An organic blueberry plant or two, planted in your garden, will allow you to grow your own fresh blueberries for a fraction of the price of store bought. These bush type plants can also be grown as a dual purpose privacy hedge in many areas.
Where to Buy Organic Blueberry Plants
While conventional blueberry plants can be found in many nurseries and on the Internet, organic blueberries are a little harder to come by.
Backyard Blueberry Plants
Backyard Blueberry Plants carries a large variety of organic blueberries including:
The company ships spring and fall to any of the lower 48 states except Oregon.
Dimeo Farms grows and ships three year old organic, heirloom blueberry plants. The original farm was established in 1895 and has been in the family since. It is still family owned and operated.
They ship plants of varying sizes including eight year old, established plants.
Grow Organic sells 14-inch bare root organic blueberry plants. There are 14 different types including:
- Sunshine Blue
They also carry organic fungicides, fertilizer blends, and other items to help you have the best possible crop of berries.
Choosing a Variety
There are three basic types of blueberries and you should choose a variety of blueberry that grows well in your zone. If you are not sure which berries do well in your area, you can contact your local Extension agent for more specific information.
- High bush, Vaccinium corymbosum, grows in most areas of the United States; the Mid-Atlantic to the west coast, and from the Upper Midwest to the Mid-South.
- Low bush, Vaccinium angustifolium, is a wild blueberry which grows well in the far northern areas of the United States.
- Rabbiteye, Vaccinium ashei is a large bush blueberry that grows well in the southern United States, especially south of I-40.
- Southern highbush Vaccinium corymbosum, is a relatively new hybrid. It does very well in the southern zones where the Rabbiteye blueberry thrives but also will produce well in the coastal south.
Pests and Diseases
According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, blueberries have very few pests or diseases. This makes organic production very simple. Most problems can be controlled through carefully choosing a variety that is known to thrive in your area and is resistant to common diseases. Keeping birds away from the sweet, ripe berries may be the biggest chore.
Some of the more common pests that attack blueberries are:
- Blueberry tip borer
- Cherry fruit worm
- Cranberry fruit worm
- Plum cudculio
Many of these can be controlled with beneficial predators. Beneficial predators are insects, birds, and other things that prey on the pests. For example, one of the best known beneficials is the ladybug. The ladybug eats aphids and keeps your garden from being overrun with these tiny pests. The University of California has a pictorial guide to help you identify these natural helpers in your garden.
Diseases of Blueberry Plants
- Mummy Berry
- Powdery Mildew
- Twig Blight
These are fungus problems and can be controlled by keeping the leaves dry, allowing good air circulation, and changing out the mulch annually.
Organic blueberries must be certified if you plan to sell them as organic, whether you use a pick-your-own type model or sell them at a farmer's market. If you plan to certify your berries, then you should discuss the various requirements with an approved certifier before you buy the plants.
Pick the blooms off the plants for the first two years to allow them to get established before fruit is allowed to form.
Blueberry plants should be planted in rows every four feet with at least eight feet between each row. You can figure 388 to 726 plants per acre on a large scale operation.
The pH of blueberries must be 4.8 to 5.5 or you risk nutritional deficiencies and growing problems. It is recommended that you monitor the soil pH regularly because things like calcium in irrigation water or mulch breaking down can change the original pH over a period of time.
It is important to use organic compost as a top dressing and mulch well. Add organic fertilizers recommended for your area and type of soil.
Blueberries are shallow rooted and will need to be watered weekly in dry weather.
Blueberries are pollinated by insects. If you are interested in beekeeping having a few hives near the blueberry plants is a great idea.
You should also check when you buy the berries. Some varieties need a different type of blueberry to pollinate them. Depending on the type you get you may want to choose two or three different kinds to plant.
You can expect each establish plant to produce about four pounds of berries per bush. Generally, you can figure that each serving will be about 1/4 of a pound of berries. Each bush will yield about 16 servings. Plant the number of bushes according to the yield you want but consider planting a few extra to allow for loss due to birds, pests, and snacking.
Organic Blueberries Are Healthy
Organic blueberry plants are fun to grow and provide a healthy, delicious fruit for your family. If you have a few acres, pick-your-own farms are increasingly popular and well-established farms realize good profits; often much better than if they sold the berries commercially.
Whether you choose to plant 10 blueberry plants or 100, start with the best you can afford. You will be reaping the rewards for years to come.