Blueberry Seed Planting: Tips For Growing Blueberry Seed
Blueberries are heralded as a super food — extremely nutritious, but also high in flavanoids which have been shown to reduce the damaging effects of oxidation and inflammation, allowing the body to fight off disease. Most home growers purchase cuttings, but did you know that blueberry seed planting will result in a plant as well?
How to Grow Blueberries from Seeds
First, is a blueberry a seed? No, the seeds are inside the fruit, and it takes a little work to separate them from the pulp. You can use fruit from an existing bush or from those purchased at the grocers, but the results may be poor or non-existent. Blueberries do not self pollinate, which means they are rather unpredictable and their offspring do not duplicate the parent. It is better to purchase viable blueberry seeds for planting from a nursery, but if you would like to experiment, here is how to prepare blueberry seeds for planting.
To prepare blueberry seeds for planting, the fruit will need to be macerated. This can be done in a food processor, blender or mashed in a bowl. Add a little water to the berries as you do this. Once the fruit is mashed, remove the floating pulp. Seeds will sink to the bottom. You may need to add water several times to remove the pulp completely.
Once you have gathered the blueberry bush seeds, they must be scarified. Place them in some damp paper towels and put them in the freezer for 90 days. Cold stratification will break the seeds’ rest period so they are ready for planting.
Blueberry Seed Planting
Once the 90 days have elapsed, the seeds can be used immediately or kept in the freezer until you are ready to plant them. Blueberry seed planting should commence in the fall in warm climates and in the spring in more northerly climes.
Plant the seed in dampened sphagnum peat moss in seed trays and cover them with ¼ inch (6 ml.) of soil. Keep the medium consistently moist. Be patient; blueberry seed planting may take six to eight weeks to germinate, some not for three months. The hybrid high bush seeds germinate more unreliable than their wild low bush relatives.
Keep the seeds in a warm, sunny area (60-70 degrees F/15-21 C). If lacking in sunlight, suspend a fluorescent light about 14 inches (36 cm.) above the seedlings. The resulting seedling from the growing blueberry seeds will look like grass with a few tiny leaves atop. During the first year of blueberry seed planting, the seedlings may get no taller than 5-6 inches (13-15 cm.) in height.
Once the blueberry bush seed plants are big enough to transplant, move them into pots in a sunny, warm area and keep moist. The growing blueberry seed plants can be fertilized with a liquid fertilizer after two to three weeks in their pots. The resulting blueberry bush seed plants will bear fruit during year two when the plant is 1-2 feet (30-61 cm.) tall.
It may take several years when growing blueberries from seed before the plant will produce any significant amount of fruit. So, again, be patient, but once established, the plant will keep you supplied with this super food for decades to come.
One benefit of growing plants from seeds is that the plants will be much more hardy and resistant to disease. Growing blueberries from seed are not too difficult, but it does require some patience and adequate preparation. The main concern will be to make sure you have the right soil pH in the location you want to grow your blueberries. Blueberry plants need acidic soil to thrive in, or they won’t do well. You will need to get your soil to a pH of 4 to 4.5. You can buy soil testing kits at your local nursery or online.
How to Grow Blueberries from Seed
If you grow blueberries from seed, it will take three years until the plants start producing a lot of blueberries. It’s worth the wait, though, if you end up with lots of healthy blueberry bushes.
Indoors: The ideal temperature for germination is approximately 20°C (70-80 F). Surface sow the seeds onto a 50/50 mixture of moistened sphagnum peat moss and compost. Blueberry seeds require light to stimulate germination.
If germination is taking longer than expected, try finding a sunnier location for the seeds. Also, try to find a location with good air circulation to avoid fungus problems. Keep the mix moist but never soggy. Don’t let the soil dry out. When the seedlings have developed at least two sets of leaves, they can be transplanted outside after the risk of frost. Germination can take approximately 4-8 weeks.
Outdoors: Prepare the soil by mixing in peat moss and compost. Presoak the soil and surface sow the seeds. Lightly cover the seeds with compost. Sunlight will be able to penetrate the soil and stimulate germination. It’s important to continue to keep the soil moist until during the germination process. If the soil drys out, it can kill the seeds. It’s recommended to start the seeds indoors where the conditions are easier to control.
How to Plant Blueberry Bushes
The location of your plants is very important as well. Blueberry bushes require full sun to produce a large harvest of berries each year. They need to be in a climate that has a dormant cold period where the temperature reaches near zero. The dormant period doesn’t have to be very long. The soil needs to be acidic with a pH of 4 to 4.5.
The bushes need to be well watered, so it’s a good idea to mix in a lot of sphagnum peat moss to help maintain moisture. Also, adding some mulch on top of the soil will help keep it from drying out too much.
Where and when should I plant blueberries?
You should plant blueberries from November to March, and harvest them in July through to September.
