4 Ways To Protect Blueberries From Pests & Disease

4 Ways To Protect Blueberries From Pests & Disease

Blueberries: Michigan’s Favorite Fruit

Blueberries are a popular fruit in northern Michigan, known for their sweet and juicy flavor. However, like any fruit crop, blueberries are susceptible to pests and diseases that can significantly reduce yield and quality. In this article, we will guide you through some effective strategies for preventing pests and diseases from affecting your blueberry plants in northern Michigan.

(Featured Image: Blueberry by Tiltti)

4 Tips For Protecting Your Blueberry Plants

1. Choose Resistant Blueberry Varieties

The first step in preventing pests and diseases in your blueberry plants is to choose resistant varieties. Look for varieties that are resistant to common diseases such as mummy berry and anthracnose. Some resistant blueberry varieties to consider include:

  • ‘Bluecrop’
  • ‘Jersey’
  • ‘Elliott’
  • ‘Bluegold’
  • ‘Duke’
An up-close view of blueberries on a blueberry bush in Michigan.

Blueberry Bush by Martin Stone

2. Exercise Good Cultural Practices

Good cultural practices can go a long way in preventing pests and diseases in your blueberry plants. Here are some cultural practices to consider:

  • Planting: Plant your blueberry bushes in well-drained soil with a pH of 4.0-5.2. Blueberries prefer full sun but can tolerate some shade. Proper planting and soil preparation can help ensure the health of your plants.
  • Pruning: Pruning your blueberry plants can help improve air circulation and sunlight penetration, which can reduce the risk of disease. Prune in late winter or early spring before the new growth begins.
  • Irrigation: Blueberries require consistent moisture, especially during fruit development. Avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot, and make sure to irrigate at the base of the plant.
  • Fertilization: Blueberries require specific nutrients to thrive. Use a balanced fertilizer designed for blueberries and follow the recommended application rates.
A hand trowel and custom soil blend made for growing blueberries and pepper plants.

Hand Trowel With Soil by Image Catalogue

3. Monitor For Pests And Diseases

Regular monitoring for pests and diseases is essential in preventing them from affecting your blueberry plants. Here are some common pests and diseases to watch out for:

  • Spotted Wing Drosophila: This pest lays eggs in ripening fruit, causing it to rot. Monitor for this pest by using traps and inspecting fruit for small punctures.
  • Blueberry Maggot: This pest lays eggs on the surface of developing fruit, causing it to become discolored and shriveled. Monitor for this pest by using sticky traps and inspecting fruit for damage.
  • Mummy Berry: This disease causes the fruit to shrivel and turn brown. Monitor for this disease by inspecting fruit and pruning out infected canes.
  • Anthracnose: This disease causes leaf spots and cankers on the stems. Monitor for this disease by inspecting leaves and pruning out infected canes.

Smut Fungus on Blueberry by Sabrina Setaro

4. Use Natural Controls

There are several natural controls you can use to prevent pests and diseases in your blueberry plants. Here are some examples:

  • Insecticidal soap: Insecticidal soap is a natural pesticide that can be used to control pests such as aphids and spider mites.
  • Neem oil: Neem oil is a natural pesticide that can be used to control pests such as thrips and whiteflies.
  • Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt): Bt is a natural pesticide that can be used to control pests such as caterpillars and sawflies.
  • Beneficial insects: Beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings can help control pests in your blueberry plants.

Start With A Strong Blueberry Plant

The best way to protect your blueberry plants from pests and disease is to start with a strong, healthy plant. Established plants are less likely to die from pests and diseases, even if they are affected by them. In order to get the best yield and quality of fruit, it’s important to follow some basic steps to ensure that your blueberry plants are healthy and thriving. Here are some tips on how to grow a healthy blueberry plant.

  1. Start with the right variety: There are countless varieties of blueberries available, but not all of these varieties are suited to grow in every region. It’s important to choose a variety that is specifically suited to your region. It’s a bonus if you can find a variety that is native to your local area!
  2. Provide the right soil: Blueberries require soil that is acidic, with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. If your soil is not naturally acidic, you can lower the pH by adding sulfur or peat moss to the soil. It’s also important to ensure that the soil is well-draining, as blueberries do not like to be in waterlogged soil.
  3. Provide the right amount of sun: Blueberries require at least six hours of sunlight per day to thrive. Choose a sunny spot in your yard that receives full sun for most of the day.
  4. Provide adequate water: Blueberries require consistent moisture to produce a good crop. Water your plants deeply and regularly, especially during hot, dry weather. It’s also a good idea to mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and prevent weeds.
  5. Fertilize regularly: Blueberries require regular fertilization to produce a healthy crop. Use a fertilizer that is specifically formulated for blueberries, and apply it according to the instructions on the package.
  6. Prune regularly: Pruning is essential to maintain the health and productivity of your blueberry plants. Remove any dead or diseased branches, and thin out any overcrowded areas to improve air circulation.
  7. Protect from pests and diseases: Blueberries can be vulnerable to a range of pests and diseases, including birds, aphids, and mites. Use natural pest control methods like neem oil or insecticidal soap to prevent infestations, and apply fungicides as needed to control diseases like powdery mildew or botrytis.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your blueberry plants are healthy and productive, producing a bountiful crop of delicious and nutritious berries.

Grow Blueberries In Your Own Backyard

Blueberries are a rewarding fruit to grow. Not only do they produce a high yield, but the bush itself will get larger from season to season. It is relatively simple to start a few blueberry plants that will grow into a self-sustaining patch within 2-3 years. 

If you’re looking for blueberry plants that are sourced specifically to thrive in northern Michigan, Bright Lane Gardens is the place to shop! You’ll find numerous varieties that are suitable for container gardening or backyard gardening, all of which are known for sweet berries and large yields. Save yourself a trip into Traverse City and grab everything you need to start your own blueberry patch right here at Bright Lane Gardens!

Four blueberries in different stages of growth on the pink stem of a blueberry plant.