Blueberries are a wonderful edible plant for Georgia and they thrive in our warm climate. You can plant blueberries in mass or you can tuck them into your garden or landscape almost anywhere. You’ll find both large and small growing cultivars. They can be grown in the ground but they are also excellent for containers.
Where To Plant
Blueberries thrive in acidic, organic soil with a pH of 4.5-5.6. You may have to amend the soil if you find it is too alkaline. Have your soil tested and follow the recommendations.
Blueberries do best in a slightly elevated or raised planting or rows. At least 4-6″ higher than ground level would be optimal. This will keep your plant well-drained in the event of excessive water. Plant 4-6ft apart in rows that are spaced 6-8ft apart and based on the variety you are planting. Dig a hole about twice as wide and slightly deeper than your container plant. Amend the soil as necessary to provide a good, soil that has rich organic matter but remains well-drained. Sandy soils may require peat moss while wetter soils may require organic soil matter such as finely ground pine bark fines.
Plant so that no more than 1″ of soil is on top of your root ball or you could suffocate your plant. Pack the soil tightly around all sides making sure there are no air pockets for water loss.
Use a root stimulate like Bio-tone in the hole which will give your plant a little added bonus when planting to get it off to a good start. Water your plant in well, again making sure it’s packed in good and tight.
Mulching is essential for plant success. Mulch your plant with 2-3″ of natural mulch. This can be leaves, bark, or straw. Nothing synthetic.
Blueberry plants can be planted in Georgia throughout the year, but summer planting will need some special attention to not let the plants dry out while they are getting acclimated.
Care & Maintenance
After you plant, remove all flower buds and check for weak or broken stems and remove them. The 2nd year after planting, remove only dead or damaged branches. After a few years, you can remove a few of the oldest canes to encourage new, vigorous canes. If your plants are very vigorous, you can pinch the tips out of the canes when they are a few feet tall to force more growth down the stems.
Make sure your blueberries are mulched well, fertilized regularly, and watered as needed. Blueberries need about an inch of water a week, especially during drought. Their roots are shallow and will be more susceptible to heat and stress. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation is ideal for blueberries and you can control what they do and when.
Organic fertilizer is recommended in early spring, summer, and again in the fall. Milorganite, Holly-Tone, or Berry-Tone are excellent choices for fertilizing.
Very few insects and diseases are associated with Blueberries. Birds are the most troublesome pests and there are a variety of deterrents but the best way to keep them away is to use netting. Remove the net just after you finish the harvest, or it will be a mess to get rid of later as the stems grow into it.
Worse than pests are the competition from weeds which can severely stunt Blueberries. Mulch will help slow it down, and there are also some nice weed barrier cloths but they may have to be replaced each year. You may want to check into some organic weed control and deterrent products.
Harvest Blueberries when they are fully ripe and sweet to the taste. Blueberries will not ripen after you pick them so get them at just the right time. Most Blueberries mature 60-75 days after bloom, or sometime in June for most of Southeast Georgia
Some blueberries need other blueberries that flower at the same time to pollinate each other. There are many different types of blueberries, but common in the south are Rabbiteye and Southern Highbush.
Rabbiteye varieties usually will need a pollinator while most Southern Highbush cultivars are commonly self-fertile. Even with self-fertile cultivars, having a pollinating plant will only help your yield increase – so go ahead and plant at least two different varieties that flower at the same time, it can’t hurt at all. Be sure to check your variety to see if you need one or more when you purchase.
Blueberries at Blackcreek Nursery & Garden are grown by us! Support Georgia Grown Products and small growers!