Posted by: lizabennett | May 19, 2010

Blueberry Care

Here is a summary of Blueberry care.  If you have any other questions I will be around the Farmer’s Market May 22, 29 and June 5 or give a call and I can help you out.  I still have 2 varieties available, Blue Crop and Duke.  I will be bringing these to Market, although delivery is always an option.  

Exposure:  Blueberries grow well in both full sun to partial shade, in ground or in containers.   Plant about 2 ½ – 3 feet (1m) apart.   

Soil:  Prefer a moist, but well drained soil, avoid very too sandy or soil very heavy with clay.  Areas where red huckleberry, azalea or rhodos are growing well will have suitable conditions for blueberries.  Areas where the water table is 18-30” below the surface are also good.

Blueberries also prefer a very acid soil, pH 5, so additions of humus, peat moss, saw dust (fresh or weathered) or leaf matter, eg. Oak leaves leave behind and acidic residue, will help to acidify the soil and improve moisture holding capacity.   If you know the soil is sweet (alkaline) it can be acidified with aluminum sulphide.

Blue berries are shallow rooters, and benefit from a covering of mulch.  Mulch the base of plants with sawdust fresh or weathered straw or leaves.  Oak leaves are especially good for mulch, as well as incorporating into the soil, because of the acidic residue they leave behind.    

Feed:  Use a feed formulated for Blueberries.  Ammonia Sulphate is the best source of Nitrogen for blueberries, they cannot convert or use the nitrogen(N) in Nitrate of soda or ammonium nitrate, so avoid fertilizers where this is the main source of nitrogen. 

If bushes become chlorotic (yellowing) in color, it is an indication that they are not able to access the nitrogen in the fertilizer.  Change fertilizers to a form that contains ammonium sulphate.  This will also jump start vigorous growth when plant stall out

Pruning:   Pruning prevents the bush from becoming too dense and twiggy.  This produces larger berries, more vigorous growth and a better producing plant the following year. 

Prune early spring before leaf out, when fruit buds are easily distinguished from vegetative buds.  Fruiting buds will be fatter and rounder than vegetative buds and most often at the ends of branches.  All cuts should be made perpendicular to the branch, no more than ¼ inch above an existing branch or bud.  Do not cut stem where no bud exists, this causes stem die back.   

Very little pruning is necessary in the first 2-3 years after planting.  Cut back weak and horizontal growth to an upright shoot or visible bud. 

Regular annual pruning should begin the spring following the second at the end of the third season

  1. Remove the low spreading branches next to the ground, leaving only the tall upright braches or shoots. 
  2.  If the center of the bush is dense, the weak and the older branches at the centre should be cut out.  Remove no more than ¼ of the bush in any year. 
  3.  Many of the slender small branches should be removed leaving strong branches and shoots.  Leave vigorous shoots 6” or more in length.  Most of these slender branches have no fruit buds and if they do they will be small and weak. 
  4. Fruit is produced on last year’s wood, the biggest berries being produced on the most vigorous wood.  Most bushes tend to overbear and unless a part of the new shoots are removed each year the berries will be small.  If branches contain too many fruit buds, reduce to 3 or 4 buds per shoot. 
  5. Fruiting wood will produce well from 1-4 year.  4 year old wood should be removed in favour of younger, more productive wood.   
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Responses

  1. Hi Liza,

    I have a blueberry at home in Brisbane. I thought your advice was excellent and I’ll try your suggestions when I return to home.

    Appreciated our phone conversation this morning.

    John Bamford


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