Wednesday, April 04, 2012

How to Plant Blueberry Bushes

Dig planting holes twice as deep and wide as the root ball.
I've grown blueberries before, but it's been more than 20 years since I sold the house where I first planted them as foundation shrubs. I'm in a newer home now, and this house has no landscaping,  except what Mother Nature provided (and some green stuff that masquerades as grass along the side of the house and in the steeply sloped front yard).

So, where to begin with this blank canvas garden?

Last spring I dug up a 3 foot wide foundation bed along the back side of the house and amended the soil to see what I could grow. The soil was compacted clay with lots of rocks and about 2 inches of topsoil. After double digging and amending the soild with sand, Moo-Doo and straw, my little test bed produced an amazing crop of pole beans that kept bearing well into October.

This year I have more ambitious garden plans. I want to plant flowering shrubs, I want a big vegetable garden, I want to start perennial beds, and I want to grow blueberries. To get started on these projects, I decided to double dig the foundation bed again, add more manure, more sand and plant blueberry bushes.

Blueberries in this garden will grow into attractive shrubs and we'll get some nice organic fruit in a few years. The location is perfect; the back of the house gets plenty of moisture from the roof. The pine trees we left standing in our yard drop needles in the fall  that tend to collect near the back of the house along this garden, so they'll add beneficial natural acidic mulch to the blueberry bed. The bed faces south, and the sun shines on the section I'm using for the blueberries for several hours a day, but in late afternoon it dips behind the pines in our neighbor's yard, so during the summer it's filtered sun and shade. Blueberries like that exposure. Being on the southerly side near the house protects them from winter winds, too.

To plant blueberry bushes in the bed along the back of the house, all I need to do is dig properly spaced planting holes twice as deep and wide as the root balls of the bushes, mix in manure (Moo-Doo is my favorite) and sand to lighten the heavy clay soil, and then plant each bush with the soil mounded into a slight slope away from the base of the bush. I'll water them well when I plant, and then mulch the entire bed with natural cedar mulch. That's pretty much it except for pruning next winter and side dressing with manure and coffee grounds next spring and summer.

Blueberry bushes ready for planting, 30 March 2012
I found plenty of blueberry plants at the garden center, and chose four plants: 2 each of two different varieties.  Blueberry bushes produce fruit on new wood, so it's best to prune them in February to encourage branching when they begin to grow in Spring. The first year you plant you shouldn't expect a crop of fruit. The plants need to get established and acclimated to their new home. When I bought them, I noticed the young blueberry bushes hadn't been pruned over the winter so I did that when I got them home, while the buds were still tight and not opened up.

The only thing I should need to worry about once I see the bushes have taken root and started to grow is to make sure they get water so they don't dry out, and keeping the birds from eating the berries next year.

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