Who better to know how to take care of blueberry bushes than the owner of a huge organic blueberry farm that grows and exports blueberries Internationally. Having grown over 45 varieties of blueberries over the span 35 plus years they have accumulated a wealth of tips and information to help you take care of your blueberry bushes and produce the best crops. So we asked them the question: How do your care for a blueberry bush? And here is what they had to say.
Care for a blueberry bush involves getting the soil pH acidic between 4.5 pH and 5.5 pH and is well-draining. Plenty of sunlight, at least 6 hours a day is essential. Alkaline soils will turn the leaves yellow and stunt growth. The best way to get your soil acidic is to use compost, add pine bark around the blueberry bush or use sulphur. If you are using sulphur, it should be added to the soil just before planting.
If you have poorly drained soils, you should form raised beds of between 150 – 200mm high and will require 25-50mm of water per week during the growing season. Trickle irrigation is the most common system that growers use with the recommended rate being 25-50 litres per plant per week.
I also had the opportunity to ask them about using lemon juice around the base of the plant to get the soil more acidic. However, they warned about being careful doing that as the citric acid can burn the roots. So maybe, just ensure that you pour it on the soil away from the base of the plant as it won’t damage the roots. It will also kill the weeds that may compete with the blueberry bush. Another option is to use pine bark around the blueberry plant since pine bark is acidic.
Sawdust can also be used around the blueberry bush however, you need to know what tree the sawdust has come from. For example, pine bark is fine but eucalyptus has too many high concentrations of toxic materials in it such as the oil that leaches out from it and will kill the plant. The best wood is pine bark according to our expert.
Pine bark is slow release, so you will need to put it on the soil around the base of the blueberry bush every year to slowly bring the soil pH down to a more acidic state.
Blueberries also don’t grow very well on waterlogged soils as they need good drainage. Waterlogged soils lack oxygen which plant roots need for respiration. The best soils for blueberry bushes are well-draining soils such as a sandy soil. They are light and easily amended with compost. For more information please read our article: How To Plant Blueberry Bushes
What Is The Best Fertilizer For Blueberries?
The best fertilizer for blueberries is organic composted matter or a liquid or powdered seaweed. Blueberries do not need a lot of fertilizer and they can be sensitive to over fertilization causing salt burn to the roots, shoot dieback and leaf scorch.
Do not use a blood and bone fertilizer as these will add a lot of calcium to the soil and when you add it to the soil along with other fertilizers you will also get a lot of lime which will increase the pH. Blueberries like a low pH so they don’t like lime.
Organic fertilizers are slow release so they will slowly release their nutrients over an extended period of time. If you prefer something more fast acting then you would need to use a chemical fertilizer such as NPK in the form of 10-10-10 or Triple 10. For an explanation of what the ratios NPK 10-10-10 mean please read the article: Triple 16 Fertilizer Benefits
A common way to know if your blueberries are being over or under fertilized is to observe the growth and foliage. If growth is excessive then it may mean the blueberry bush is over fertilized, however if you observe poor growth, poor yields or reddened leaves this may indicate nutrient deficiency.
If your blueberry leaves are turning red then you need to check out this article: Why Are My Blueberry Leaves Turning Red
How Do You Fertilize Blueberry Plants?
Blueberry plants do well with small amounts of organic fertilizer applied three times per year. Apply a small amount of fertilizer the first time in Spring when new growth appears, followed by another application six weeks later and a final application of fertilizer just after harvest.
To apply the fertilizer, first loosen the soil with a rake around the plant being careful not to rake too deeply and disturb the roots. Apply fertilizer from the drip line of the plant outwards by one foot avoiding the base of the plant and avoiding the leaves and bark. If you do happen to get some fertilizer on the leaves or bark, be sure to wash it off immediately to avoid damage. Work the fertilizer into the soil with a rake, then water to make the nutrients available to the plant.
If you are using chemical fertilizers then take a look at the table below for suggested amounts and times to fertilize. Do not use blood meal or ammonium nitrate. Rates below are for mature plants. Use only one fertilizer per application.
|Application of Fertilizer||Timing of Application||Ammonium Sulfate|
21% Nitrogen (N)
36% Nitrogen (N)
46% Nitrogen (N)
|Cotton Seed Meal|
7% Nitrogen (N)
|3 oz per plant||2 oz per plant||1.5 oz per plant||9 oz per plant|
|2nd||6 Weeks Later||3 oz per plant||2 oz per plant||1.5 oz per plant||9 oz per plant|
|3rd||After Harvest||3 oz per plant||2 oz per plant||1.5 oz per plant||9 oz per plant|
Do Blueberry Bushes Need To Be Cut Back?
Blueberry bushes need to be cut back and pruned for successful production of blueberries. The best time to prune is late winter after the chance of severe cold is over to early spring before new growth appears. Blueberry bushes should be pruned or cut back on an annual basis.
Where Is The Best Place To Plant Blueberry Bushes?
The best place to plant a blueberry bush is in a sunny sheltered spot that is protected from harsh winds. Blueberry plants can tolerate shade but they are more productive when they get direct sun.
The video below will help you choose the right location and variety of blueberries to grow. Its important to plant varieties from the same season. The reason for this is that an early season and a late season will not cross pollinate as their blooms will not open at the same time.
Blueberries will grow best in full sun. Plants will tolerate partial shade, however too much shade will cause plants to produce fewer blossoms and less fruit. Avoid areas with too many trees as they will provide too much shade and compete for water and nutrients. 
When Should I Plant My Blueberry Bushes?
Plant new blueberry bushes in April or May after the coldest weather has passed and new growth begins.
For more information about when to plant your blueberry bushes by State please read our article: Blueberry Season
How Long Does It Take For A Blueberry Bush To Produce?
Blueberry bushes won’t have much fruit for the first 2 to 3 years, with the harvest being the biggest after 5 years of planting. Annual pruning and regular weeding are essential to ensure good successful crops.
How Do I Keep Bugs Off My Blueberry Bushes?
The answer we got to this question was very interesting, as I had thought about putting up some netting to keep the birds off my blueberry fruit. However, the blueberry farm expert informed us differently.
Birds will keep bugs, pests and insects off blueberries as the birds ate many of the pests and insects that were on the plants. The birds’ droppings also provided additional fertilizer back to the plants.
The birds did eat some of the blueberries, about 40 tonnes a year on this particular farm. However, the benefits far outweighed the blueberries that were lost to the birds. They had also tried diatomaceous earth to keep pests and bugs away in the past, but had found the results were not what was expected.
In saying this, you might like to use some netting as soon as the blueberries begin to ripen to ensure you get more blueberries to eat then the birds. However, leaving the netting off during the growing season makes sense to keep the bugs under control. Once the blueberries begin to ripen, put the netting back over the plants.
In conclusion, the soil pH is very important for the best health and production of your blueberry bushes. It should be acidic and well-draining. They also thrive on plenty of sunlight, at least six hours a day, and do not like too much fertilizer.
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