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  • Writer's pictureDigger and Gina McLean

Bountiful Blueberries. Yes, You Can!

Anyone can grow blueberries with a little knowledge and effort.
These blueberries are almost ready for harvest.

My dad can grow anything. He is a genius when it comes to soil and enjoys tinkering in the garden. He loves blueberries, so several years ago he planted some bushes around his pool. Every summer morning he steps out the door and harvests fresh blueberries. Truthfully, it's a dream we all want to aspire to.

I have had some questions from our Facebook page about growing blueberries this year, so I thought it would be a good blog topic. As we cultivate our yards and plant containers, blueberries are a plant so many of us would like to grow. Who doesn't want fresh blueberries on their morning cereal? If you too would like to step out your back door and harvest blueberries, here are some tips that might help you to be successful.

First, begin with a variety that grows here. Many of us have been browsing at the big box store and seen lovely blueberry bushes that failed to thrive when we got them home. We tried, they died. Unfortunately, many varieties don't grow here, so if you have tried blueberries before and they died, you might have selected the wrong variety to start with. We are located in Zone 8 in Mississippi, so we need blueberry varieties that don't require a long period of cold and can tolerate our summer heat. Good varieties for this climate zone are rabbiteye varieties such as "Austin", "Brightwell" or "Beckyblue." Other varieties that do well here are "Misty" or "Elliott". It is best to plant two or more bushes for good pollination. By starting with the right variety, you will be well on your way to your dream of blueberries out the back door.

Next, select the right spot for your blueberry bushes. In order to bloom and produce fruit they need lots of sunshine, and a well drained soil. If your ground soil stays too wet, consider planting in raised beds or containers.

Blueberries like an acid soil with a Ph between 4 and 5 and a soil rich in organic matter. Before planting blueberries, amend soil with pine bark or peat moss and add a little soil sulphur. Soil sulphur is a slow release form of sulphur which will lower soil Ph. It is available at your local garden center. Make sure your soil will hold moisture, but will drain well and not stay wet. Wait to fertilize blueberries for about a month after planting them. Fertilize with a good, all purpose fertilizer of your choice. Make sure shrubs get 1 to 2 inches of water per week until they are established.

Wait to prune blueberries for 4 years after planting. For the first year, you might want to pinch any blooms to prevent fruit production, so plants can focus on plant growth and root development. To keep soil organic matter high, you can top dress plants with pine bark mulch, mini nuggets or soil conditioner. The bark will decompose and earthworms will work it into the soil over time. You can gently work a little soil sulphur into the top of the soil around the plants every year as well.

Anyone can grow blueberries. If you have tried and failed before, maybe it's time to use these tips and try again. With a little effort, it will be blueberry muffins and pancakes every day. Yum!

Dig It? It's Grow Time!

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