Blueberries

Blueberry plants are woody perennials that produce white blossoms in the spring that mature to small blue fruits, and glossy green leaves that turn red in the fall.   Blueberries only do well when given the proper conditions and it is most important to prepare the soil before planting. Blueberries have to have acidic soil, and Wisconsin soil generally is not naturally acidic enough for blueberries. It’s recommended to have your soil tested before planting and adjusting with a soil acidifier and add it regularly to maintain a pH of 5-6.

Blueberries will produce well on their own, but produce more prolifically when several plants are planted near each other, especially different varieties.

Blueberries do well in containers as well, particularly blueberry varieties known as Bushel and Berry, which can be grown in pots right on the porch. In order to survive the winter, they must be protected by either burying the pot in the soil and mulching over, or storing in a cold garage or shed. If stored indoors, they need to be watered occasionally.

Light

Prefer full sun. Will grow in some shade, but produce less fruit.

Soil

Prefers acidic, well drained, light soil. Mix soil with organic matter, such as peat moss (make sure it’s very wet before you incorporate it in the soil). Amend soil to a pH of 5-6.

Planting

Dig a hole wider and deeper than the root ball. Plant 3-4 inches deeper than the upper most roots. Plant as close as 2 ft apart for a hedgerow, or about 6 ft to grow individually.

Mulch

Provide 2-4 inches of mulch to cool the soil, conserve moisture, and prevent weeds.

Fertilizer

Fertilize with an acid fertilizer each spring and fall, such as Espoma Holly-tone or Espoma Soil Acidifier. Always follow package instructions for fertilizer application and be careful not to over-fertilize. Make gradual additions of acidifier so as not to stress the plant.

Water

Water well after planting. Afterwards, keep soil consistently moist but not soggy.

Grooming

Only prune back dead or dying branches. Remove blossoms in the first year to help the plant get established and produce a higher yield the following year. Weed regularly for maximum yield.

Pruning

Pruning is very important to growing healthy plants that produce well. To prune, remove low growth around the base, any dead wood, and short, discolored branches. Prune out these branches until 1/3 to 1/2 of the wood is removed, in order to encourage growth and berry production.

Problems

Blueberries can appear chlorotic for the first few years, but with time and regular applications of acidifying fertilizer, plants should grow out it. Birds enjoy blueberries and can become pests, which can be taken care of by covering plants with protective netting, such as Bird-X, supported by a frame.