A Comprehensive Guide to Growing Blueberries in Raised Beds

The raised bed trend is here to stay! If you’re thinking about adding blueberries to the mix, stay tuned. Organic farmer Jenna Rich is here to show us how to grow blueberry bushes successfully in raised beds.

Close-up of a gardener's hands holding clusters of blueberries growing in a raised bed in a garden.


You may have read about the benefits of growing in raised beds, which include controlling the soil fertility, especially if the ground soil quality isn’t great, water drainage and erosion, and adaptability.  

Blueberries are one of our favorite things on the farm. Several years ago, we added 30 young plants and have tended to them annually, amending the soil, providing water, and pruning them to keep them healthy. This summer is the first time we’ll harvest them; we are excited! Now that I have a home garden, I love the idea of growing berries in a raised bed to provide them with the proper pH, well-draining soil, and consistent watering. 

Let’s discuss how to grow blueberry bushes in raised beds successfully

Select the Right Variety

The blueberry plant features glossy green leaves, and delicate clusters of plump, indigo-colored berries with a dusty touch.
Choose compact varieties for raised beds suited to your zone.

You can select from lowbush (Vaccinium angustifolium), highbush (V. corymbosum), rabbiteye (V. ashei), and the newly introduced half-high, a cross between low and highbush varieties. Stick with varieties that indicate compact growth habits when growing in a raised bed and ensure they survive in your growing zone

Pro tip: Plan for multiple plants for the best yields, even if the cultivar you select is partially self-pollinating. Choose two of the same cultivars or two different of the same type for best results.

The Pink Lemonade Blueberry plant features glossy green leaves and produces uniquely pink berries.
Pink Lemonade blueberries offer a unique, sweet-tart flavor.

‘Duke’ is great for northern growers. It’s hardy in USDA zones 4 to 7, is somewhat compact, and matures early with big berries. This variety performs well when planted as a hedgerow and is very prolific. 

For juicy, mild-tasting blueberries, select ‘Bluecrop.’ Once established, the plants are easy to care for and have ornamental value in the fall and winter garden when the foliage transitions to deeper shades. 

‘Pink Lemonade’ is a hybrid resulting from a mix of a rabbiteye and highbush with a bright pink fruit with a sweet, citrusy flavor. They grow four to five feet and are perfect for containers and raised beds. 

‘Northblue’ is a shorter, more compact half-high option that grows to three feet tall and is hardy to zone 3. Berries are medium-sized and have a wild, sweet flavor. 

Pick a Plot

View of raised beds with various plants growing including blueberry and strawberry bushes.
Ensure blueberry bushes receive ample sunlight and easy water access.

Position your raised bed before filling it so you can adjust it as needed. Blueberry bushes should receive five to ten hours of full sun daily, so pick a place where they’ll receive this. Light afternoon shade is acceptable, but harsh, direct afternoon sun will not be great for them. 

Factors to keep in mind for location:

  • Will your bushes receive enough sunlight?
  • How close is it to your home?
  • How quickly can you access refrigeration, if needed?
  • Are there trees nearby that could cast shadows?
  • How easily can you access water?

Prepare the Soil

Close-up of two wooden raised beds filled with fresh, loose dark brown soil in a garden.
Fill raised beds with compost scraps and organic matter to save money.

Growing blueberries in a raised bed is an excellent option if your soil is clay-like or not well-draining. However, filling raised beds with growing medium can seem daunting and expensive. Did you know you can fill about ⅔ of the bed with compost scraps, rotting logs, cardboard, sticks, and grass clippings to help save money? This method allows you to spend much less on bagged topsoil and aged compost while creating a lush, nutritious place for your blueberry bushes to live. Mixing organic matter will attract good fungi and encourage healthy bacteria to come and hang out. 

Blueberry plants like soil that contains 3% or more organic matter. Only add well-aged and trusted sources of manure to your raised beds. Excess nitrogen can damage your plants. 

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If you’re adding blueberry plants to a raised bed that has been grown in before, you should make adjustments a year before planting. At the very least, test your soil at the end of the growing season and adjust before adding new plants in the spring. Mix in amendments like sulfur, phosphorus, and potassium in the fall and test in the spring. 

Adjust the pH 

The soil pH meter consists of a slender probe attached to an analog display, used to measure the acidity or alkalinity of soil by inserting the probe into the ground.
Ensure a soil pH of 4.5 for thriving blueberries.

While proper macro and micronutrient levels are essential, pH levels must be just right for blueberries to thrive. Provide a pH of around 4.5 to experience high yields, healthy plants, and reduced disease risk. 

When starting a new raised bed garden, test your soil by sending a sample to your local extension office or university. Invest in a pH meter stick to test at home as you adjust your soil before planting blueberry canes. You’ll get an instant reading upon inserting the probe into the soil. 

Irrigate Consistently 

Close-up of a drip irrigation system featuring linear hoses with red spray nozzles, installed on a raised bed where blueberry bushes are growing.
Irrigate raised bed crops more frequently to ensure adequate moisture.

Water crops growing in containers or raised beds more frequently than crops growing in the ground. Remember, their roots can’t simply reach down in search of moisture, so you must supply it for them. 

The options for raised bed irrigation on the market are highly customizable. Adding irrigation lines is a cinch if you have a nearby spigot and good water pressure. Wind them back and forth and through your beds as needed, clipping them to the sides or using garden staples to hold them down. Deep water blueberries at the root, as their roots are shallow. Alternatively, add an underground clay watering pot. Watering is crucial in blueberry bushes’ younger stages.


