Growing Blueberry Bushes

Here you'll find information on planting and caring for blueberry plants. Also included is interesting information on the history of the blueberry and nutritional facts.

Blueberries are a popular fruit because of their delicious flavor and versatility. They are often used in pies, muffins, cobblers, jams, pancakes, waffles, and dessert toppings. Blueberries can compliment many dishes, or they can be enjoyed alone.

Besides their versatility and unique flavor, blueberries are very nutritious. The online article entitled "All About Blueberries", published by Dole Food Company, Inc., provides the following nutritional information for a one cup serving of blueberries. A serving of blueberries contains only 1 gram of fat, 100 calories, and no cholesterol. They are a great source of vitamin C and fiber. The Ohio State University Fact Sheet, in the article entitled "Growing Blueberries in the Home Garden", which was written by Gary Gao and published by Ohio State University Extension, says that blueberries also contain ellagic acid, which was proven to inhibit cancer induced by chemicals. In addition, the juice of blueberries contains a substance that helps in the prevention of urinary tract infections. This substance acts to prevent bacteria from attaching itself to the bladder.

According to the Microsoft Online Encyclopedia 2001, in the article entitled "Blueberry", which was published by Microsoft Corporation, blueberries are a member of the Ericaceae or Heath family. The two species most commonly grown in the United States are known as lowbush and highbush blueberries. Highbush blueberries are classified as Vaccinium corymobosum, and lowbush blueberries as Vaccinium angustifolium. Lowbush blueberries are usually less than 3 feet tall, and highbush varieties are usually between 6 and 20 feet tall. The same article says there are many blueberry bushes growing wild. These blueberries are small, black or blue in color, and they grow on either single stems or in clusters.

The article entitled "Blueberries" provides the following history of blueberries. It says blueberries, which were once called "star berries", have been in existence over a thousand years. It is noted that the early American explorers Lewis and Clark discovered wild blueberries growing in the Northwest Territory. It was there that they shared a meal with Indians that included deer meat that had been pounded with wild blueberries, smoked, and dehydrated. Lewis and Clark also noted that the Native Americans preserved wild blueberries for winter storage by smoking them.

Home-grown and commercially grown blueberries have not been available as long as most people think. The article entitled "Blueberries" says this fruit was first cultivated in the home garden around the beginning of the twentieth century. A botanist from New Jersey named Fredrick Colville cross-bred various types of wild blueberry bushes for farms and gardens.

Soil preparation is essential for the successful growth of blueberries. The article "Growing Blueberries in the Home Garden" gives the following information on soil and site requirements. It says blueberries require full sun in a location with well-draining, organically rich soil. It is recommended that raised beds approximately 9 inches high are used in locations with loam or clay soil. Blueberries also require acidic soil with a pH level ranging between 4 and 4.5. Manure, grass clippings, and leaves (except for beech or red maple) can be mixed in with the soil a year or more before planting blueberries.

Soil test kits are available at most local extension offices and garden centers. To lower the pH level of the soil, "Growing Blueberries in the Home Garden" says to use granular sulfur. This should be added three months prior to planting and mixed throughly into the first 4 inches of soil. It is important to follow label directions so the correct amount is used.

The article "Growing Blueberries in the Home Garden", prepared by Richard Jauron, in the online publication "Horticulture and HomePest News, provides the following recommendations on planting and caring for blueberry bushes. It says the best time for planting is Spring, and it is recommended that at least 2 varieties are planted to ensure pollination. Keep in mind, lowbush varieties require about 3 to 4 feet of growing room between plants, and highbush varieties require around 4 to 6 feet between plants. Before digging, it is helpful to position the plants in their desired locations. Doing so will ensure proper spacing. The hole should be between 18 and 24 inches deep and approximately 24 inches wide. The plants should be placed at a depth equivalent to where they were in the pot. A mixture that is half peat and half soil should be used to fill in the holes. Finish by pruning the bushes to half their size and remove any small side branches. Newly planted blueberry bushes need to be thoroughly watered.

Between 3 and 5 inches of mulch should be placed around blueberry bushes. This will help retain valuable moisture and keep weeds under control. Since blueberry bushes have a shallow root system, they tend to become dry quickly. During dry periods they should be watered weekly.

For the first two seasons after planting, blueberry blossoms should be removed. Doing so will encourage growth and higher yields in subsequent years. A typical lowbush variety yields approximately one to three pounds of fruit per bush. Highbush varieties yield between 5 and 10 pounds of fruit.

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