Blueberries are a tasty addition to any community garden. The fruit is high in antioxidants, and the plants are easy to manage. Fall is a great time to get them in the garden.
Since blueberry bushes are perennials shrubs, it is advantageous to plant them in a community part of the garden. Along a fence that gets plenty of sun is a possible spot. This way no one is taking up permanent plot space with the bushes and everyone can enjoy the fruit. D. S. NeSmith, a research horticulturist from UGA, has a great publication on Home Garden Blueberries.
For community gardeners the best type of blueberries to plant is the rabbiteye type. The most important thing to know about growing rabbiteye blueberries is that you need to plant more than one variety for cross-pollination. If you choose your varieties from slightly different ripening times, you will have a longer harvest. For early season rabbiteyes look for Alapaha, Climax, Premier, Vernon, or Titan. For mid-season types try Brightwell, Powerblue, or Tifblue. Ochlockonee, Baldwin, and Centurion are all late season varieties. Titan was released in 2011 and it is the largest fruited rabbiteye variety available to date. Vernon also has large fruit.
Choose a planting site that gets at least a half-day of sun. Anything less and the plants may grow but you won’t get a large amount of fruit. Blueberries like our typical acidic soil and need a soil pH of 4.5 to 5.2. The standard spacing for rabbiteyes is 5 – 6 feet between plants as they can get large. Before planting till the soil deeply, 8 to 12 inches, and make sure your site doesn’t tend to stay wet. The best time to plant is in the fall through the very early spring. This gives time for the roots to develop before the heat of the summer. Mulch will be needed and it is important to keep weeds and grass away from the plants. Your local UGA Extension Agent can answer any questions you have about blueberry planting.
If you are interested in incorporating blueberry bushes into your community garden do some planning before you plant.
Is the entire community interested in blueberries? What is the best site? Who will care for them? How you will divide the fruit? Remember that deciding these things early prevents problems later on.
Becky is a Georgia Certified Beekeeper and works with community and school gardeners to increase beneficial insect habitat.In 2017, she created the Georgia Pollinator Census project.Ask her about it!