One of the biggest perks when gardening in the Rogue Valley is the sheer variety of choices that we gardeners have. Included in this myriad of options is one of our most beloved berries: the blueberry. While getting a healthy batch of blueberries can be a very rewarding and tasty treat, there are some important things to pay attention to when growing these in your Rogue Valley garden.
First off, if you were hoping to slap some blueberry plants in the ground tomorrow, you might be disappointed. Preparing the soil 6 months to 1 year ahead of time gives the soil time to acidify. Throwing in some broken down leaves or similar materials to improve drainage and soil breathability is recommended. Blueberries grow best in light, well-drained soils with lots of organic content.
When testing your soil, you’re looking for a pH between 4.5 and 5.5 – anything out of that range may not be optimal and you might consider a different location or working with your soil to get that pH adjusted.
Given the timeline to acidify your soil before planting, fall is the ideal time to start prepping if you'd like to plant bare-root blueberries in the spring. Late August and into September, start dropping that pH level by adding products containing sulfer-coated urea or ammonium sulfate, or elemental sulfer to the soil. Pine needles are a natural, slower-working way to lower the pH of soil.
Mix your product into the soil and give it some water so the bacteria can start to break down the acidifying matter.
The major consideration here is good air movement. You don’t want your flowers and buds freezing, so make sure you’ve got your blueberries planted in an open, mid to higher ground area. Avoid the valleys of your landscape.
When getting started, look for bareroot plants that'll make quick adjustment to your specific garden. You will want healthy plants at least a couple of years old as well. If you're planting for the first time, talk to someone knowledgeable at the nursery about varieties that will do best in your specific growing environment. Planting several types of bushes allows for cross-pollination, and if you get types that ripen at different times, your harvest season will be longer.
When planting, you should shoot for planting 4 to 6 inches apart in rows between 7 and 10 feet apart. Place the plants in the ground at a similar depth to when you got them, and prune back a bit of growth (around 30%) to get those plants growing again. Plant in the spring, and add some10-10-10 fertilizer about 12 inches from each plant at about 1.5 cups per plant. Throw in some sawdust mulch (3 to 5 inches) around the bed and increase the depth over the course of a few years.
Watch out for those birds! A major problem is keeping your blueberries protected from birds who find the berries as wonderful as you do. A variety of options exist to keep them out of your crop, including just growing extra so they have some to eat too, but we at the Rogue Valley Gardener recommend bird netting. It’s relatively cheap and should last for a few years.
Fun Facts: Blueberries can help you lower cholesterol and reduce cancer risks!
Looking for more? Check out the videos below: