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BLUEBERRIES

  How To Grow Blueberries


PLANT TYPE: Perennial
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Vaccinium corymbosum
ZONE / HARDINESS: Hardy to zone 4 - not hardy when temperatures drops below -20F
MATURE PLANT SIZE: 4 to 6 feet high x 3 to 4 feet wide
LIGHT: Full Sun
FLOWERING PERIOD: Early Spring to Mid Spring
SOIL TYPE: Sandy loam to some clay
pH RANGE: 4.5 to 5.2
KNOWN PESTS: Blueberry tip borer, plum curculio, cranberry fruit worm, and cherry fruitworm
KNOWN DISEASES: Mummy berry, powdery mildew, twig blights, botrytis blossom blight, leaf spots, and cane gall



OVERVIEW:

The ideal blueberry plant should have at most sixteen canes - one or two for each year, up to eight years of growth. This can be achieved by allowing only two canes to grow each year from the time bushes are planted until they are eight years old, when the oldest two canes should be 1 inch in diameter. Early in the ninth year, the two largest canes and all but the two largest one-year-old canes should be removed. If repeated annually, this practice minimizes uneven growth and production; the oldest canes are continually replaced with the same number of new canes, and the bushes remain the same size

Highbush blueberries will grow upwards of 4 feet in height as mature plants and will yield large berries in late summer. Choose a well drained, loamy or sandy soil with a pH of 4.5-5.2. You can reduce your soil pH by mixing in sphagnum peat moss or by mixing in compost made from pine needles, oak leaves and/or bark. Work plenty of nutrient-rich compost into the top few inches of soil. Space plants 4 feet apart, alternating cultivars for effective cross-pollination. Rows should be 7 feet apart. Water with liquid fertilizers such as manure, tea or fish fertilizer. Water frequently and mulch heavily around plants. Growth is slow and production will peak at 6-8 years of age.


SOWING / PLANTING:

At planting, dig a hole 18 inches deep and 18 inches wide and mix 1 cubic foot of peat moss with top soil until the hole is filled 4 inches from the top. Set the plant and cover the roots with the remaining peat-soil mix. In heavy soils, an equal amount of peat can be mixed with an equal amount of soil. Set plants 5 feet apart with rows 10 feet apart. Apply 4 inches of sawdust or wood-chip mulch in a 2 feet wide band after planting, and maintain a 4 inch depth and 4 feet band over the life of the planting.


PRUNING:

Blueberry plants normally do not need to be pruned for the first three years. Remove blossoms that appear in the year of planting and second year after planting to stimulate vigorous growth.

It is important to know the anatomy of a blueberry bush before attempting to prune blueberries. During the fourth year, the dormant plants should be pruned in mid-March. At this time, remove dead and weak branches and thin, terminal wood with small buds. Prune interior crossing branches to allow light to the center of the plant.

In subsequent years, thin out older branches to force new growth. Tall-growing branches can be headed back and thin branches removed. Flower buds of blueberry bush are produced on tips and down the second year old shoots. Blueberry bushes tend to produce smaller berries when they are over loaded with fruits. Hence, it is important not to have too many flower buds.


WATERING:

Blueberry bushes have very shallow root systems and are very sensitive to water fluctuations. They need at least 1 to 2 inches of water per week. In dry seasons, supplemental watering is essential to obtain good yields of high quality products. However, do not apply water after early September unless soil is very dry.


MULCHING:

Organic material such as bark, wood chips, sawdust or pine straw as a 3- to 4-inch mulch on the surface after planting results in more uniform soil moisture, reduces soil temperature and generally promotes better bush growth and survival. Pine bark, chips or sawdust have a pH of 3.5 to 4.5 and are more desirable than the same mulches from hardwood with an associated pH above 5.0. However, hardwood mulches on the surface have been satisfactory. Avoid sticky hardwood sawdust that will "seal" the bed and prevent water infiltration.


HARVESTING:

Blueberries usually ripen over several weeks and require two to four pickings to harvest. Hand harvested fruits are picked once per week during most years or more frequently during hot weather. Harvest may begin in early July and extend into September, depending on the variety, weather and location.

To pick by hand, gently roll berries between your thumb and forefinger, removing fully ripe berries and leaving unripe berries for the next picking. A picker can collect berries in an open container attached to a belt or cord at waist level. This frees both hands for picking.


NOTES:

There are three main types of blueberries: highbush, rabbiteye, and southern highbush. Only highbush blueberry is recommended for Ohio. Rabbiteye and southern highbush blueberries are recommended for the southern United States. There are many good blueberry cultivars available. Highbush blueberries do not absolutely require two different cultivars for cross pollination purposes. However, bigger berries and higher yield will result from cross pollination, and thus it is desirable to plant at least two different cultivars.




POPULAR BLUEBERRY VARIETIES

The listed high bush blueberries below are the most common and frequent blueberry varieties grown. They will produce very good yields of large tasty berries, perfect for eating fresh. Average height is about 3-4 feet tall with very nice red foliage in the fall. Acidic soil is a requirement for all these blueberry varieties. These blueberry bushes will begin producing fruit in third year. From the vaccinium species.

Chippewa Blueberries

Hardy to Zone 4
This mid-season variety produces sweet, medium sized, light-blue berries.

Blueray Blueberries

Hardy to Zone 4
A mid-season variety that forms small tight clusters of large, dark blue berries.

Bluecrop Blueberries

Hardy to Zone 4
A mid-season variety that produces loose clusters of large, tart, light blue berries.













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Plant two different blueberry varieties to ensure cross-pollination. A single blueberry plant will produce fruit, but the yields per plant will be higher if more than one plant is grown.





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