Blueberry is a popular small-fruited plant. The fruit can be eaten fresh or used in jams, preserves, pies, with ice cream and in blueberry muffins and pancakes. Once established, plants are not difficult to maintain. Establishment, however, can be laborious. Plants can be easily grown in existing home landscapes and provide fruit while adding beauty to the landscape. Birds are usually the most troublesome pest after plants begin to fruit. After planting, the first good fruit yield will generally occur after three to five years. However, the length of time to fruiting will vary with the age of the transplants, rate of growth and health of the plant. There are two main types of blueberry plants: rabbiteye and highbush.
Scientific name: Cyanococcus
Common name: Blueberry
How to grow and maintain blueberry:
blueberries (Cyanococcus) should be planted in areas with full sunlight. A north-south orientation for rows in a planting is ideal for most efficient use of sunlight. Other considerations, however, such as reducing the erosion risk on sloping sites, can affect row orientation.
Blueberries (Cyanococcus) ultimately reach a height of six feet or more with a spread of four feet or more. Therefore, the rows should be at least eight feet apart with plants spaced no closer than six feet apart, unless a hedge is desired. The top of the root clump should be close to the surface if a mulch is used or about four inches deep without mulch. If you are planting bushes in pulp pots score the sides of the pots and remove the bottom of the pot before you plant the bush and pot in the ground. Blueberries are also very adaptable to container.
Blueberries (Cyanococcus) have a shallow, fibrous root system, so they’re susceptible to drought injury. A uniform and adequate supply of water is essential for optimum growth. On average, plants need 1 inch of water per week. If this amount isn’t supplied by natural soil water or rainfall, you must irrigate. Check the soil frequently for adequate moisture and irrigate if necessary.
Fertility For mineral soils that are well-balanced, a yearly application of a high acid organic fertilizer is ideal. It should be applied in early spring, on the surface of the mulch in a broad ring around the plant, regardless of plant size. The regular addition of phosphorus is important for fruit production. Periodic soil testing will show whether pH and nutrient needs are being met.
At planting, prune all branches back by about 30 to 40 percent to encourage vigorous new growth. Young plants require little pruning for the first 2 to 3 years. Remove dead or dying parts of branches and less vigorous, spindly growth around the base of plants to encourage vigorous upright growth.
Each blueberry (Cyanococcus) cultivar ripens berries over a 2- to 5-week period. Berries occur in clusters of 5 to 10. Don’t be too anxious to pick the berries when they first look ripe. They’ll develop better flavor if you leave them for a few days after they completely turn blue. Pick about once a week or more often in hot weather. Gently roll berries between your thumb and forefinger, removing fully ripe berries and leaving unripe berries for the next picking. You can collect berries in an open container attached to a belt or cord at waist level. This frees both hands for picking. You can keep fruit for a week or more in the refrigerator.