Blueberry basics

One solution if the soil pH is too high is to get a shorter cultivar, such as lowbush or half-high, and plant in a container. Just make sure it is large enough, perhaps 15 to 20 gallon size, or 18 to 24 inches wide and 12 to 15 inches deep. You can plant container and all right in the ground. If left above ground, make sure to bring into an unheated shed or garage over winter that wont allow the soil to freeze. Ample ground heat protects roots in the ground during winter, something roots above ground in pots don't get. Container blueberries also are great for small gardens. When planting in containers, use half peat moss and half potting soil.

Once you have the right cultivars, and soil, plant as you would other shrubs. Give enough space-at least 5 to 7 feet apart for the highbush, 3 to 5 feet apart for the half-high, and 2 to 3 feet apart for the lowbush. Add plenty of peat moss or compost, or both, when planting. Blueberry roots are near the surface and sensitive to drying out, so don't allow them to dry before planting and water well once planted. Keep them well-watered until established, and even later when droughts. Several inches of mulch helps retain moisture, and helps prevent weeds. Hand-pulling weeds is best so not to damage their shallow roots with a hoe.

Since blueberries usually begin bearing fruit when 4 to 5 years old, buying older and larger plants will give you fruit in fewer years. You don't really need to prune bushes, except to remove broken or rubbing branches, until they are much older. They do need some fertilizer, such as a cup of 5-3-4 or similar for young plants, more for larger mature ones. Apply this in early spring, and perhaps again in late June. Don't apply much later so plants will harden properly for winter. Also you can use acidic fertilizers as you find for azaleas and hollies.

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