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Advice on planting blueberries in 2021 and 2022

Author: Annie Klodd, Extension Educator - Fruit and Vegetable Production

You have likely noticed that certain fruit plants and vegetable seeds are harder to find this year than normal. Natalie Hoidal discusses vegetable seed shortages in this article from UMN Extension Yard and Garden News.

In addition to vegetable seeds, growers may also have a hard time finding berry plants at this point in time. For example, the Nourse Farms website shows all but one blueberry variety sold out for the 2021 season (as of Feb. 17). Options for growers planning to plant blueberries have several options: Dig deeper to find potential vendors to purchase plants, contact local retailers, alter variety preferences, or wait until 2022 to plant. 

If your soil has not yet been amended to the optimal pH range for blueberries, it is best to use this year to prepare your soil, and plan to plant in 2022.

Recommendations for growers wishing to plant in 2021:

There are multiple places to source blueberry plants across the US, including wholesale nurseries and local retailers. Be sure to consider multiple avenues to buy plants, including small retailers.

Consider planting other varieties if your top choices are sold out, but be sure that the varieties you purchase are well suited for Minnesota. If the only varieties available aren't hardy in Zones 3 and 4, or are generally not recommended for Minnesota, wait to plant until recommended varieties are available. Please note that all Minnesota-hardy varieties are highbush or half-high. Do not attempt to plant Rabbiteye blueberries in Minnesota. Rabbiteye varieties are grown in the southern US and are generally hardy in USDA zones 6-9.

A list of recommended blueberry varieties for Minnesota can be found here:

Waiting to plant until 2022

Blueberries are a long-term investment, so waiting to plant until 2022 will be the best decision for some growers. If you have not yet amended your soil in preparation for blueberries, an extra year provides a great opportunity to do this.

It is critical to amend the soil pH in the year prior to planting a new blueberry field. If this has not yet been done on your field, we strongly recommend waiting until 2022 to plant regardless of plant supply. 

Unlike most crops, the optimal soil pH for blueberries is between 4.5 to 5.5. This is probably the most critical recommendation for planting blueberries, which are very sensitive to soil pH. Planting blueberries into a field with a soil pH over about 5.8 can cause severe chlorosis, as the plants are unable to take up the nutrients they need such as iron (see photo below). Results are slow establishment, reduced yield over several years, and poor stand survival. It is very hard to do large pH amendments after planting, because the best way to lower soil pH is to till sulfur into the top 12 inches of the soil. It takes up to a year for the pH to change after adding sulfur, so this should be done the year prior to planting rather than in the planting year. 

Chlorosis on blueberry caused by high soil pH. Photo: Annie Klodd

In the long term, waiting until soil conditions are optimal is better than rushing to plant into poorly suited soil.

Take a soil test in the spring a year before planting. Upon receiving test results, apply sulfur at rates recommended on the soil test report and the Nutrient Management Guide for Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Crops. A cover crop or grain can be planted in the field after sulfur application. Take another soil test in the fall to check if the pH has gone down to appropriate levels for blueberries. If more needs to be added, it can be done then.

See this article for more information on preparing soil and planting blueberries.

To ensure that you are able to order your desired varieties, place orders in the fall prior to planting.


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