What kind of care do blueberries need?
—Betty Barrier, Asheville, NC
Blueberries are among the easiest fruits to grow, because they have few insect pests. (You may have to cover ripe berries with nets to protect them from birds, however.) They are most productive in full sunlight, but they bear fruit as long as they receive five or six hours of sun daily. Soil should drain well and also must be acidic, ideally with a pH of 4 to 5. You can acidify light, sandy soil, if necessary, but if you have heavier, clay-like soil that is neutral or alkaline (also termed “basic”), it is difficult to keep the soil acidic enough for good blueberry growth.
In mild and moderate climates, plant blueberries in spring or early fall. In cold climates, spring planting is best for blueberries and other perennial fruits, as it gives roots a longer time to grow before harsh winter weather descends.
Buy varieties that are best suited to your locale: rabbiteye blueberries in the south and highbush blueberries further north. In colder states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and northern New England, look for half-high blueberries. They’re a cross between highbush blueberries and low-growing northern natives that grow on the edges of forests and among rocky outcroppings in acidic soil. They include cultivars such as ‘Northblue’, Northcountry’, ‘Northsky’, ‘St. Cloud’, ‘Polaris’, and ‘Chippewa’.