Monday, May 24, 2010

Vaccinium spp. (Blueberry Shrubs)

Everyone loves blueberries! Now is the time to grow your own. Victoria Gardens has healthy and well-grown blueberry shrubs in stock.

Blueberries are great because they have fewer pests than most of the other fruit trees and shrubs. The key to their success is making sure they are grown in acidic soil. With varieties as small as 6" high, they can be grown in any size garden or planted in containers.

Growing Tips For Blueberries:

The most important thing to know about suitable soil for blueberries is that it should be acidic, with a range of 4.5 to 5.2. (Most of us in Ulster County with pine trees nearby already have acidic soil, but if you may want to test the ph.)

Otherwise, blueberries prefer sandy loam soil that is well drained. If you have clay soil, add in organic matter like compost and greensand. Place a layer of mulch around the shrub after planting to help stifle weeds and protect the roots from heat.

Water your blueberries regularly. They should receive about 1-2" of water per week.

In order to make the plant stronger and more productive, pick off any flower buds that appear for the first 2 years after planting. This will encourage the plant to work on the roots and branches (canes).

Blueberries are self-pollinating, but for the best fruit production, plant more than one variety.

Prune your blueberries every year. For years one and two, you only need to worry about removing any dead or damaged branches (called canes). For lowbush blueberries, cut part of the shrub completely down to the ground every 2 or 3 years.

For the remaining years :

1. Prune any dead or diseased canes.

2. Once a cane is six years old, remove it, as they do not produce well after this age. By that age, they are usually thick with peeling gray bark.

3. Look at the rest of the canes. Leave the ones that are growing long and strong with many buds. Per the Maine Cooperative Extension: "Leave six to seven vigorous two- to five-year-old canes and two or three one-year-old canes per bush. A mature blueberry plant should have six to 10 healthy canes varying in age from one to six years old."