Blueberry Growing Guide For Northern Michigan

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

Blueberries On Stem

Photo by Chuck Grimmett

Growing Blueberries In Northern Michigan

Blueberries are a specialized plant that require specific soil and climate conditions to successfully grow. Fortunately, Northern Michigan has ideal growing conditions for most varieties of blueberries. You do not need to have a green thumb to grow blueberries (we promise)!

Planting early in the spring can help your blueberry plant grow deeper, well-established roots by the time the first frost hits in the fall. Keep in mind that you should wait 2 full seasons before attempting a full harvest of any berry plant. This helps push nutrients down to the roots of the plant, leading to a more robust adult plant that will be highly productive in future years.

You’ll need a few things to get started:

  • Shovel or hand trowel
  • Soil acidifier (we recommend peat moss
  • Organic, granular fertilizer 
  • Organic compost
  • Natural mulch 
  • 2 or more blueberry plants, if it is not a self-fertile variety

Selecting A Site For Your Blueberry Plants

Site selection is one of the most important steps for a successful blueberry crop. Blueberries will require full sun – meaning at least 6 hours per day, but preferably 8 hours. It may be necessary to trim trees or other nearby foliage to ensure the plant is receiving enough direct sunlight.

Blueberries grow well in sandy, acidic soil. We do tend to have fairly acidic soil in Northern Michigan, however it is recommended to add peat moss when planting to ensure the soil acidity is lower than a pH 5.5. Most areas of our region have very sandy soil, which is perfect for growing blueberries!

Several large, ripe blueberries shown on a mature blueberry plant with bright green leaves.

Ripe Blueberries On Plant

Photo by Nadia Prigoda-Lee

How To Plant Blueberries

Select healthy looking plants that are at least 2-3 years old. If you have purchased a plant from Bright Lane Gardens, it will be a minimum of 2 years old and will be ready to plant! There are several varieties of self-fertile blueberries, which means they do not require cross-pollination to produce fruit. It is important you know which type of plant you have. 

  1. Ensure your plant has at least 4’ of space in all directions. If you are planting several plants, it is recommended you space plants 4’ apart in rows spaced 10’ apart.

  2. Dig a hole that is 1.5x as deep and 2x as wide as the container the plant came in. 

  3. Add a scoop of peat moss along with a scoop of compost and mix into your hole. Make a small indent in the bottom as a nest for your root ball.

  4. Gently set your plant down in the hole. Make sure the top of the root ball is not more than 2” below the surface of the soil, as blueberry roots tend to grow close to the surface.

  5. Cover the remainder of the hole with the dirt that was dug out. Gently tamp down the surface of the soil using your hand. Do not pack down the dirt too much, as this can prevent oxygen from reaching the roots.

  6. Add a small layer of organic mulch (woodchips, shredded leaves, grass clippings) to help the soil retain water for the first season.

  7. Water the plant regularly to ensure the soil stays damp. However, do not allow any standing water. Daily or even twice daily watering may be necessary on exceptionally hot, sunny days in the summer.

Cross-Pollination:

Most of our blueberry varieties are self fertile, meaning they do not require cross-pollination to produce fruit. However, we always recommend buying blueberry plants in pairs as cross-pollination can greatly increase fruit production, even in self-fertile plants. 

You can cross-pollinate a new plant with a previously established blueberry plant in your yard. The established plant should be healthy and robust in fruit production. Ensure plants are within 5-6’ of each other for successful cross-pollination.

When To Fertilize Blueberry Plants

Do not fertilize the blueberry plant right away! Fertilizing immediately can burn the fragile roots of the young plant. Instead, wait until the leaves have reached full size. Typically 4-6 weeks after the initial planting is a safe time to fertilize. Follow this blueberry growing guide for safe fertilization techniques.

We recommend using organic, granular fertilizer for your berry plants. Use 1 tablespoon of granular fertilizer spread in a 1 foot radius around the plant. Thoroughly water after every fertilizer application, using a gentle rain setting so the granules do not wash away. Repeat this process every 6 weeks through early August, which should be your last application of fertilizer for the year.

How To Prune Blueberry Plants

Most berry plants will benefit from pruning, including raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Similarly, annual pruning on blueberry plants will result in larger, healthier plants and higher fruit yields. Removing small, gangly branches near the base of the plant helps to encourage stronger, upright growth. Always remove any dead or damaged twigs or limbs, including those that still have some green on them. 

You should not prune a blueberry plant until it has entered dormancy. Typically this is after all leaves have dropped in the fall. Blueberries can be pruned anytime from late fall through mid-winter, before any buds start to appear.

When To Harvest Your Blueberries

Once you have successfully established a mature and healthy blueberry bush, then you can start to harvest! Different varieties of blueberries will produce fruit at different times of the season, but the average bush will be ready to harvest in early fall. Planting several varieties with different fruiting times can ensure you have 4-6 weeks of continuous harvest. 

Eager to learn more about the different varieties of blueberries after reading this blueberry growing guide? Click here for a full write up on our top selling blueberry types and what makes them so popular! 

