March 24, 2011 at 8:49 a.m.
Master Gardeners have been offering blueberry plants for several years and the two things that amaze me is how popular they are and how little gardeners know about starting a blueberry patch. If it's any comfort, I received two blueberry plants for Father's Day several years ago. I stuck them in the ground, and after two years they died a slow death.
The main reason they died is because I planted them in my rich soil with a (pH of 7.0), where blueberries thrive in soil with a (pH of 4.0 to 5). Blueberries are in the heath family, which includes azaleas and rhododendrons. They are tolerant of acid soil and have low fertility requirements.
Blueberries grow best in a sunny location, but will tolerate partial shade. However, as shade increases, plants produce fewer blossoms and fruit production declines. If you have fond memories of picking blueberries in the woods, remember they were found in the open areas where there were no trees.
Since I wanted to raise blueberries, I realized that I needed to know more about them before I planted more. Through research and help from other Chisago County Master Gardeners, I learned what I needed to do for my soil. It was a soil sample that made me realize that I needed to get my pH way down. I dug holes about 18 inches deep and two feet across, and since the plants turn into bushes, I spaced them six feet apart. I mixed the soil with acid peat (moss) in a one to one ratio. I also mixed in one-fourth cup elemental sulfur in the soil before planting. Elemental sulfur helps lower the pH, but be sure not to use aluminum sulfur as this compound can be toxic to the root and even kill the plant.
If you are thinking about starting a blueberry patch, we are offering Chippewa, Polaris, and North Blue. They are two-year-old plants and are all winter hardy for our area. You will have time this spring to have your soil tested before your plants are to be picked up around May 7.
A reminder that the Chisago County Master Gardeners also offer raspberries, rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, and onions along with blueberries. All of our plants are bare root and are hardy for our area. If you need more information about ordering plants, you can call our office at 277-0151 or you can call me at 651-257-4496, and leave a message. I will be glad to help you with your plant order.
You can also call the office or me about our Spring Series Classes. The next class is on March 29 when Tom Dickhudt, Chisago County Master Gardener will speak on hobby style greenhouses. The following week, Tuesday, April 5, Tom will share some history of native plants. All classes start at 6 to 6:30 p.m. at the Senior Center in North Branch in the Uptown Mapel Commons apartment building, enter on the east side. The cost is $5 per person.
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