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Planting Blueberries

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Wouldn’t it be great to just walk out into your yard and pick fresh blueberries for your morning breakfast? Packed with vitamins and antioxidants, blueberries are a wonderful, healthy addition to any home garden. They'll add beautiful, vibrant pops of color to your landscape as well. They can thrive both in the ground and potted in patio planters, so even if you have limited space it’s possible to enjoy delicious fresh blueberries each Summer for many years to come. With a little advanced planning and know-how, you’ll soon be on your way.

Your local nursery can advise you on which varieties of blueberry grow best in your area, and the optimal times to plant. Here in the South (Zone 7) where I live, they are best planted in the Fall or early Spring. You’ll want to select a location that gets plenty of sun, and if planting in-ground choose an area that has adequate soil drainage. To maximize fruit yield, it’s helpful to have at least two different varieties placed relatively close to one another, to encourage pollination. I am going to be putting in Rabbiteye and Pink Lemonade this year. Also, as tempting as it may be to get right to fruit picking the very first year, it takes a new planting a couple of seasons to become fully established. For the first 2 years, it’s recommended to actually pick off any flowers that appear on the bush, so the plant can put all of it’s energy into creating a solid root system and foliage. Annual pruning is essential too, to prevent overgrowth, and allow sunlight to reach the center.

Once you have your plants and know your location, now what? Blueberries love acidic soil, ideally PH 4 to 5. If the soil isn’t naturally acidic in your area, not to worry. Peat moss mixed in and fertilizers can help, but hold off about a month after planting to fertilize for the first time. If your blueberry bushes are going into the ground, dig a hole approximately 20 by 20 inches, put some peat moss in the bottom of the hole and place your plant in with the roots spread out. Pack tightly with soil. Repeat with other bushes a few feet apart from each other in a row. If using a container, be sure to select one that drains well, and fill with an acidic potting mix, with a layer of mulch on top to maintain water absorption. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. They need approximately an inch or two of water per week when new, or during fruit ripening, and an inch per week otherwise. If you live in an area where there is plenty of rainfall, you won’t need to water them much at all. Be cautious to avoid over watering.

Before you know it your efforts will pay off, and you’ll be harvesting baskets of yummy blueberries. But remember that the birds love them too. So unless you plan to share with the whole neighborhood flock, it’s a good idea to have some bird netting on hand to protect the fruits of your labors. Enjoy the process. The rewards are worth the wait. Happy Blueberry planting!

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