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How to Grow Highbush Blueberries in Your Backyard
How to Grow Highbush Blueberries in Your Backyard will help ensure that your investment and time is protected. Starting them out the right way will give you a leg up on natural blueberry growing. Check out more Organic Fruit Growing tips on our blog.
Growing Blueberry Plants
Blueberries are a delicious and healthy fruit that you can grow in your own backyard. A member of the flowering plant family known as the Ericaceae (which also includes cranberries and azaleas), it is a perennial that grows well in acidic soil with a neutral pH of 6.5 or lower.
For the best growth, you will want at least 6 hours of sun. If you’re thinking of growing blueberries in your yard, these tips will help you get started. Large plants don’t transplant well, so it’s important to start them in the right place.
You can find blueberry varieties that cover the seasons to lengthen your harvest. The type of blueberry you grow will depend on your location and when you want to harvest them. Different varieties have different size berries and different dates for harvest.
If you want a long season of blueberries to harvest, you can install multiple varieties that cover the season, up to 9 weeks long. You can enjoy a long harvest season, with fruit available from early to late summer.
When to plant your blueberry bushes
Highbush blueberries grow best in cooler regions and regions with good air circulation. The shrubs should be spaced at least three feet apart, and be sure to plant varieties that are adapted to your growing zone. Some are self-pollinating, and others require cross-pollination, depending on the variety.
Plants can be purchased bare root or in pots. Bare root ones have come from soil and go back to soil, we find that they’re hardier and more adapted to our cold climate than potted plants.
The best time to plant your blueberries is in the early spring. Fall planting can be challenging because much of the plants’ growth for the following year happens after the leaves fall off. The fall growth ensures significant root growth and flower buds for a healthy plant.
How to plant blueberries
Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow at home. You do not need a lot of space, because they grow as bushes. These bushes can be kept at a reasonable size by pruning them. You can grow them in containers, which makes them easy to move around if you’re short on space. You do not need a lot of sunlight, because they are a woodland plant.
Blueberries can be planted in a shady spot in your yard, thriving in moist, well-drained soils and warm weather. Soil moisture is an important part of growing healthy plants as they have shallow root systems and need a constant supply to pull out essential nutrients from the soil.
One factor that affects your success is the soil ph. Blueberry plants are naturally adapted to acidic soils. They’ll grow in soils that are on the alkaline side of the scale, but they’ll be healthier and produce more fruit if the soils are acidic. Blueberry plants need nutrients that are available at a pH of 4.5 to 6.0. For best results, you will want to plant them in soils that are high in organic matter content and naturally acidic.
How to grow your soil for the best blueberry fruit
We have found that ph isn’t as big as an issue for blueberries as water and nutrient availability is. John Kempf, a leading soil scientist, shares more information on this matter here
The debate of soil ph for blueberries explains why coffee grounds, sulfur, and other amendments are not as important as the health of the soil the plant lives in. In this video by John Kempf, Practices for Growing Larger, Firmer Blueberries, he explains a lot about soils and soil ph testing for the blueberry grower.
The essential nutrient for flower bud and fruit development is calcium; however, you cannot add calcium to the soil by itself and NOT affect soil ph. The video, which is lengthy, does explain how the whole process works. Growing a larger berry size is reliant on soil health more than anything else you do.
We’ve found that planting these berries in areas that replicate their natural environment works best. They are usually found under pine trees at the edge of lakes and rivers. The quality of fruit is higher here and you will harvest larger berries as well
We place ours at the edge of our pond and along the banks of the seasonal brook on our property. Then we mulch the blueberry shrubs with wood chips and other organic mulch, feed them with seafood and kelp emulsion, and give them a sprinkling of compost. The results are great, much better than trying to force them to grow in a field.
Why grow blueberries?
Blueberry bushes are among the easiest and most rewarding fruits to grow, since they are resistant to most local diseases and pests, and can also be grown outdoors all year long.
In fact, the most difficult part of blueberry farming is probably the initial setup and pruning process, which has to be done correctly in order to ensure your bushes produce the most fruit possible.
To be successful with growing and harvesting, pay attention to the reaction of your plants to the area you have put them in. If they do not grow well the first year, move them! And then repeat the planting process.
Once they are happy, you will be too as your harvest of fresh blueberries will be about 20 pounds per bush. Plenty for fresh eating, freezing and baking.
Brian swears by the Razorback Square Shovel as with correct usage and care they seem to last forever. Using a corner of the shovel is more effective than a round, pointed shovel. Check out how Brian plants in our 5 Steps to Planting Bare Root Trees. It includes a video showing exactly how he uses a square shovel as a pointed shovel.
For mulching and general earth smoothing, a fiberglass handled iron rake is very effective
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