There’s a misconception that blueberries don’t grow in Idaho. That they are a fruit reserved for the cooler climates of Oregon and Washington. While it’s true that blueberries like acidic soil – something we don’t have here in Southwest Idaho – with a few steps along the way you can be growing berries right along with the best of our Pacific Northwest neighbors.
What you’ll need:
- Acid Loving Potting Mix
- Ammonium Sulphate
- Jobes Organic Acid Plant Fertilizer
- Bird netting
Blueberries are self-fruiting, however, you’ll get better yields when you have at least two varieties. Plants come in early, mid or late season bearing. Where it gets tricky is that not only will your plants do better when you have at least two but you need two that share a pollination window. So, for example, you could have an early producing plant and a mid-season variety, or a mid-season and a late season plant. Or two of any of the same fruiting window. What you can’t have is an early and a late. If there’s any question of what you have, get a mid-season variety and your bases will be covered.
Picking a location
Another misconception is that blueberries need shade. Not true. Go ahead and pick a sunny spot. What they don’t like is wet feet so choose a location where they will get plenty of water (1˝ to 2˝ a week for young plants, 1.5˝ to 3˝ for mature ones) but where the soil has good drainage.
Dig the hole for your plant and to get things off on the right foot, backfill with Jobes Organic Acid Loving Potting Mix. I know you might be tempted to skip this step but don’t. This blend provides the right pH level so that you aren’t battling alkaline soil right from the get go. Blueberries have shallow root systems so the hole doesn’t have to be as deep as it does wide.
Blueberries are also a great candidate to be grown in pots.
- St Patrick’s Day – around the middle of March apply 1 cup of Hi Yield’s Sulfur per plant. After the first year, also add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Hi Yield’s Ammonium Sulfate. With a 21-0-0 ratio, approach this with a less-is-more hand as the high nitrogen level can burn the plants.
- Memorial Day – apply a second application (1 cup) of Hi Yield’s Sulfur as well as 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Jobe’s Organic Holly, Azalea and Rhododendron Acid Plant Fertilizer. Click here to watch a quick video on the Jobes Organic product, available at D&B Supply.
What you don’t want to hear
You know that beautiful blueberry bush you bought that has blooms all over it? Or maybe it already has fruit developing? I know this is not what you’re going to want to hear, but this first season you need to pluck all of that off. I know, I know but it’s especially important that the plant puts all its energy into developing a healthy root system and it can’t do that if it’s making fruit so as painful as it is, you gotta do it. Console yourself by thinking how much better those blueberries will taste next summer.
For the birds
So now it’s your second summer with your blueberry plants and guess who likes blueberries as much as you do? Yep… the birds. Consider covering your plants with bird netting well before the berries ripen. No guarantees this will help with the squirrels, though.
So yes, blueberries might be a little more work on the uptake but spend a little extra time on the front end laying the right foundation and you’ll be reaping the benefits for years to come.