A pint of blueberries perched on a window sill in a teal blue cardboard container

Blueberry Pint

Photo by Mr.TinMD

Blueberry Growing Guide For Northern Michigan

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

Blueberries On Stem

Photo by Chuck Grimmett

Growing Blueberries In Northern Michigan

Blueberries are a specialized plant that require specific soil and climate conditions to successfully grow. Fortunately, Northern Michigan has ideal growing conditions for most varieties of blueberries. You do not need to have a green thumb to grow blueberries (we promise)!

Planting early in the spring can help your blueberry plant grow deeper, well-established roots by the time the first frost hits in the fall. Keep in mind that you should wait 2 full seasons before attempting a full harvest of any berry plant. This helps push nutrients down to the roots of the plant, leading to a more robust adult plant that will be highly productive in future years.

You’ll need a few things to get started:

  • Shovel or hand trowel
  • Soil acidifier (we recommend peat moss
  • Organic, granular fertilizer 
  • Organic compost
  • Natural mulch 
  • 2 or more blueberry plants, if it is not a self-fertile variety

Selecting A Site For Your Blueberry Plants

Site selection is one of the most important steps for a successful blueberry crop. Blueberries will require full sun – meaning at least 6 hours per day, but preferably 8 hours. It may be necessary to trim trees or other nearby foliage to ensure the plant is receiving enough direct sunlight.

Blueberries grow well in sandy, acidic soil. We do tend to have fairly acidic soil in Northern Michigan, however it is recommended to add peat moss when planting to ensure the soil acidity is lower than a pH 5.5. Most areas of our region have very sandy soil, which is perfect for growing blueberries!

Several large, ripe blueberries shown on a mature blueberry plant with bright green leaves.

Ripe Blueberries On Plant

Photo by Nadia Prigoda-Lee

How To Plant Blueberries

Select healthy looking plants that are at least 2-3 years old. If you have purchased a plant from Bright Lane Gardens, it will be a minimum of 2 years old and will be ready to plant! There are several varieties of self-fertile blueberries, which means they do not require cross-pollination to produce fruit. It is important you know which type of plant you have. 

  • 1

    Ensure your plant has at least 4’ of space in all directions. If you are planting several plants, it is recommended you space plants 4’ apart in rows spaced 10’ apart.

  • 2

    Dig a hole that is 1.5x as deep and 2x as wide as the container the plant came in.

  • 3

    Add a scoop of peat moss along with a scoop of compost and mix into your hole. Make a small indent in the bottom as a nest for your root ball.

  • 4

    Gently set your plant down in the hole. Make sure the top of the root ball is not more than 2” below the surface of the soil, as blueberry roots tend to grow close to the surface.

  • 5

    Cover the remainder of the hole with the dirt that was dug out. Gently tamp down the surface of the soil using your hand. Do not pack down the dirt too much, as this can prevent oxygen from reaching the roots.

  • 6

    Add a small layer of organic mulch (woodchips, shredded leaves, grass clippings) to help the soil retain water for the first season.

  • 7

    Water the plant regularly to ensure the soil stays damp. However, do not allow any standing water. Daily or even twice daily watering may be necessary on exceptionally hot, sunny days in the summer.

Cross-Pollination:

Most of our blueberry varieties are self fertile, meaning they do not require cross-pollination to produce fruit. However, we always recommend buying blueberry plants in pairs as cross-pollination can greatly increase fruit production, even in self-fertile plants. 

You can cross-pollinate a new plant with a previously established blueberry plant in your yard. The established plant should be healthy and robust in fruit production. Ensure plants are within 5-6’ of each other for successful cross-pollination.

When To Fertilize Blueberry Plants

Do not fertilize the blueberry plant right away! Fertilizing immediately can burn the fragile roots of the young plant. Instead, wait until the leaves have reached full size. Typically 4-6 weeks after the initial planting is a safe time to fertilize. Follow this blueberry growing guide for safe fertilization techniques.

We recommend using organic, granular fertilizer for your berry plants. Use 1 tablespoon of granular fertilizer spread in a 1 foot radius around the plant. Thoroughly water after every fertilizer application, using a gentle rain setting so the granules do not wash away. Repeat this process every 6 weeks through early August, which should be your last application of fertilizer for the year.

How To Prune Blueberry Plants

Pruning blueberry plants annually will lead to larger, healthier plants and higher fruit yields. Removing small, gangly branches near the base of the plant helps to encourage stronger, upright growth. Always remove any dead or damaged twigs or limbs, including those that still have some green on them. 

You should not prune a blueberry plant until it has entered dormancy. Typically this is after all leaves have dropped in the fall. Blueberries can be pruned anytime from late fall through mid-winter, before any buds start to appear.

When To Harvest Your Blueberries

Once you have successfully established a mature and healthy blueberry bush, then you can start to harvest! Different varieties of blueberries will produce fruit at different times of the season, but the average bush will be ready to harvest in early fall. Planting several varieties with different fruiting times can ensure you have 4-6 weeks of continuous harvest. 

Eager to learn more about the different varieties of blueberries after reading this blueberry growing guide? Click here for a full write up on our top selling blueberry types and what makes them so popular! 

A pint of blueberries perched on a window sill in a teal blue cardboard container

Blueberry Pint

Photo by Mr.TinMD