How to grow blueberries

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Growing blueberries at home is a rewarding endeavor

Growing blueberries at home is a rewarding endeavor Photo Credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne

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Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 20 years experience in radio, television, print

Planting: Fall or spring, in a spot sheltered from strong wind. Lowbush blueberries, reputably the tastiest, are low-growing spreading plants; highbush blueberries are upright and can be grown as hedges that reach 6 feet tall. Half-high varieties are hybrids that grow 3 to 4 feet. All require full sun and plenty of air circulation, so be careful not to crowd plants. Blueberries require a lot of water.

pH range: 4.0-5.2 (Plant away from house foundations, walkways and walls, which may leach lime into the soil, raising the pH to unacceptable levels.)

Years until fruit bearing: 3 to 6

Pollination: Most are self-pollinating, but planting two or three different varieties will result in bigger berries and a larger crop.

Pruning: None for the first 5 years. Thereafter, remove old growth and thin as needed in late winter or early spring to allow air to circulate and sunlight to reach the center of the plant.

Fertilizing: Do not apply nitrogen the first year. Treat each plant with 4 ounces of ammonium sulfate in early spring of the second year. Apply a general fertilizer labeled for acid-loving plants annually, immediately after flowering.

Harvest period: July-September

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Storage: Blueberries freeze well and remain fresh in the refrigerator for about a week.

Recommended varieties: Earliblue, Duke, Patriot, Bluecrop, Blueray, Northcountry, Northblue, Bluegold, Darrow, Elliott, Nelson

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