Growing Blueberries:
How to Grow Blueberries Organically

Growing blueberries in pots and containers is a great way to create a supply of your own superfood. Blueberries are a wonderful source of vitamin C and have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of all fruits and vegetables.

They’re a native fruit plant to North America and grow well in most regions as long as you have acidic soil and at least 140 frost-free days per year. Blueberry bushes are also perfect for organic gardeners as these relatively pest-free plants can be grown easily without using pesticides.

Growing Blueberries (Vaccinium spp): Plant Snapshot

Growing Blueberries
  • Annual or Perennial? Perennial
  • Recommended Varieties: Duke, Blueray, Patriot, Berkeley, Bluecrop, Herbert, Darrow, Jersey, Coville, Lateblue, Elliot
  • When planning crop rotation, group with crops from: n/a (perennial)
  • Low winter temperatures that damage fruit plants: Plants will be damaged if they experience temperatures of below -20 F (-29 C). Must have at least 140 frost free days a year
  • Time until plant bears fruit after planting: 3 years
  • Approximate yield per plant: 4 to 6 quarts (3.7 to liters 5.7) per plant after six years
  • Life of plant: 12 to 15 years
  • Companion plants:
    • Companions: Plant near to other ericaceous plants such as pines and oaks
    • Avoid: None
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Growing Blueberry Bushes: Planting Time

Where to Find Planting Supplies...

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Blueberries are not usually grown from seed by home gardeners because growing from seed will often not result in fruit. Instead, choose either a bareroot plant or small plants that are two or three year’s old.

Blueberry bushes can self-pollinate, so you don’t need to plant more than one. However, to increase the size and amount of blueberries you can grow, it’s worth planting two different cultivars though so that pollination is increased. They also need at least 140 frost free days a year.

They don’t like a wet site, so make sure you plant them in an area that drains well.

Speaking of pH, blueberry bushes need an acidic soil to grow well and produce fruit… ideally a soil pH of less than 5.0. If your soil is naturally more than pH 7.0, you may struggle to reduce it enough to be successful. In these circumstances, you’re more likely to have a plant that flourishes if you plant it in a pot with organic ericaceous (acidic) potting compost.

To prepare the planting area, dig the soil over and add well-rotted manure or garden compost before planting. Adding organic matter to your soil also helps lower the soil pH over time, which blueberries prefer. To speed this up you can add an acidic organic mulch like pine needles.

When planting, dig a hole as deep as the plant in the tub or the bare root. Blueberry bushes have shallow and wide root systems, so you don’t need to dig too deeply. It’s worth allowing about 60 inches (150cm) around your bush so its roots can spread out over the years.

Snapshot: Planting Blueberry Bushes

  • Easiest to grow from:Bare root plant or two year old bush
  • Planting timeframe range (varies by climate):From early to mid spring
  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): less than 5
  • Spacing in rows: about 60 inches (150 cm) apart
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Growing Blueberries: Care & Pruning

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If you’re lucky, your blueberry bush may produce a few berries in its third year. But it can take up to eight years to get a full harvest. To get the most out of your plant, you need to be organized about your pruning each year.

For best results, follow this blueberry pruning routine…

  1. In the spring of the first year:
    1. Pick the two strongest canes from the plant and prune out all other growth.
    2. Remove any blossoms to prevent the bush from growing fruit. This helps it to establish itself as a strong, healthy plant.
  2. The next (2nd) year:
    1. Let the previous year’s canes continue to grow. Then pick the two strongest canes from the new year’s growth. Again, prune out the other new growth.
    2. Remove any blossoms to prevent the bush from growing fruit.
  3. From the 3rd year through the 8th year, continue to let the previous year’s canes grow, pruning out all canes except the two strongest.
  4. Also from the 3rd year on, there’s no longer a need to remove blossoms. The plant should be strong enough to start harvesting.

Continue to mulch with organic manure and compost each spring to improve the soil.

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Growing Blueberries: Harvesting Time

Your blueberries are ready to eat when they have ripened to a full color. In other words, when they look good enough to eat, pick one and try it. If you like the taste, harvest!

Ripe berries will come off the stem easily. Be careful not to squeeze too hard as you pick each berry off so they’re not bruised.

Once your blueberries are harvest-ready, they’ll usually last about a week on the bush, so don’t dilly-dally for too long.

Snapshot: Harvesting Blueberry Bushes

  • Time to harvest: From year 3
  • Yield per plant/tree: 4 to 6 quarts (3.7 to 5.7 liters) per plant after 6 years
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Storing Blueberries and Freezing Blueberries

Your blueberries will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator. To get the most nutritional value eat them fresh from picking.

Don’t wash your blueberries before freezing them as this will toughen their skins.

Snapshot: Storing Blueberries & Freezing Blueberries

  • Storage temperature: Refrigerate or Freeze
  • Storage life (refrigerator): up to 2 weeks
  • Storage life (frozen): about 6 months
  • Storage humidity: 90 to 100% relative humidity
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Growing Blueberries: Pests & Diseases

While the lists below are relatively lengthy, blueberries don’t have as many pest problems as most other fruits. Good garden hygiene and catching pests and diseases early will keep your bushes healthy.

With that said, the following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Blueberry Bushes. Birds love eating blueberries, so pay particular attention to their presence in your growing area...it’s probably worth the time and effort to cover your blueberry bushes with netting to protect them.

For more information about preventing and controlling pests, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Blueberry tip borer
  • Blueberry maggot
  • Cherry fruit worm
  • Scale insects

Common Diseases

  • Alternaria Fruit Rot
  • Anthracnose (Ripe Rot)
  • Bacterial Canker
  • Botryosphaeria Stem Canker
  • Botrytis Blight
  • Crown Gall
  • Fusicoccum Canker
  • Mummyberry
  • Nematode, Dagger
  • Nematode, Root Lesion
  • Phomopsis Twig Blight
  • Phytophthora Root Rot
  • Scorch Shock
  • Virus Diseases
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