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How to Grow and Harvest Blueberries in Your Home Garden

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Apr 29, 2020 • 3 min read

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Ron Finley Teaches Gardening

Blueberries are popular perennial fruit plants with a long growing season. The antioxidant-rich fruit can grow in compact spaces and produce crops for up to 20 years.

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Ron Finley Teaches GardeningRon Finley Teaches Gardening

Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.

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4 Types of Blueberries

There are four types of blueberries: highbush varieties, lowbush varieties, hybrids of high and lowbush, and rabbiteye. Depending on the region, the North American growing season (including harvest) for blueberry plants runs anywhere from April to late September. Find out which blueberry varieties work best for your region at a garden center or nursery.

  1. Highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) are a common variety that grows to an average of six feet and grows best in colder climates.
  2. Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) are a creeping variety that makes good ground cover and grows best in colder climates.
  3. Rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium virgatum) are the most common variety in the southeastern region of the United States and grow best in warmer climates.
  4. Half-high blueberries are a wider category of breeder blueberries, known for productive mid-sized bushes and aromatic fruit.

How to Plant Blueberries

Blueberry bushes can take up to four years to bear fruit, so consider purchasing two- to three-year-old blueberry plants from your local garden center or nursery to reduce the wait time for fruit production.

  • Pick the site. Choose a sunny location. Partial shade is okay, but be sure to plant far enough away from any trees that might compete for light, water, or nutrients in the soil. Blueberry plants are shallow-rooted, which makes it difficult for them to tolerate muddy or soggy soil.
  • Prepare the soil. Blueberries are acid-loving plants, and grow best in acidic soil with a pH between 4–5. If your soil is not acidic enough to grow blueberries, you can adjust the pH by using ammonium sulfate or by mixing pine needles or peat moss into the soil (along with other organic matter like compost).
  • Plant with care. Dig holes for your blueberry plant that are twice as wide and deep as the root ball itself. Sprinkle a layer of aged sawdust or compost in the bottom of the hole. Gently loosen the roots and place the bush. Pack tightly with soil, and water well. Fertilize around the transplanted blueberry bushes after one month.
  • Cross-pollination. If planting multiple blueberry bushes, be sure to plant them in patches, or close enough together to foster good pollination—ideally four to five feet apart.
  • Consider companion planting. Companion planting can be beneficial to soil health, and it can help attract pollinators to your patch. Herbs like basil and thyme make great companion plants for blueberry bushes as they act as living mulch or ground cover, controlling weeds and regulating soil temperature and moisture. Our comprehensive guide to blueberry companion planting is here.
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How to Care for Blueberries

Blueberries take some time to establish their root system. A blueberry bush typically takes three to four years to begin producing fruit, and around six years to reach full production so patience and routine maintenance is key.

  • Water weekly. Blueberry bushes need one to two inches of water per week during growing seasons, and up to four inches per week once the fruit begins to ripen.
  • Mulch. Mulching with wood chips helps to maintain critical moisture. Leave a small ring of space around the base of the plants to allow for good air circulation.
  • Remove initial flowers. Pinch off any flower buds to prevent fruit growth for the first two years. This will concentrate nutrients in the developing roots and plant.
  • Prune dead branches. Blueberry bushes do not require pruning for the first few years as the fruit gets established. Blueberries grow best on branches that are two to four years old, so prune back dead or weak branches in early spring before new growth starts. When pruning, remember to alternate sections of your patch, as pruned bushes will not bear fruit that season.
  • Protect from pests. Blueberry bushes are naturally resistant to most of the usual garden pests—but bird netting will help protect the fruit from birds and other critters.

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How to Harvest Blueberries

Most blueberries are best harvested between June and August. Once they begin falling into your hand with little resistance—usually a few days after they turn that tantalizing deep blue—they’re ready for harvesting.

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Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass All-Access Pass and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.

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