Blueberry cultivation

Blueberry cultivation


SELECTION OF POSITION

Highbush blueberry can be grown on high peat bogs and medium fertile soils or even light mineral soils. The high demand for water during growth makes the groundwater level should be high (in range approx. 40-60 cm). This plant takes roots shallowly therefove relevant requirements must be completed. Mostly needed is high moisture of soil and sufficient breathability of the upper layer. Good conditions for growth gives a high content of caries in the soil.
Blueberry cultivation on poor soils requires the provision of additional organic substances and bigger cash inputs for irrigation. If the soils are fertile and concise then they should loosened by using for example sawdust, which will simplify the penetration of roots into soil. The area designated for the plantation should be sunny, sheltered from the wind and located close to the water source. Prolonged drought during the growing season adversely affects on the plants growth and also on the yield in the current and the next year. Plantation irrigation is recommended.

Making a choice of the appropriate position should be excluded frost areas and soils with unregulated water relations. Unsuitable soil conditions may lead to weaker growth of plants and make them susceptible to various diseases and pests. It is recommended to choose a place with naturally sour soil and favorable natural conditions. If this is impossible then unfavorable influence of environmental conditions should be minimized.

SOIL PREPARATION

Before founding the plantation should be examined ground water level, caries and minerals, establish the pH of the soil, which should range 3.8-4.8. Very important step before planting the plants is also destruction of permanent weeds. In a suitable substrate important is content of organic substances. To prevent their disappearance,  before planting you can add to the soil peat, sawdust or ground bark.

BLUEBERRY BUSHES AND VARIETIES

Healthy and high quality plants from a qualified nursery guarantee varietal purity and bigger resistance of plants to the stress connected with planting.

The most valuable are well grown 2-3 years plants, because they faster enter into a full fruiting period. Blueberry cultivation is created for many years, therefore it is very important to choose the best of its varieties (appropriate for the conditions). On the market there are many varieties of different production quantity and fruit ripening season. Before founding your own plantation you have to fully study a varieties which you want to cultivate (not all of them are suitable for polish climatic conditions).

PLANTING

In manual harvesting, especially on small plantations or weak soils is recommended to make distances in rows from 0.8 m to 1.0 m (between rows 2,5 m to 3.0 m). Plants should be planted from 3 to 5 cm deeper than were growing in containers. Important is also deeper planting a plants on correctly prepared soil with the addition of peat and sawdust.

IRRIGATION

Because of the soil requirements and Polish climate, blueberry cultivation needs additional irrigation. Lack of rainfall seriously restrict growth of yield and size of blueberry fruits. Water is one of the most important factors limiting possibility of blueberry cultivation on non absorbent soils.
Especially immediately after planting and during the first year of cultivation, blueberry is very sensitive for lack of water. When drought occur quite often then leading a plantation without possibility of irrigation may be risky.

MULCHING

The best product for mulching is sawdust from coniferous trees or pine bark. The main advantage of mulching is fact that reduces the growth of weeds but also create the best natural conditions for growth and fruiting. Thanks that, plants suffer less for water loss and lack of food ingredients. Mulching causes also, that pH of the soil keeps on the right level for a long time.

FERTILIZATION

Correctly conducted fertilization should be based on detailed chemical analysis of soil and leaves as also visual assessment of plants. Deficiency or excess of minerals will causes inhibition or excessive growth of bush, spots on the leaves, crushing of leaves or fruits or even drying the tops of the plants shoots. Basic nitrogen fertilization is used immediately after planting the plant. The amount of nitrogen is determined depending on the soil fertility, age of plant  or used mulch. In the first years of using this type of fertilizing the amount of nitrogen should be increased (50-100%) when was used sawdust mulch. If after a few years mulch will be mineralised then nitrogen dose may be reduced. Especially recommended fertilizer in cultivation of highbush blueberry is ammonium sulfate. Which is physiologically sour, well absorbed by the soil and slightly washed out.  Doses of fertilizer should be used twice to not harm the soil by using too large quantity at once. Nitrogen fertilization should be used each year. Potassium and phosphorus fertilization is carried out on the basis of chemical analysis of the soil. If on the plantation available is an irrigation line, then soil may be fertilizing with water. This method of fertilization is very effective, because fertilizers are supplied in a small doses, directly to the roots.

PRUNING

Since the moment of planting bushes to 4 year is recommended sanitary cutting, therefore removing a sick shoots, weak ones and mechanically or by frost damaged. The most appropriate period for cutting is the end of winter and beginning of spring, when severe frosts do not take place already. Then you can recognize the frozen shoots and visible flower buds will help you to make a decision about the size of the cut.

PROTECTION

Because of the long-term cultivation nature of the highbush blueberry, observation of plantation and removing infected plants is necessary to maintain a plants health. Extremely important is removing a plants with symptoms of viral diseases. Observation in leafless period is much easier because disease symptoms are very well noticeable and can be easily removed.
It is important to choose the appropriate place for the plantation, which will guarantee correct and healthy growth of plants. Weaker plants in bad condition are susceptible to attacks by some pathogens. They are also often damaged by frost, which makes them much more susceptible to infections. Nowadays because of often parchasing plants from abroad exist a probability of import into the country diseases which have not been occurred before. Because of that it is very important to remove and burn infected plants shoots. The failure of this process may destroy whole plants.
Removing form plantation infected shoots, leaves, flowers and fruits reduces the probability of disease in the coming years.

WEEDS

Blueberry should be planted on the area which is free from  bothering weeds, because of that fighting with them should be started already two seasons before the foundation of the plantation.

Good results are obtained by using systemic herbicides which should be used for green weeds with a minimum height
10-15cm.

FRUCTIFICATION AND HARVEST

Highbush, blueberry varieties blossom from the second half of May  to June. Fruits ripen from July to the end of September. Mostly from one variety blueberries are harvested for 2-4 weeks. Harvest may be started after getting a color which is typical for the variety. Fruits ripen unequally and because of that should be harvested 3-4 times in a few days intervals. Yield from one fully mature bush (depending on the variety and condition of the bush) is from 3 to 10 kg. From well managed plantations you can get approx. 10 tons of fruits per hectare. Blueberries are harvested manually or mechanically.

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