Spring Time Means Blueberry Time

Credit: Charlie Nardozzi

Time to grow one of the best fruits.

All fruits are great, of course, but I think if I had to pick a favorite, it would be blueberries. When I was little, my mom would buy big baskets of blueberries and we’d share them on the patio in the afternoon sunshine. Good times. Since spring is right around the corner, it’s a great time to plant your own blueberry bushes. Unfortunately, it’ll take a good couple of years for them to bear fruit, but if you’re willing to put the time in, it’s totally worth it.

First order of business, you’ll want good soil. Blueberries need acidic soil, somewhere in the pH ballpark of 5 to 6.5. Grab yourself a pH-testing kit from your local hardware store and see what you’ve got to work with in your backyard. If your pH is too high, buy some granulated sulfur from a nursery and mix that into your soil. As for the actual planting spot, a raised bed with lots of compost is ideal. Compost is good at holding water, which a blueberry bush’s short roots needs badly.

Blueberries grow better if they’re cross-pollinated. Find two varieties that grow in similar seasonal conditions to plant together. Remember, though, every variety has its own quirks, so get a good idea of what you’re in for before you settle on one.

Once you’ve purchased your bushes, you’ll want to get them in the ground as soon as possible. Right out of the box, into the ground, and roots spread and covered with soil. Make sure you’ve got a drip line near the stem, and give them a generous watering to get them started. Use coarse wood chips around the bed for mulch to keep the moisture sealed in.

For the first year or two, don’t do any pruning. It’s going to take a while for the leaves to get settled, so just let it do its thing. After about three or four years, then you can prune. Find ten to fifteen good, strong branches, and cut off the rest. Make sure you don’t have any errant branches crushing or rubbing on each other. Make sure to snip off a few of the big flower buds; this’ll help the fruit grow in bigger. The best time to do your pruning is mid-March, right at the start of Spring. So hey, if you’ve already got blueberry bushes in the ground, it’s just about time!