Spacing your blueberry plants for optimum growth
17 January 2013
Our Australian blueberry growers know how to grow healthy plants that produce bountiful crops. Here, they share their secrets for successfully growing and harvesting blueberries.
This month's topic: Spacing your blueberry plants for optimum growth
A common question new growers asks is, “How far apart should I space my blueberry plants?”
It’s a great question. Spacing is very important, and has a big impact on how abundant the eventual harvest will be. Blueberry plants need adequate light to produce flowers, yet the farmer needs to fit in as many plants as they can for a productive crop.
While there’s no black and white answer to spacing blueberries, there are some good guidelines.
You need to consider a number of factors:
- Plant vigour – how well the plant grows (high vigour varieties grow faster and larger than low vigour varieties)
- Soil quality – how well-suited the soil is to growing
- Machinery – the equipment you plan to use for mowing, weedspraying etc
The first two factors dictate the planting distance within the row. Based on the plant vigour and soil quality, you will need to estimate the plant size at maturity and then space the plants so they form a solid wall of vegetation within the row without having excessive gaps between the plants. Don’t plant them too close, as they will compete for light and nutrients in the soil.
The third factor determines the distance between the rows. Tractors and equipment should be able to move down the travel rows (strips between planted rows) without damaging fruit. Most orchard tractors are based on a wheel track of 1.6 metres – so, allowing for the bushes to develop lateral width, the row width should be at least 3 metres (measured from the middle of one bed to the middle of the next bed).
High vigour plants, good soil quality
If you are growing high vigour varieties in good quality soil, these plants will need more space to grow to their full potential – which means they should be planted further apart within rows. This gives you a lower stocking rate (plants per hectare).
These plants will also likely grow wider so you will need to allow extra width between rows for machinery access.
Suggested plant spacing for a high vigour scenario would be:
- 3.4 to 3.6 metre row centre (between rows)
- 1.2 to 1.5 metres between plants (in row)
High vigour scenarios are likely when growing Northern Highbush and Rabbiteye varieties.
Low vigour plants, poor soil quality
Low vigour varieties and poorer soils can have a higher stocking rate to ensure row space is used well and production is maximised. The plants will not grow very wide, so you can afford to fit more bushes in per hectare.
Typical plant spacing in a low vigour scenario would be:
- 3.0 metre row centre (between rows)
- 0.8 to 1.0 metres between plants (in row)
Low vigour scenarios are likely when growing Southern Highbush varieties.
Read more from our Australian blueberry growers in the article archive here.