Site Selection and Soil Preparation

For best results, blueberries need a frost-free growing season of at least 140 days. Cultivars differ greatly in their susceptibility to winter injury. The condition of the wood also determines whether cold temperatures will injure the plants. Very vigorous plants that continue to grow late in the season are injured more easily than plants growing normally.

Even when low winter temperatures kill the tops of the plants, the crown and roots are often protected by snow cover. The plants usually recover and put out new shoots that frequently bear fruit the following year. Where deep snows prevail, much of the bush is protected from extreme low temperatures, but heavy snows can break canes.

An early fall frost sometimes kills back late-growing shoots from the tip, but in most cases this injury can be pruned away. A late spring frost, however, can injure partly opened flowers, causing a partial to total crop loss on some early-flowering cultivars. Avoid these early cultivars if your site is prone to late spring frosts.

Blueberries grow best on a sunny site in sandy peat soil, but they also do well in heavy soils if they are well-drained, aerated, and high in organic matter and receive adequate moisture.

The most important requirement for growing blueberries is acidic soil. Few soils are naturally suitable for blueberry cultivation because the pH is above 5. If the pH of your soil is greater than 5 but less than 7, you can increase the acidity with applications of sulfur or acid peat.

Soil acidity increases very slowly after applying sulfur, so it is important to test the soil and adjust the acidity and nutrient levels as needed the season before planting. Because it will take at least two months of warm weather for the sulfur to lower the pH, don't wait until the fall before a spring planting to apply it. Also, incorporate organic matter such as compost or peat, particularly if the soil is very light and sandy. It is impractical to reduce the pH of alkaline soils (those with a pH greater than 7) low enough to grow blueberries.

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