Scott’s Tips: All About Growing Blueberries

Grown at the foot of majestic Mt. Hood in Oregon, our Mountain Blueberries require the right PH balance, consistent pruning, and watering. Our season starts around the first week in August and goes through the middle of September. We grow 75 acres of blueberries with 4 different varieties:

  1. Drapers
  2. Top Shelf
  3. Liberty’s
  4. Last Call

Today’s blog post will give tips for growing healthy fruit and things to remember when maintaining your own blueberry bushes. 

Top 3 Tips for Growing Blueberries

A few essential items to consider when growing blueberries; first and most important is the PH balance. Blueberries are sensitive to changes in PH levels and like more acidic soils. Therefore, they should be kept between 4.5 and 5.5 PH. If your ground is more neutral, the leaves will turn yellow, and the plant will grow poorly. 

The second item is maintaining good pruning practices. Generally, you want to renew the main limbs once every five to seven years. You also want to open the center of the plant to ensure light penetrates the new stems coming up from the base. Finally, you want most of your fruit growing on the outside, the upper half of the plant, which results in easy and efficient harvesting. 

Our last tip is careful watering. Your soil profile should be moist but not soaking wet. The soil should be moist down to 6 inches below the root zone. During the summer heat, while the blueberries are turning blue, you’ll want to overwater to ensure the plant does not get stressed from the hot weather. The excitement of your first harvest comes next.

The second tip is maintaining good pruning practices. Generally, you want to renew the main limbs once every 5 to 7 years. You also want to open up the center of the plant to ensure light penetrates into the new limbs coming up from the base. You want most of your fruit growing on the outside, the upper half of the plant, which results in easy and efficient harvesting. 

First Harvest of Mountain Blueberries

After we plant new blueberries, we thin the berries off for the first two years of production. This allows all the nutrients to build a sizable canopy in the bush. Our first harvest on new fields does not happen until the 3rd leaf (or 3rd year of production).  

Our Orchards harvested around 534,000 lbs of fruit last year. To put this into perspective, we harvested roughly 121 million individual blueberries for the 2021 harvest season. This is no small task, and it will take approximately 120 employees to work for 10 solid weeks to accomplish this task. 

Things to Keep in Mind

The most important thing to ensure success in growing blueberries is maintaining the proper PH level, as described above. In most cases, blueberries will look healthy if the PH balance in the soil is correct. However, weed growth can also affect the health of your plant. Thus, keep the base of the plant free of weeds. One good weed control measurement is keeping the weeds away from the plant to about one foot past the furthest branch. This will ensure that the plant is not competing for water and nutrients with the surrounding weeds. We are wishing you the best of luck this blueberry season! 

Taste Peak Season Blueberries 

This year, The Fruit Company opened the doors of its historical (1940s-era) factory and production center to visitors. As part of our tourism experience, our goal is to highlight peak-season fruit at the pinnacle of ripeness. Thus, we have created the Just Picked   program, offering visitors the opportunity to purchase Mountain Blueberries and other peak-season fruits arriving daily directly from the orchards. Our Just Picked ™ blueberries are significantly fresher (up to 3 weeks) and cheaper (around 30%) than what can be purchased at the grocery store. Our orchard gift shop is at 2900 Van Horn Drive, Hood River, OR.  

Can’t make it to the store? Fresh Mountain Blueberries can also be purchased online with free two-day shipping. 

Scott Webster is President & CEO of both Webster Orchards, Inc and TheFruitCompany.com.  Webster Orchards has been growing premium fresh fruit in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area since 1942, starting with Scott’s grandfather Roy Webster. The Fruit Company, an online gift retailer, has been packing and shipping beautiful fruit gifts nationwide since 1999. Both headquarters are located in the Hood River Valley, nestled between Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge.

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