What could be more delicious than picking fresh blueberries on your own land in July? With a little bit of planning and know-how – and patience! – you can have your own supply of blueberries right on your homestead. Growing blueberries is easy and fun.
Blueberries are high in antioxidants, dietary fiber, and vitamin A. They are known to lower cholesterol due to high pectin content. They also contain ellagic acid, which in the lab has shown inhibiting effects on chemically induced cancers.
Buy young blueberry bushes at a local nursery or online. Plant in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.
Space bushes 5-6 feet apart in rows about 8-10 feet apart.
Blueberries do best in clay and poor, rocky soils. Ideal pH is 4.0 to 4.5. Amend your soil to make it more acidic if needed, using granular sulfur.
Add lots of compost and organic matter to the soil when you plant. Mulch around the bushes and water well.
A newly planted blueberry bush will begin producing the second or third season after it’s planted. During the first blossom year, remove all blossoms. This helps root development and strengthens plants.
Pests and Problems:
Birds love blueberries! Consider draping blueberries in bird netting to deter them. Or build a walk-in blueberry cage (a light frame covered in bird netting), because birds sometimes fly under netting draped on top of plants.
In winter, rabbits and rodents may nibble on blueberry branches. Consider a chicken wire fence to protect tender bushes.
Blueberries need one inch of water per week or more. Use caution with tap water, as it can raise the pH of the soil or damage blueberries with minerals. Mulch made of wood chips, sawdust, or shredded bark will help conserve moisture and keep soil pH low.
Fertilize in spring and again in late summer.
Prune bushes in the winter. Remove any dead or diseased branches. Slightly thin bushy plants. Trim height, but don’t cut away more than half an inch of the newest growth.
Peak blueberry “season” is three weeks in July, but blueberry bushes will bear fruit until the frost. You know they’re ready when the berries are easily picked. When ripe, they have a grayish cast on a very blue color. A berry with a hint of red is not yet ripe. Cup a cluster of berries and rub gently with your fingers to pick ripe berries quickly.
Storage and Preservation:
Don’t wash blueberries until just before using. Chill them as soon as possible after picking. Freeze berries on a cookie sheet without washing, then move into freezer bags or containers. Rinse in cold water immediately before using.