Blueberries can be a bit challenging to grow. You may have selected a sunny location with well-drained soil – everything blueberry bushes need – yet they still produce a subpar harvest. The problem could be that your blueberry bushes need to be fertilized.
Fertilizing blueberry bushes is an important aspect of their care to ensure healthy growth and good fruit production. The trick is to know what kind of fertilizer to use, when and how to apply it, and how to maximize the benefits of the fertilizer.
Just follow these 6 easy steps and you’ll soon be rewarded with a bumper crop of delicious blueberries.
1. Find The Right Fertilizer To Meet Your Blueberries’ Needs
In general, there are three types of fertilizers that are used most often on blueberry bushes. They are:
- Products that adjust the pH levels of the soil;
- Products that add nutrients to the soil without addressing the acidity levels; and
- Combination products that do both at the same time.
Blueberries prefer acidic soil with a pH range of 4.0 to 5.5. It may be a good idea to have your soil tested so you know what you need to do to adjust the pH levels to accommodate your blueberries.
When shopping for fertilizer to fix your soil’s pH levels, look at the first number on the product’s label, showing how low the nitrogen content is, as this indicates that the product is formulated for acid-loving plants.
Blueberry bushes don’t require high levels of nutrients and will suffer if they are over-fertilized. They do, however, need some micronutrients in order to produce a decent crop of berries.
Nitrogen helps the plants grow leaves, potassium helps the fruit to develop and ripen, phosphorus is necessary for strong roots, and the plants need manganese, zinc, and iron, too.
Depending on the pH levels of your soil, you could select a fertilizer that has been designed to only address the acidity issues and not the nutrient requirements. Or if your soil levels fall in the accepted range naturally, you may want to find a fertilizer that will provide a nutrient boost without altering the pH levels of the soil.
In most cases, a combination fertilizer is the best option.
2. Fertilize Your Blueberry Bushes At The Optimal Time
To get the most out of the fertilizer, you need to know when to apply it to your blueberry bushes. If you fertilize too early or too late, your bushes will not have access to the fertilizer when they need it the most.
Knowing when to fertilize is key to boosting your bushes’ output of blueberries.
For blueberry bushes, this optimal time is not a one-time event. The plants should be fertilized on three separate occasions to improve fruit production. Each time, however, only a small amount of fertilizer is needed.
The first fertilizer application should take place in the spring when you first notice new growth in your blueberry bushes. Mark this day on your calendar because the second application should take place about six weeks later.
The final fertilizer application should be made right after you are done harvesting the berries for the season to help the plant recover from fruit production.
3. Use The Correct Methods To Apply The Fertilizer
Before you apply fertilizer to your blueberry bushes, be sure to thoroughly read the label on the product.
The label is a valuable source of information that will explain the proper ways to use the fertilizer for the best results. It will also explain how to apply the fertilizer and how much of the product to use, based on the size of your bushes.
Nutrients are absorbed into the blueberry bushes through the plants’ roots. That means the fertilizer needs to seep into the soil around the base of the bushes and leech down to the roots. Your task is to make sure there are no obstacles preventing this from happening.
Carefully rake beneath the bushes to remove dead leaves, grasses, or twigs that may have accumulated under there. Use a garden rake to loosen the compacted soil, but take care that you don’t dig down too far that you damage the roots.
Sprinkle the fertilizer in a uniform manner around the bush without getting it near the base of the blueberry plant or against the bark. Spread the fertilizer in a one-foot radius around the plant. Then gently use the rake to work the fertilizer into the soil.
Avoid sprinkling the fertilizer directly on the leaves, stem, or branches of the blueberry bush. The harsh nutrients may burn and damage the plant. Besides, the blueberry bush doesn’t absorb nutrients through its leaves, so this would be a wasted effort.
4. Water In The Fertilizer
After applying the fertilizer on the ground around your blueberry bushes, water the fertilizer into the soil. The bushes can only absorb the fertilizer through their roots, so you need to get the product to seep down into the soil where it will come into contact with the roots.
Handle this step yourself and don’t rely on Mother Nature to send a rainstorm your way. Your goal is to get as much of the fertilizer to absorb naturally into the soil as possible. Heavy rain may wash away the fertilizer before it has a chance to dissolve and soak into the soil.
5. Explore Organic Options For Fertilizing Your Blueberry Bushes
Today, people are more aware of the growing methods used on blueberry bushes.
Many of the fertilizer products on the market contain chemicals that, while beneficial for the plant, are not organic. If you are looking for organic fertilizers for your blueberries, be sure to do your homework.
Research the best options for your growing condition to ensure that you will not unintentionally harm the plant while trying to boost fruit production.
Some of the common materials used in organic blueberry fertilizers include soybean meal, blood meal, and fish meal, which all provide nitrogen to the plants.
Powdered seaweed or kelp can provide the needed amounts of potassium and phosphorus. Vinegar or eggshells can alter the pH chemistry of the soil.
Some blueberry growers swear by other homemade fertilizers such as coffee grounds, Epsom salt, and manure.
Before you start adding homemade, organic materials to the soil beneath your blueberry bushes, be sure you know what you are doing. In your quest to be healthier, you may cause harm to the plants.
There are many more variables when using organic or homemade fertilizing methods. Unlike commercial fertilizers, you will not know the exact chemical makeup of the products you use or how much to use.
It may take you several trial-and-error tests to determine the right combination for your plants.
6. Add Mulch As A Finishing Touch
You might think of mulch as the wood chips that make your flower beds look tidier. But there are more benefits to using mulch than aesthetics. Mulch can actually help make your blueberry bushes more prolific.
A layer of mulch around the base of your blueberry bushes is a great way to trap moisture and keep the soil under the plants from drying out. Blueberry bushes like moist soil that is not too wet. The mulch can act like a lid that keeps the moisture from evaporating away during dry conditions.
Mulch is also effective at reducing weed growth. Seeds will not germinate if they can’t reach the soil and a layer of mulch is a barrier standing between weed seeds and the soil. You won’t have to add ‘weeding the blueberry bushes’ to your list of garden tasks.
A bountiful harvest of beautiful, tasty blueberries is within your grasp. Although blueberries are not the easiest fruit to grow, you can ensure that your bushes receive the nutrients they need by following these 6 steps for fertilizing your blueberry bushes. With a little help from you and the fertilizer, your bushes will produce a bounty of berries.