I'm Blue for Blueberries

Patty McDermitt
Adams County Master Gardener

I've been asked often in the last year about growing blueberries. There seems to be a greater interest in growing many fruits these days. In fact, I've decided to plant blueberries this year and give them a try myself. Partly because I received two bushes as a birthday present, and secondly, I love blueberries.


The first thing I suggest doing is finding the proper location on your property. Blueberries like acidic soil, sun, and well-drained soil. It's best to prepare the soil a year prior to planting. The PH of the soil should be somewhere between 4.5 and 5.0. (Soil test kits are available at the Extension Office on Old Harrisburg Road for $9.00.) Amend your soil after getting the results of your soil test using the report recommendations. It takes time for sulfur to lower the PH of the soil, should that be a requirement; or phosphorous to aid in raising the PH level. Do not plant blueberries in soil with a high PH level. Your plants will not thrive. Aged sawdust or pine needles work well to increase the acidic level of the soil, but must be added to the soil the season before planting.


Blueberries are sensitive to fluctuating soil moisture and mulch and irrigation are essential for a healthy consistent yield. Their shallow roots are sensitive to soil compaction and poor drainage. Keep them well watered during droughts. They need 1 to 2 inches of water a week. Mulching the plants helps keep the soil moist, but do not use mulches with a high PH level such as uncomposted leaves. Compost works well for amending the soil. Two - four inches of mulch is recommended.


Selection of the variety of blueberry bush is important too. There are many to choose from and include early season, early mid-season, mid-season, mid-late season, and late season varieties. So you need to decide when you want them to be mature and look at those varieties for the best choice for you garden. Some have better characteristics for harvesting the fruit; as well as size of the bush for your space. Blueberry bushes do not produce fruit until the third season and will not be mature for 6 years. Well maintained bushes, will remain productive for about 15-20 years.


Bees pollinate blueberry bushes. Wild bees are usually enough for pollination. Some blueberry bushes require two different cultivars for cross-pollination purposes. By planting two different cultivars you will achieve larger berries, higher yields, and earlier ripening.


Pruning isn't needed for the first three years. Do remove blossoms that appear in the first year and second year to stimulate a vigorous root system. As your bush matures thin out older braches to force new growth.

To be successful with blueberries it requires time and patience. Are you willing to wait for this delight? I know, I am.

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