Plant your blueberries in moist, well-drained acidic soil.
Do not allow the soil to dry out between waterings if you are growing them in a container, and otherwise let rain take care of keeping them hydrated.
Blueberry growing guide: When and where should I plant blueberries? (Image: GETTY)
They are very fussy about the acidity of your soil, and will not thrive if planted in alkaline soil.
The pH needs to be 5.5 or lower, and you can measure this with a pH testing kit, which can be bought at any garden centre or homeware store.
They prefer light soils over heavy clays, and like to be in a sunny but sheltered spot.
If you don’t have acidic soil in your garden, you can grow blueberries in pots of peat-free ericaceous (acidic) compost.
If you’re planting a young plant into a container, choose one that is at least 30cm in diameter.
Blueberry growing guide: When and where should I plant blueberries? (Image: GETTY)
Starting Softwood Cuttings
Late spring and early summer are the best times to gather and start softwood blueberry cuttings. A 4- to 5-inch cutting taken from the tip of a new shoot will root best. Just make sure the base of the stem is slightly woody and the leaves at the tip are not quite mature. Avoid very young shoots with light green, newly unfurled leaves, as well as older stems with mature leaves, because both are more likely to root poorly. Sever the cutting at a 45-degree angle using your sharp, clean pruning shears and remove any foliage from along the lowest 1 to 2 inches. Pot each cutting with the leafless portion of the stem below the soil surface. Place the pots in a sheltered, bright location out of direct sunlight. Mist the cuttings daily and keep the growing medium moist until the cuttings root, which should take a few months.
If you can’t pot softwood cuttings immediately or you need to transport them, wrap them in wet newspaper and put them inside a cooler to keep them fresh.
Common pests and diseases: Blueberries
When growing fruits and vegetables, it is always exciting to care for the plant throughout its growing phase and then harvest it for delicious recipes later on, but one thing to watch out for is pests and diseases. Different plants are susceptible to different types of pests and diseases, and it is important to make yourself aware so you can keep a watchful eye and also take any preventative methods to keep your plants safe throughout their lifespan.
Blueberries can fall victim to several different pests and diseases.
Some of the most common pests affecting blueberries include mites, flea beetles and Japanese beetles.
Mites cause scales on the buds, misshapen flowers and poor growth and low yields. Mites are microscopic, which means they are hard to see, so be on the lookout for the symptoms. To manage or prevent this problem, apply miticides just after harvest.
Flea beetles leave small holes in the leaves and younger plants are more likely to be targeted. If a flea beetle infestation occurs, plant growth may decrease. The damage can even kill the plant if it is severe enough. To manage or prevent this problem, utilize floating row covers and apply a thick layer of mulch.
Japanese beetles leave skeletonized leaves, and they also affect the roots as well as growth above ground. The beetle’s larvae feed on the roots, and the adults feed on the leaves and fruits. Both larvae and adults cause damage. To prevent this problem, use insecticides.
Some of the most common diseaes affecting blueberries include mummy berry, powdery mildew, stem canker and more.
Mummy berry causes the plant’s new leaves and shoots to droop in the spring. It also will cause the upper portion of the shoots to turn brown rapidly, and the infected shoots can even die. The infected berries will be pink or white in appearance and then turn tan. The berries can become shriveled. To manage this, prevent only disease-free plants and also bury or remove the mummified fruit. Apply foliar fungicides if you are a commercial planter struggling with this issue.
Powdery mildew will cause a fluffy white growth on the upper or lower surfaces of the leaves. Leaves may look puckered, and they can develop chlorotic spots with red borders. To manage this disease, plant resistant, high-bush varieties and apply the appropriate foliar fungicides if they are available.
Stem canker will cause red lesions on green stems. The lesions then become swollen. Some varieties of blueberries are more susceptible, the cankers may kill the stem. To prevent this disease, be sure to plant resistant varieties. Also, do not use infected wood for propagation.
Common blueberry bush problems and how to solve them
Blueberries are easy to grow but like all plants, they can suffer from diseases that you will have to act promptly to treat if you want to stop it spreading through your whole crop. Here are some of them:
Powdery Mildew – This looks like a white powder that will spread over this surface of the leaves on your bush. The leaves will eventually stop growing and become shriveled. To solve this make sure you are giving your blueberry bush enough water and if possible try and keep it in cooler conditions.
Brown Rot – When this has affected your bush the new tips that have grown will start to wilt and dry out before any blossom happens on them. The berries will turn yellow, firm and leathery and will eventually turn dark and mummify. To treat this prune off all affected branches and get a brown rot treatment from your local garden center.
Botrytis Blight – This appears like a gray hairy mold that will rot the blossoms, berries when they are green and ripening and will even continue to spread on your blueberries after you have harvested them. To treat this disease you will need to purchase a spray from your local garden center.
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