Benefits of Growing & Eating Blueberries
Blueberries provide us with more than just scrumptious berries in summer to snack on all day long.
Here are just a few excellent benefits of growing blueberry bushes:
- The flowers of blueberry shrubs are a great food source for early season pollinators.
- There are varieties of blueberries that grow short and compact, and are self-pollinating, which make great container plants for small spaces.
- Blueberry bushes are attractive shrubs in the garden as they give a prolific bloom of lovely bell-shaped flowers in spring, awesome fall foliage color, and winter interest with colorful red stems.
- Blueberries are one of the most nutrient dense berries containing 4 essential nutrients including fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and manganese.
- Berries can be used in a variety of recipes to enhance flavors and give a sweet or tart twist to a dish such as pancakes, salads, and smoothies.
- Blueberries are packed with antioxidants which protect your body from free radicals that can damage your cells and contribute to aging and disease, such as cancer.
Planting Bare Root Blueberries
Between now and early March is the best time to plant many of the plants that produce your favorite fruits and berries because they are available to purchase as bare root.
Buying and planting bare root means:
- Great low pricing compared to container stock.
- No heavy pot to lift – Easy handling.
- Plants won’t be root bound.
- Plants will not have experienced heat stress like many container plants are subject to.
- The soil is soft to dig into during winter.
- Planting in winter will give new plantings time to get well established before summer.
Check out our blog on planting bare root for simple planting guidelines.
Blueberry Growing Tips
If you like blueberries, then plan on 2 blueberry plants per family member. If you want to enjoy frozen blueberries year-round, then plant about 4 blueberry plants per family member.
Plant blueberries in well-drained soil amending with a quality compost mix that lends to an acidic soil pH such as the G&B Organics Acid Planting Mix. Space plants about 6 feet apart and allow 8 feet between rows. Plant with the top of the root mass just at the soil surface. Mulch with 3 to 4 inches of compost or bark mulch.
Blueberries are fertilized when their leaf buds start to open, generally in spring.
Blueberries need an acidic fertilizer that is balanced, a Rhododendron-type fertilizer will work perfectly, such as G&B Organics Rhododendron, Azalea, Camellia fertilizer.
It is common practice in large-scale blueberry farms to use mulches like sawdust which are low grade and deplete the soil’s nitrogen. If you’re going to use sawdust or bark mulch, then it is important to add a bit more nitrogen.
Prune blueberry bushes while they are dormant. Here in the mid- Willamette Valley, this could be anytime between November and February.
Prune young blueberries lightly to encourage a bushy upright spreading shape. As they age, blueberries need to have old production branches removed to allow newer, more vigorous canes to grow through.
With clean pruners, prune out branches that are growing toward the middle of the plant, broken twigs, and diseased or weak twigs. Also prune out a branch that is crossing over another one so the branches don’t rub against each other as they grow and cause wounds to the bark. Clear the debris away from the plant after pruning to prevent disease issues.
Learn more about blueberry pruning methods from the Oregon State University Extension Service, in addition to viewing our video Pruning Blueberry Basics, to get a full scope of this very important task for keeping blueberry bushes productive.
Disease and Pest Control
Blueberries can have problems with leaf spot and stem canker. Scheduled sprays can help to reduce these diseases. The fruit is subject to botrytis and mummy berry, both of which can be controlled with a fungicide.
Birds can become a problem eating berries, so staking bird netting around plants, or tying flashy tape strips to branches, can deter and reduce their consumption.