There are different ways to grow blueberries. You can choose to grow them in open soil, you can grow them in individual containers, or you can use a method in-between by creating ridges. In this article, we’ll focus on the cultivation method of growing blueberries in ridges. We’ll explain how best to create the optimal environment for your blueberry plants with this method. Read this related article if you wish to know more about blueberry cultivation in pots.
Why grow blueberries in ridges?
The cultivation method involving ridges offers some benefits compared to growing in open soil. It’s very rare to find a suitable field that offers the circumstances blueberry plants need to thrive. Blueberries have quite sensitive roots, making it crucial for them for the soil to meet their needs.
Establishing substrate ridges atop the open soil and planting the blueberry bushes within them allows you to offer a stable and optimal growth environment for blueberries. It’s a step towards the ideal root zone you’d create for your shrubs in container cultivation, without making that full shift.
What do blueberry bushes need?
As mentioned, blueberry plants have a sensitive root system. The fine roots need optimal support to develop. It’s a crop that takes multiple years to develop and would offer a good yield year after year in the right circumstances. That means that the root environment needs to be able to support your crop for multiple years in a row as well. The things that are most important in this situation are long-term structural stability, a consistent and high air content, and an enhanced nutrient/pH buffer.
If you want to be able to really pick the fruits of your labour, you should invest in the creation of the right environment for your crops with a long-term vision.
How to optimally create ridges for blueberries
Let’s look into some practical guidelines regarding the actual creation of the ridges. Next to using the right substrate to create them, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. Let’s answer some common questions we get from growers on this subject!
How far should the ridges be apart?
For easy and efficient handling and cultivation you should space the ridges approximately 2.5 – 3 meters apart.
How much space do the bushes need?
Depending on the variety you are growing you should position your blueberry shrubs at intervals of 60-100 cm. That way the roots of the plants will have enough space to develop horizontally, while your pickers and caretakers will have plenty of space to work with the crop as well.
How much substrate should you use?
Make sure to allocate approximately 100 – 120 litres of substrate per linear meter. That means you should procure approximately 400 m3 of blueberry substrate per hectare.
How to make cultivation/maintenance easier?
It’s always beneficial to follow good practices of keeping a clean and tidy cultivation site. Make sure to not leave equipment and resources lying around, and maintain your field well. Consider covering the ridges with plastic in the initial years post-planting to curb weed proliferation. This also helps to reduce the loss of moisture from the top layer of the substrate through evaporation.
Can I save on substrate by not using it for the full extent of the ridge?
We’ve seen some growers try to create ridges from local soil, only using blueberry substrate around the plant roots. Although this sounds like an appealing way to save money and resources, it’s actually not a strategy we would advise you to take. By doing this, you limit the development of the plant roots to the substrate area. That difference in growth is caused by the difference in the physical and chemical properties of the substrate and the rest of the bed created by local soil.
Your shrubs will concentrate root development to that small area, without really developing throughout the rest of the bed. Your plant will not get the stability needed, and nutrient and water uptake will be compromised due to the underdeveloped root system. This eventually impacts plant development and health, and in it’s turn, your yield.
If you want to look for a different way to create the ridges, we’d advise mixing soil improver into the local soil and using this mix to create your ridge. This ensures uniform chemical and physical properties throughout the ridge, allowing your crop to utilize all the space in the ridge to develop its roots. Of course, the eventual quality of the root environment depends on the local soil quality. This method might not work for all growers.
Additionally, it’s very important to add another layer of soil improver with soil on both sides of the ridges to seek further root expansion after 3-5 years of growing.
Adding it on top is not beneficial, as the roots will not develop upwards. Only additional layers on the sides would stimulate the plant roots.
Seek out your local distributor if you’d like to get the best substrate and soil improver for your crops! Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need more advice on the creation of an optimal environment for your blueberry plants!