Have you thought of growing blueberries in your San Antonio landscape? Rainbow Gardens thinks that is a great idea! Not only do blueberries provide you with sweet and juicy, fruits, they also make attractive landscape specimens in fall when their foliage takes on gorgeous orange, red, or purple hues. Right now is a great time to plant blueberries and other fruits. Let’s take a peek at what you need to be successful in growing them.
The Basics of Growing Blueberries
Types of blueberries: The absolute best type of blueberry to grow in Texas are the rabbiteye varieties or Vacinnium ashei. These blueberries produce best in our climate and offer bountiful harvests. A few of our time and true rabbiteye variety faves are: ‘Brightwell’, ‘Tifblue’’, ‘Premier’, ‘Pink Lemonade’ and ‘Powderblue’.
Cross pollinators: Whenever you are growing fruits and berries, it is generally recommended to purchase two different varieties of plants for cross pollination that will increase fruit production. When it comes to blueberries, this is not only the general recommendation, but the rule. You simply must buy two plants if you want a good harvest. Ex: plant ‘Premier’ with ‘Brightwell’ or ‘Brightwell’ with “Tifblue’ or ‘Powderblue’. Even if a tag claims that the blueberry bush is somewhat self-fertile, that is exactly what it is, somewhat. You will always get a better harvest by cross pollinating.
Soil requirements: Acidic soil is one of the most important things to remember that you need in order to grow blueberries successfully. It is important to keep in mind that blueberries need the proper pH level of 4.0 – 5.5 (no higher) in order to survive and thrive. If you don’t know yet, the soil in San Antonio is generally an alkaline soil (non acidic), so growing the plants in containers is how most of us can create the proper growing environment for our blueberries. A 30 gallon container is optimal, and your container must have adequate drainage holes.
- Soilless peat-based mixes are a great option to achieve proper acidity in a growing medium. Using a ratio of ⅓ peat moss to ⅔ finely shredded pine mulch is a good combo.
- You can even use 100% peat moss to grow your blueberry plant in. If you choose to create your own potting mix, use rich, organic matter and remember that adding more peat moss is never a bad thing when it comes to growing blueberries. You can buy test kits to check the pH of your soil from time to time to make sure you are on the right track.
- Plant your blueberries no deeper than they originally were planted in their nursery containers. Planting too deep will cause the health of your plant to suffer and it might not recover.
Light requirements: Like most edibles, these berries love the sunshine; 8 hours of full sunshine is recommended at a minimum. Although blueberries are somewhat more tolerant of SOME shade, berries grown in too much shade will slow, or may even stop, production of fruit. So keep an eye on the shade your trees may cast on your blueberry bushes as the years go by. A prune here and there to your trees may be needed to let the light stream in as your bushes grow.
Water requirements: Blueberries like even, moist, soil environments. Not too wet, not too dry. Soil mixes must drain well, and care must be taken during our hot summers to ensure soil never completely dries out. Organic pine bark mulch can help with water conservation and it also slowly releases acidity into the soil.
Fertilizers: Fertilizer needs to be used very sparingly with blueberries. No fertilizer should be applied at planting, and you should wait for a year after planting to assess growth. If you find after the first year that your blueberry bush has not grown vigorously, you can offer an acidic, granular fertilizer (like that designated for azaleas). Again, use sparingly.
Pests and Disease: Fortunately, blueberries are rarely bothered by pest and disease issues. This, and the mere fact of their bountiful production, is one of the reasons we still recommend blueberries as a satisfying fruit option for San Antonio (despite our lack of acidic soil). As long as they are kept healthy, the pests that bother blueberries will likely be minimal. You will most likely encounter ornery birds that swoop in to reap your harvests. Plant nets can fix that easily, and you can swoop in often and harvest those delightful blue orbs, full of delicious and healthful antioxidants, first.
There you have it. Those are the basics of growing blueberries. See? It IS a good idea to add blueberries to the fruit you want to grow.
~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy