Home gardeners these days are growing more than a few squash and tomatoes. If you want to grow fruit, blueberries may be your crop of choice. Getting the soil right before planting will result in a more bountiful crop next summer. Late summer and fall are great times to begin working on the soil for next year's plantings.
Blueberries like their soil acidic, ideally between 4.5 and 5.2 on the pH scale. Fall is the best time to prepare the soil before putting your bushes in the ground in late winter to early spring here in Zone 7.
Since blueberries grow best in such acidic soil, amendments may be necessary to get the correct pH. However, if you are starting with red clay, your soil is likely to be close to what you need.
Soil test before planting
Find out for sure with a soil test. Send a sample through your county extension agent to determine which amendments you need to get the right pH. Some type of sulfur may be required or use peat moss. These make soils more acidic and improve drainage in clay. A peat and sand combination works best in some clay soils.
Successful growth requires well drained soil, so try to accomplish this when working on the site for your blueberry orchard. All amendments should be worked in thoroughly.
Wait about four months before planting. Another soil test will tell if your amendments have succeeded in lowering the pH. If not, additional sulfur can be applied sparingly at this time. Rapid adjustment of soil is not good for already planted bushes.
Necessary pH will also depend upon the type of bushes you are planting, which will, in part be determined by your location within the Zone. Local nurseries usually carry stock that is correct for your area. If in doubt ask your county extension agent.
When choosing the location for your blueberry bushes or an entire orchard, try to site them in full sun. While the fruit will produce in as little as four hours of sunshine daily, this will not give you the maximum crop yield.
When your plants bear fruit, be sure to save some for a naturally sweet snack, and to use in muffins or cobblers. Freeze whatever is left, for use during holiday dinners, or whenever you get the urge for a healthy fruit.