Blueberries , worth it?

I am considering adding a couple of blueberry bushes next year. (My granddaughter loves them). I am zone six southwest Missouri ozarks. The soil is pretty well drained but thin and not far down to rock and clay. What challenges will I face? Will the birds steal them all ? Are early frosts a problem? Do they require spray?


At my location the bird will and have stolen all my blueberries in some years. Last year I netted the bushes and got a big sweet harvest.


I suppose I could net a couple of bushes…

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I’d sure grow them if my soil and water wasn’t on the higher end of the PH scale around here.

It really depends on how well you can keep ph of your soil low enough to make your blueberry bushes happy.

My soil is very neutral. I tried amending the soil with sulfur, using different planting media including pure peat moss, fertilizing with ammonium sulfate, etc. The plants grew but not very fast. The worse part was battling against high ph water. Our town water is very alkaline. (I did not collect rain water). Not only birds that liked my blueberries, squirrels, too.

After five years, I decided that it was not worth the effort and aggrevation. We have a blueberry farm 15 mins away. That’s my go-to.

My friend who have lots of pine trees on her property gladly dug up my blueberry bushes. They love her acidic soil and prosper there.


Just a warning that birds may not be the only enemy of your blueberries. I can keep the birds off them with nets, but the chipmunks crawl under or chew through. Hopefully you don’t have any there. But they are delicious fresh and worth growing - the blueberries, not the chipmunks.


At least up here…99% of the problem is birds…i don’t spray them. Never had an issue with early frosts on them but i don’t bloom early usually.


If you live where rhododendron, mountain laurel, sassafras or sourwood trees grow wild and thrive, you won’t need a soil test–you should be able to grow blueberries well.

You wouldn’t do it for an acre of bushes, but for a couple in the yard, you can always amend the soil with Sulphur and other ingredients and make it work.

Plus, some blueberry plants will do OK at 6 or 6.5 pH. Not all of them need 4.5 to do well.


You don’t do what some bright old fellow did in Mt.Vernon, KY…put fresh horse manure and wood ashes on them!
It might work for tomatoes or apples, but not blueberries!.

Northern blueberries don’t need 4.5 either. Mine are thriving in 6.5 in the top 10 inches and getting all the free iron they need from the lower soil with a pH of about 5.6. Have thrived in this for the last 25 years and there are 8 different commercial varieties in the mix, none are suffering iron deficiency and all are healthy, vigorous plants. The native soil tends to be about 5.5 and blueberries grow wild here.

I built a cage of 1" chicken wire that took two people a half day to construct and it withstands heavy snow because I place a bunch of 2"X2" 8’ pressure treated stakes below the roof of it- adding extras in the fall. If we’d spent a whole day I wouldn’t have to reinforce it that way.

Over 25 years the construction doesn’t represent a lot of maintenance but I still have to trap out chipmunks. Unbelievable that they can squeeze through 1" chicken wire.

Pruning is quick and no spray has ever been required. My only organic fruit that isn’t called a vegetable besides paw paws and persimmons.


Here the soil is 6.5 and they will not grow. They grow but fail to thrive. None wild here, those are all on the west coast whose soil is completely different than mine. So I built raised beds and since blueberry roots are shallow they have grown to 6 feet tall with only a foot of acidic soil. Impressive plants. Not all get that big but some do like Chandler. I noticed the flavor really improved after the first few years.

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Mine probably wouldn’t grow in 6.5 either. That is the top 10"- the point is that the soil doesn’t have to all be strongly acidic. Whitcomb’s research proved a long time ago that pin oaks quickly respond to a surface application of aluminum sulfate even when the pH hasn’t been altered below a very thin layer of soil on the surface.

I discovered a similar thing happens with blueberries by accident. For years I assumed my blueberries were thriving in nearly neutral soil until it occured to me that I’d never tested the soil below. That’s when I found out that 10" down the pH dropped a full point.

Years after posting this on the NAFEX site, my son pointed out to me that Michael Phillips had given me credit for discovering this in one of his books. That was fun because it made my son proud, although he’s the only one I know who noticed. He’s never read a single Phillip’s book or any book on gardening or horticulture but he searched my name on the internet.

This can be useful information for blueberry growers if they have older plants that have an iron deficiency. A surface app of sulfur barely incorporated in the soil with some wood mulch over it may be adequate treatment. If it’s there the roots will find it. That is knowledge with a broad range of use.

I agree that blueberries are often helped by growing in raised beds- here they commonly grow in marshes on hillocks. It is also often easiest to grow them in an artificial mix rather than use a neutral or alkaline existing soil- especially if that soil has a lot of clay. Excellent drainage is as crucial to blueberries as ample free iron. But finer soil is also more resistant to pH change.


Worth it! They are very little work if you have the right soil. I wish I’d studied varieties more when I first planted. Mine are great, but I grabbed my bushes from different places and didn’t research them more. I definitely have bushes that I like more than others for size, biennial bearing and sweetness. Really though most any Blueberry is delicious so I’m happy with my ten different bushes. If your only planting a few it’s good to research types.


Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier is a product that I use on my potted blueberry shrubs. I am sure that it would work on blueberry shrubs that are planted in the soil. I have the Brightwell and Tifblue rabbiteye varieties. They complement each other well as the Brightwell is early and the Tifblue is late. They generally do not require spray.

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Yes rabbiteyes tolerate high pH better than the rest. Here it’s too cold for most of them. Many live but the cold can keep them from thriving. Same with Southern Highbush.
So I’m stuck with northerns, which is fine. I’m going to try doing some air layers to propagate. Blueberries need a misting system for cuttings to root. Probably the best way to start a bunch. But I can do a 1-3 air layers a year on a plant. Brady gave me a rooted cutting he did of Spartan, and it’s a great berry, very early. The plant is doing great.

On container culture which I do too. I have three in containers. I use a mix of pine bark and peat moss and some DE (Diatomaceous Earth), the size of perlite to hold more water. DE is slightly basic, but not much there. The peat and pine have a pH of 5.0. So as long as I use rainwater, no sulfur or soil acidifier is needed. I found this best as I don’t have to keep monitoring the pH. Sulfur can lower pH too much. I killed a couple that way.
Best to monitor when using sulfur. I still do once a year check pH of everything. I have to use sulfur in my raised beds about once every 2 years. They have some normal soil in them. Plus native soil on the bottom I’m sure pulls some hydrogen ions out.


I’ve got a couple blueberry plants struggling along as well. My dog eats every berry as soon as it starts to change color. She loves them. I’m bad at remembering to add sulphur more than once or twice a season.

I find serviceberries to be a more than adequate substitute for blueberries and as a bonus they don’t have the hard seeds. (And my dog cannot get all the fruit)


Alan, any idea why your soil is acidic a foot down? Are you heavily amending the top 10 inches?


Two plants aren’t enough, if anyone LIKES blueberries… heck, my #2 son will eat a gallon of blueberries a day, in season (or out of the freezer!), if you don’t limit him!
We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 BB bushes… almost all rabbiteye or Southern highbush, some of them 25 yrs old.


here in PNW we grow northern blueberries. the southern blueberries would be best for you it has a different chilling hours. some trademarked blueberry variety didnt do so well witj my rainy weather it was highly prone to disease that killed all my blueberry. so i no longer grew them. all the others were very low in maintence in spray i dont spray. bird its huge issue must be protected if i want to eat a single fruit. i grow mines in large pots. our soil at our house not so good for in ground.


So it sounds like a go, what type/varieties will do best here?

Considering “kabluey” from gurneys and Reka northern highbush

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