Your Year Around Flower and Garden Guide

A Little Care Along the Way for Your Blueberries to Thrive

The Care for Blueberry Bushes is minimal yet some maintenance is required.

Blueberries a they should beBlueberry bushes need at least one inch of water per week. However, tap water can raise the pH of soil and may also contain trace minerals that damage blueberry roots. When rainfall isn't plentiful, the solution to watering blueberries is to use saved rainwater whenever possible and only use tap water when absolutely necessary.

A two to three inch mulch of wood chips, sawdust, oak leaves, or shredded bark also helps maintain soil acidity and conserve moisture.

Avoid fertilizers that make soil alkaline. Also, avoid using concentrated fertilizers, since they may burn the roots of your plants. Soybean or cottonseed meal, at 2 pounds per 100 square feet, is ideal. Alternatively, small plantings benefit from fertilization with an organic azalea fertilizer or one specially formulated for acid-loving plants.

Your new planting will likely not blossom until the second year. During the first blossoming year, you need to remove all blossoms. This allows your bushes to become firmly established and develop healthier root systems that result in stronger plants overall.

In addition, blossom removal from tall types of blueberries encourages vegetative growth that develops the canopy needed to support heavy harvests in later years.

Diseases and Pests

Possibly the biggest pests to blueberries are the birds we work so hard to attract to our gardens. Birds love blueberries and can quickly eat an entire crop of an unprotected planting. Protect blueberries from birds with bird proof netting.

Draping a net over each bush offers some protection, but birds still may fly under the nets. Since blueberries ripen over a period of three weeks, the ideal protection for your bushes is a walk-in blueberry cage, which is a light frame built around your bushes. Blueberry BushThe frame serves as a support for the net and also lets you secure the net to block off all entrances to birds, still allowing room to enter and harvest your blueberries. Completely remove the net after harvest.

Young branches of blueberry bushes are also a wintertime delicacy for rabbits and other small rodents. A simple fence of chicken wire can curtail their activity. However, be sure the fence is tall enough to keep small animals out when snow is deep.

Insects are generally not a problem and most diseases can be easily prevented with careful pruning.