Saturday, February 4, 2017 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Selecting, Planting and Caring for Blueberries

Planting a blueberry patch requires patience

Brian Jervis: Ask a Master Gardener

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Q: How do I get started making a blueberry patch? H.G., Tulsa
A: Blueberries grow well in Oklahoma as long as you have the proper soil and select the varieties that have been shown to be best for our area. You also need patience. Berry production should not be allowed until the third year after planting.
The best place to get started is by obtaining the OSU fact sheet 6248, “Blueberry Production for the Home Garden.” This may be obtained from the Master Gardener website at, or from a web search of OSU fact sheets.
Plant selection is key. There are three types of blueberries that are grown in Oklahoma — Highbush, Rabbiteye and Southern Highbush. Highbush has more cold tolerance and is recommended for areas north of Interstate 40. Rabbiteye and Southern Highbush are suggested for central and southern Oklahoma. The two Highbush varieties do best with more than one cultivar for pollination.
Blueberries need full sun for best growth. Planting on a north-facing slope will help prevent early spring frost damage and will offer some wind protection in summer. The soil must drain well and be acidic. The ideal pH for blueberry growth is 4.5 to 5.2; they will not grow in higher pH soils.
Blueberries will not grow in overly wet soil; good drainage is a must. To address the drainage and pH issues, raised beds are ideal. Import soils with correct pH and high organic content. Because blueberry soil requirement is identical to azaleas, commercial azalea planting mix serves this purpose well.
These plants have shallow and inefficient roots. They must have 1-3 inches of water per week, depending on the temperature. Drip irrigation is ideal for keeping moisture levels in a desirable range. Heavy mulching will not only help with conserving water, but will also keep out weeds and moderate the extremes of temperature.
Blueberries may be planted in either spring or fall, but spring is best. Specific recommendations about how to plant and proper spacing are in the fact sheet mentioned above. Fertilization should be based on a soil test, and blueberries do best if fertilized with smaller and more frequent amounts of nitrogen than with other plants.
Pruning is best done after the spring flowering and berry production. Berries are produced in early summer in most varieties, on buds that were formed the previous growing season. Therefore, if one prunes in winter or early spring, it would remove fruit buds. Pruning is usually done to limit the size of the bushes and also to thin out limbs on the inside of the bush to improve air flow.
Blueberries take time to develop a structure and root system needed for maximum production. So for the first two years, all blossoms and fruit should be removed so that energy can be used for development. If fruit is not removed the first two years, they may not survive summer stress. They may be harvested the third year with peak production occurring in the fifth year.

Garden tips

        Early February through March is the recommended time to plant strawberries. It is important to plant them in full sun and in well-drained soil. There are several types from which to choose. June-bearing varieties do best in our area. They have a single crop usually early May to mid-June. Ever-bearing strawberry is another variety that fruits May to June, a few during summer and again in the fall. The quality and size of this type of strawberry plant may not be as good as June-bearing varieties. For full information about plant selection, planting and care of strawberries in your garden, obtain OSU fact sheet "Growing Strawberries in the Home Garden" online or in the Master Gardener office.
        Mid-February is a good time to begin pruning and fertilizing trees and small fruits.


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