If you didn’t already know, America is currently in the middle of blueberry season! If you grew up even somewhat in the country, you probably have some early childhood memories of walking into the fields or local forest with your grandma, picking wild berries and coming home with stained hands. In more recent times, food scientists and nutritionists have been learning more and more that berries of all kinds are some of the best foods that people can eat. The only downside is that these fresh and delicious little morsels come with a hefty price tag at the grocery store.
Although many of us probably still think it’s worth it to spend the extra to have some fresh fruit in our home, it still makes us wonder: what if there was a better way? Fortunately, with a little extra work, there is! Although this option may only apply to those who don’t live in the city, why not try growing your own little blueberry bush? As it turns out, it’s actually not as difficult as you may think—all you need are the right tips to pull it off.
With that in mind, here are 10 tips for growing delicious blueberries right in your backyard.
1. Do your research when choosing the type of bush you’ll plant.
Though many people probably don’t know this, there are many different kinds of blueberries just like there are many different kinds of apples. No matter if you live in a hot or cold climate, chances are you can find a kind of blueberry bush that will take kindly to your backyard. While doing your own research is always best, Mother Earth News has some good basic info to get started.
2. Pick a spot in your yard that gets a lot of sun.
Though it should go without saying, plants need a good amount of sunlight to grow. Although blueberry bushes can definitely do fine in an area with a little bit of shade, putting them in a particularly sunny area will make them grow even more berries.
3. Check your soil’s pH levels.
As you might know, soil quality can vary quite a lot and one key factor is to consider its pH level, more specifically how acidic it is. Ideally, you’ll want a level between 4 and 5 according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Although you can also order a professional kit if you’d like, you can also take a cup of soil, separate into separate containers (a couple spoonfuls each). Pour a half cup of vinegar into one of the samples—if it fizzes, you know it’s alkaline with a level between 7 and 8. If your soil doesn’t fizz, add in an additional half cup of baking soda. If it fizzes after that, you know it’s between pH 5 and 6! If nothing happens at all, it’s probably near perfectly neutral at pH 7. To make the soil more acidic, you can always add a little bit of elemental sulfur to it. Otherwise, you can also get soil and grow your bush in a pot as well.
4. Consider using peat moss in the soil as well.
In case you’re not much of a green thumb, peat moss is dead, fibrous plant material formed out of moss and other decomposed materials. Although using some kind of compost can almost always help with growing plants of all kinds, peat moss is particularly helpful if you’re looking to make your soil a little more acidic.
5. Make sure to follow all the right steps when planting your bush.
Not all plants are the same and blueberry bushes have their own planting needs. Aside from finding good soil and good lighting, make sure you leave five feet between each bush if you’re planting multiple bushes. If you’re going with a pot, get one that’s about 18 inches around.
6. Water it regularly!
For new gardeners, the idea may be that more water is better, right? Not necessarily! In general, blueberry bushes should get about an inch or two of water a week, particularly when your plants are less than two years old. When it’s actually growing fruit, you can give your bushes as much as four inches a week (though if they’re outside in the summer in a temperate climate, they’re bound to get enough water naturally from rainfall. If you’re confused about how to dole out “inches of water,” check out this video for a little more context.
7. Protect your bushes by enclosing them.
Because exposed berries outside are open to the elements and the animals, you’ll want to put up at least some basic protection for them. For starters, you can frame them with some bamboo sticks and netting to keep out bugs and other little critters.
8. Don’t prune them for the first few years.
Healthy plants will want to keep growing and growing and pruning is sometimes necessary to keep them in ideal shape. Still, you shouldn’t prune your bushes until they’ve been steadily growing in the ground for four to five years—and don’t just hack away at it! Check out this clip to see the proper pruning method for blueberry bushes. If you take care of your bushes properly, they can produce fruit for up to 20 years!
9. Don’t be over-eager when picking your ripened berries.
Blueberry bushes generally start to ripen in the early spring before fully ripening in the middle of summer. Although you may see your berries turning blue on the bush, try not to pick them right away as they may still be a bit sour. When they’re truly ripe and ready, the berries will more or less fall right off the bush!
10. As your bushes grow and grow, be sure to do necessary upkeep throughout the years.
If you follow these steps, your blueberry bushes should thrive—but they still need a little extra maintenance as they get older. Though brand new bushes can take up to three years to start truly producing berries, you’ll still need to make sure your enclosures remain intact and that your soil hasn’t unexpectedly changed pH levels! With some love and care, your blueberry bush will be a beautiful (and potentially profitable) addition to your home.
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