Blueberries are not native to Kansas but will grow in the eastern half of the state with good preparation. They are related to azaleas and rhododendrons and require an acid pH, preferably 4.8 to 5.2. Blueberries do not have root hairs, so watering and mulching are important.
It is best to start planting preparations a year ahead of time to allow for pH adjustment, weed control, and the addition of organic matter. The first step is a soil test to determine how much the pH needs to be reduced. For a pH up to 5.5, the addition of sphagnum peat moss at the rate of 2 cubic feet per 100 square feet will be adequate. For a pH 5.5 to 6.0, add 1 pound of sulfur per 100 square feet of bed in addition to the peat moss. For a pH 6.0 to 6.5, add 1.5 pounds of sulfur per 100 square feet of bed. For pH levels above 6.5, use 2 pounds of sulfur per 100 square feet of bed and double the amount of sphagnum peat moss suggested earlier. Do not use aluminum sulfate to correct a high pH because excessive levels of aluminum can be toxic to blueberries. For each 0.5 movement up the pH scale from 6.5, add an additional pound of sulfur. Sulfur can be applied as a dust, but pelletized sulfur is much easier to spread.
Treat only the row. Row width should be 8 feet. Blueberries are normally spaced about 5 feet within the row. Sulfur takes time to react, so allow as much time as possible between sulfur application and planting. Blueberries will bear more if you plant more than one variety.
Recommended varieties vary, but you may want to try Bluecrop because it is adaptable. Patriot also seems to do well. You may want to try some other varieties. Blueberries should be mulched. Sawdust is the traditional material, but straw and wood chips will work as well. Mulch to a depth of about 3 inches.
Blueberries must be irrigated. Soils should be kept most but never waterlogged. Adding peat moss to the planting row will elevate the planting bed enough that standing water should not be an issue. An elevated bed will dry out more quickly, so there must be a means of adding water. Trickle irrigation works well. Watering twice a week during the summer with enough water to wet the soil 8 inches deep should be sufficient except under extreme heat. Watering once a week may be enough during the cooler spring and fall weather. As you might guess, there is more to growing blueberries than can be included in a short article. Dr. Art Gaus from the University of Missouri shared this instruction sheet on how to grow blueberries more than 25 years ago. It is still excellent information on blueberry culture. You can access it by going to: http://www.hfrr.ksu.edu/doc3091.ashx
Blueberries require commitment. Anything less than excellent preparation and care will result in failure. (Ward Upham)
Contributors: Ward Upham, Extension Associate
Horticulture & Natural Resources
2021 Throckmorton, KSU
Manhattan, KS 66506