BLUE­BERRY BA­SICS

Country Gardens - - GARDEN KNOW-HOW -

SUN

Give blue­berry plants a sunny spot with at least 6 hours of sun a day; they can han­dle some late-af­ter­noon shade.

SOIL

Soil should be acidic, well-drain­ing, and high in or­ganic mat­ter. Do a soil test: Check with your county ex­ten­sion ser­vice for the best ad­vice or or­der a soil test kit on­line (see Re­sources, page 103). If your soil ph is above 5.5, make it more acidic with an or­ganic amend­ment, such as peat moss or el­e­men­tal sul­fur. If the ph is be­low 4, raise it by adding ground lime­stone or wood ashes.

WA­TER

Blue­ber­ries do best with con­sis­tent mod­er­ate mois­ture. If your soil tends to stay wet, plant blue­ber­ries in raised beds or con­tain­ers to al­low drainage.

FER­TIL­IZER

If your gar­den soil is rich in or­ganic mat­ter, you may not need to fer­til­ize your blue­ber­ries—es­pe­cially if you top­dress with compost each sea­son. If you do fer­til­ize, use acidic fer­til­izer (sold for plants like aza­leas or rhodo­den­drons) spar­ingly—only one-half or one-quar­ter the rec­om­mended rate on the pack­age.

PRUN­ING

Young plants need very lit­tle prun­ing. Af­ter about three years, prune out a third of older branches in late win­ter or early spring when the plants are dor­mant. If plants are crowded, thin out young stems. Shape the plants by short­en­ing any stems.

PRO­TEC­TION

Shield berry plants from hun­gry crit­ters such as birds, squir­rels, and ground squir­rels. Drape gar­den net­ting over plants or con­tain­ers as an ef­fec­tive bar­rier.

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