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How to Grow Blueberries

Along with lip-smacking sweetness, flower and foliage are also worthy reasons to grow blueberries. White, bell-shaped blossoms make a lovely addition to a spring garden and fiery scarlet foliage adds drama to a fading autumn landscape. In addition to taste and appearance, blueberries are ripe with medical advantages; they help lower cholesterol and studies suggest that blueberries also reduce the risk of some cancers.

Types of Blueberries

1. Highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) are those usually found in the produce department of your grocery. As you might expect, they are named because the bushes grow to 6-feet in height. Fruits are large, from ½ to an inch in diameter. Depending on variety, highbush blueberries are hardy from Zones 4 through 11.

2. Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) generally reach no more than 18-inches in height. Propagated from shoots spread through underground runners, lowbush blueberries form low mats of plants that produce best on a two-year cycle. The first year is the growth year and the second year is the fruiting year. The sweet, quarter-inch fruits of lowbush blueberries commonly are known as Wild Blueberries and are hardy in Zones 3 through 6.

3. Half-high blueberries (V. corymbosum x V. angustifolium) are a hybrid between lowbush and highbush cultivars. Although shorter than high-bush blueberries, half-high grow in much the same way as their taller relatives. Taste and size meet halfway between highbush and lowbush. An extra advantage for the northern grower is that half-high blueberries were especially bred to withstand the heavy snowfalls and cold winters of inland North America and are hardy to Zone 3.

4. Rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei), native to the Southeastern United States, are the tallest of the blueberry bushes, reaching up to 10-feet in height. Because of their thick skins, rabbiteye blueberries are able to withstand southern heat in zones seven through nine.

Site Selection

All types of blueberries grow best in full sun. Plants tolerate partial shade, but production declines as shade increases. Blueberries are shallow rooted and poor competitors against large rooted trees, shrubs, and weeds that compete for water, nutrients, and crowd airways necessary to good blueberry production.

The most important element is growing blueberries is soil composition. To make the most of your blueberry planting, begin necessary soil amendments the year before planting. Blueberries grow best in loose, sandy loam. Although you may run across wild blueberries growing in a bog, on closer inspection you'll see that plants grow on small, natural hills.

Blueberries need moisture retentive, well-drained, humus-rich soil with good aeration. Soil acidity is also very important in growing blueberries. Plants need a pH of 4.0 to no more than 5.0 to thrive. Initially, bring the pH down to acceptable levels with sulphur or 4 to 6 inches of acid peat mixed into the first 6 to 8 inches of topsoil. Also, enrich soil with good organic compost.

Planting blueberries

Although most blueberries self-pollinate, plant two or more varieties within a type for a larger harvest of more voluptuous fruits. Five plants provide enough blueberries for fresh eating, drying, and preserving for a family of four.

Plant blueberries in spring after all danger of frost passes. When growing several plants, you may find it easier to prepare a bed rather than digging holes for individual plants. Add a generous portion of peat moss to your trench or hole both to increase the organic content and to ensure continued soil acidity.

Standard spacing for highbush, half-high, and rabbiteye bushes is five to six feet apart in rows eight to ten feet distant. Dig holes or make your row three to four inches deeper than the size of the root balls. Pack soil firmly around the roots of each plant.

Plant lowbush varieties one to three feet apart in rows three to four feet distant. Cover about a third of the top stems with soil to encourage runners to develop.

Once established, a blueberry bush may remain productive for decades with just a minimum of care. The second part of this article is available on the www.gardening-guides.com. The site Linda writes for.

Linda is an author of Gardening Tips Tricks and Howto's. The next part of this article is available at our site Gardening-Guides.com,
where you can also download the whole series as a free full color e-book. Just follow the links.

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