maybe this year! But I must say that despite the bird predation, we still pick gallons of delicious blueberries each season.