Close-up of a woman's hand holding a handful of white granular fertilizer near a young blueberry bush in a garden with mulched soil.
These berries thrive in well-draining, acidic soil with specialized organic fertilizer.

Blueberries thrive in loose, organic, well-draining soil with a pH between 4.0 and 4.5. To make the most of your raised bed space, use organic fertilizer specialized for blueberries. Espoma Organic and Coast of Maine make a wide range of blends for most things growing in your garden, including one for acid-loving blueberries. Feed established plants a water-soluble fertilizer each spring to ensure the soil maintains a proper pH level for blueberry production. 

Feeding new blueberry bushes: add amendments to the soil the season before planting and not to newly planted bushes. Add amendments annually to established plants after their winter or early spring pruning session. 

Feeding established blueberry bushes: sprinkle the appropriate amount of your chosen fertilizer according to the packaging around a ring near the base of your plant without mixing it in or placing it against the stem, which could lead to the roots burning

Growers don’t typically need to add potassium and phosphorus to the soil once plants have established; they can retrieve them as needed as long as the soil is healthy and thriving. Monitor nitrogen levels that could lead to excessive foliage growth, hindering blossoms and lowering fruit production. 


Blueberry plants are planted at a distance and adorned with oval, dark green leaves and delicate white blossoms tinged with pink on a raised bed.
Space bushes six to ten feet apart for optimal growth.

If you’re growing multiple bushes in the same raised bed, space them at least six feet apart so they have plenty of room to bush out without competing for water and nutrients. Otherwise, space them no more than ten feet apart for ideal pollination. 

Control Those Weeds 

Close-up of a male gardener applying a layer of bark mulch to a young blueberry bush in a raised bed garden.
Use mulch for weed control and moisture retention in raised beds.

Growing in raised beds will decrease weed pressure, but seeds will still blow in and be brought in by passing animals and birds. Remain diligent in weeding to avoid forcing your shallow-rooted blueberry bushes to compete for water and nutrients. 

Mulching will dramatically help keep weeds down and add organic matter. Using pine needles may also help maintain a lower acidity level, but only if you’ve managed to mulch with them in your raised beds for multiple years. Otherwise, a thick layer of mulch will also help the soil retain moisture.

Protect from Pests

Close-up of a blueberry bush bearing ripe, round blueberries, which are being affected by an infestation of Japanese beetles in the garden.
Keep Japanese beetles away from blueberry bushes with companion planting.

Common blueberry bush pests include Japanese beetles, aphids, birds, deer, and flea beetles. Companion planting and trap cropping can help keep these away from your precious blueberry bushes. Strong-scented alliums like garlic and onions and herbs like thyme or oregano planted nearby may help deter deer and are an easy, organic way to control damage. They also look nice, have needs similar to blueberries, and attract beneficial insects. Plus, they’ll help increase pollination! 

If birds are a severe threat, consider bird netting, scare tape, a radio, motion sensor lights, and sprinklers. For best results, follow the instructions on whichever product you choose, and pull the netting taut to avoid harming any birds that may get caught. 

Properly Prune

Close-up of a male gardener pruning the bare branches of a blueberry bush using pruning shears in a spring garden.
Pruning ensures healthy blueberry bushes and bountiful harvests.

While most blueberry bushes don’t require trellising, pruning is crucial in maintaining them healthy and productive. Pruning keeps plants from becoming overly leggy or twiggy, which are weak. Overcrowded bushes can’t breathe properly, and sunlight can’t penetrate. 

It can be tempting to think more is better when it comes to canes and blossoms, but blueberry bushes will suffer if left to manage themselves. Too many flowers and fruit will produce top-heavy stems, smaller, bitter fruits, and potentially more pests and diseases. 

Tips for proper pruning

  • Prune blueberry bushes in the winter or early spring when they’re dormant. 
  • Young bushes don’t need much pruning until their third growth year. Remove flowers so they don’t fruit in their first few years, and they devote all their energy to growing a robust root system and fresh canes. 
  • Buds created last season will produce berries this year, so leave all new wood. New wood may be green or red and look fresh and healthy. As stems age, their color lightens. Eventually, stems will appear gray, and the bark will begin to flake. Remove stems over five to six years old to decrease disease risk and make room for younger, more productive stems. 
  • Remove stems near the ground whose fruit would be at ground level that would attract critters.
  • After completing your pruning session, your blueberry bush should have four to six new stems, with plenty of space between each for airflow and sunlight penetration.

The more you can maintain a consistent pruning schedule, the easier each pruning session will be. Add reminders to your calendar to help you remember to complete important, timely tasks. 

Final Thoughts

Growing blueberries, especially cultivars with a compact growing habit, in raised beds is a fantastic option for growers with kneeling constraints, small spaces, or poor soil. Blueberries need a specific pH level and type of soil to thrive, so throw them in a raised bed, test your soil, and keep pests at bay for the best results. 

Don’t count yourself out for berries! With diligence, you can grow blueberries and other berries in raised beds. 

In this close-up, a collection of ripe blueberries presents a delightful sight, showcasing their smooth, round forms and gradient of blues. The lush foliage in the background creates a gentle blur, offering a sense of the berries' natural habitat.


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