Tips for Blueberry Success
Note: It is extremely dry right now! If you have important landscape plants, chances are very high that they need a thorough watering. This is a critical season as we need to do what we can now to get plants off to a good start this growing season. It is also important to irrigate your lawn if you’ve made a pre-emergent herbicide application recently. If these products are not watered in per label instructions, they will become inert and fail prematurely, leaving you with less-than-satisfactory results.
To put it simply, Payne County is not a particularly good place to grow blueberries. However, if you follow these guidelines, your odds of many years of successful blueberry harvests are within reach.
Soil preparation, careful cultivar selection, and proper siting are the three big keys. Don’t waste your time unless you are diligent with all three. The soil must be light enough to allow good air and water movement through it and high in organic matter. Raised beds can be very helpful here. If you are trying to modify heavy red Payne County clay, forget it. Invest in some quality topsoil instead.
The soil pH needs to be between 4.5-5.5. While not unheard of for Payne County soils, it is rare. It’s also well below the level that most plants prefer. The only way to know for sure what your soil pH is is to have it tested. Our office can do that for you with a routine test. (Please specify blueberries as a crop when you bring it to the Extension office). Soil pH can be lowered using sulfur and other soil-acidifying amendments, but it can take several months for the chemical change to take place. For this reason, the most successful growers dedicate a year or more to soil preparation before the blueberries are purchased.
Site selection includes selecting a location that provides some afternoon shade and protection from our drying south-southwest winds. A bit of morning shade is ok as long as the plants receive full sun during the day.
OSU Fact Sheet #HLA-6248 Blueberry Production for the Home Garden provides much more information on the topics we touched on above. It includes a lengthy list of cultivars suitable for Oklahoma. In addition to the list provided on the fact sheet, local growers report success with the following cultivars: Pink Lemonade, Peach Sorbet, Blue Ray, Blue Crop, Brazzleberry, and Blue Glaze.
Blueberries tend to be disease free with the biggest pest being birds. Be prepared to cover them with bird netting as they get close to ripening.
Good luck in your endeavors. If you are already successfully growing blueberries in our area and are doing something differently than what we have suggested, we would like to hear from you.
For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.
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