The numerous benefits of blueberries make them the preferred choice for any garden, but can blueberries be planted in the fall? This type of shrub thrives primarily in temperate climates, and your growth may be seasonal. Depending on the variety and the region, you can grow blueberry bushes either in the fall or in the spring. If you choose the first option, there are factors to consider regarding location and soil care that are especially important for novice gardeners to avoid possible mistakes. Here is some useful information and steps you can follow to help your plants grow healthily.
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Planting blueberries in the fall for good reasons
Juicy blueberries are not only delicious, but also rich in nutrients , antioxidants, fiber and vitamins. Fortunately, these fruits are easy to grow with little effort, but if you have the right soil conditions for it. In addition, blueberry bushes do not take up much space and any gardener with a medium-sized garden can grow their own bushes. There are several blueberry varieties for colder climates that can withstand moderate lower temperatures. However, spring frost can still damage young buds and some stems of the plant. Therefore, it is also possible to plant blueberries in the fall, although many experts would recommend growing them in the spring as a preferred planting time.
If you choose to grow blueberries in the fall, it should be done in late September or early October. The roots of these shrubs will continue to grow until the soil reaches temperatures below 7 degrees. Another advantage of planting blueberries in the fall is that these plants will already be in place when the spring rains come. Wet weather, in fact, can often delay the cultivation in the spring. In contrast, blueberries planted in the fall are already established and can enjoy the burst of spring growth that can make a difference for the season. In addition, if you plant blueberries in the fall, you must also put the bushes in the ground and dress them with mulch before the onset of winter. This is especially recommended for areas with heavy frost.
Before you start planting
First, do a soil test to make sure your soil is acidic enough to grow blueberries in. You can buy soil tests at your local garden center, and the pH of your garden soil should be between 3.5 and 5.2. If it is too high, you can use fertilizers and additives to lower it. If it is around 7.0, you might consider building a raised bed for the bushes with a highly acidic soil. Also lower the pH by using peat moss or organic compost to prevent drainage problems. Adding some straw or pine needles will also help maintain acidity and keep the soil loose and airy.
Select and prepare a site for planting in the fall to allow time for pH adjustment, if necessary. You should also suppress or completely eliminate weeds before planting to reduce their competition with blueberry plants. If you accomplish this in the fall, a cover crop such as annual rye can be planted and tilled under in the spring to reduce growth from weeds and increase organic matter for the soil. In addition, once blueberry plants are established, adding a thatch cover around each plant helps with water retention and also prevents unwanted growth.
Simplify through proper variety of blueberry plants in the fall.
Blueberry varieties should be selected based on climate, soil and flavor preference. Two or more plants flowering at the same time also provide cross-pollination and larger fruit for certain varieties, meaning they do not need cross-pollination to set fruit. In general, there are several types of blueberries. Semi-bush blueberries are the result of interspecific hybridization between the low and high growing species to improve winter cold tolerance and fruit size, while adjusting the height of a bush to about 1.3 meters. Northern varieties offer high yields once established. Size, flavor, and disease or insect resistance are equally dependent on the specific variety selected.
Site selection and preparation
Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil that is free of weeds and well-tilled. It is best to locate your blueberry plants in an area where irrigation is readily available, as best results are achieved when the root zone is kept moist throughout the growing season. Where soil is less than ideal or poorly drained, raised beds are an excellent option. Blueberries also do well in patio containers and provide a great way for city dwellers and those with small or a balcony garden to enjoy them.
In addition, blueberries prefer acidic soils. A fail-safe way to grow blueberries in almost any soil is to incorporate peat moss into the planter. To plant directly into the soil, work a planting area about 60-70 inches in diameter and about 30 inches deep for each crop. Remove 1/3 to 1/2 of the soil and add an equal amount of moistened peat moss, mixing well. For raised beds, mix equal amounts of peat moss with bark, compost or planting mix. However, you can also check directly with your local garden center and ask experts in the field about the best soil conditions for your location.
Here’s how to grow and care for blueberries
It’s best to get 2- to 3-year-old plants from a local nursery. They will start producing berries during your first growing season and are much stronger than younger blueberry bushes. Dig the hole to grow them twice the diameter and about 10 inches deeper than the root ball. Add some of the enriched soil and place the plant in the hole. Carefully spread the roots and fill them with the amended soil. Press down firmly to make sure the plant is upright. Here are the main steps you should follow when growing:
- Water the plants thoroughly the first time you grow them. The shrubs need to be watered once a week for an extended period of time. This will ensure that the roots get enough water without standing in it for very long, which can lead to root rot. Increase the amount of watering to twice a week in the spring and throughout the growing season.
- Add mulch around the plants. This will increase the acidity of the soil while helping to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Blueberries do not compete well with weeds or grass, so keep them a few feet away from the trunk of the plant.
- Fertilize the plants with an acid fertilizer in the fall when you first notice the buds swelling. Repeat once during the growing season and again at the end of summer or in spring. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to apply fertilizer and how much to use depending on the number of blueberry bushes and the pH of your soil.
- Cut off any dead or diseased wood in early spring. If the bush becomes very crowded, you should also prune some branches from the inside to allow air circulation.
How to harvest and store blueberries.
Blueberries are usually ready for harvest between June and August. However, don’t rush to pick the berries as soon as they turn blue and rather wait a few days. When the fruits are ripe and ready, they should fall right into your hand. If growing biennial blueberry bushes, they should start bearing within a year or two.
Pick any flowers that form in the first year or two after planting to allow the bush to develop. Also, keep in mind that full production is not reached until about 6 years, depending on the variety. After harvesting these berries can be frozen , so you can enjoy the fruit during the winter.