Organic Gardening on the Gulf Coast - Lessons and tips from Foley's Cooper Farm

Berry exciting tips for growing blueberries: Cultivating the Coast with Kitti Cooper, presented by Saunders Marine Center

Blueberry bliss: A guide to the blueberry bounty in South Alabama


In the warm and sunny climate of South Alabama, where the weather is perfect for growing a variety of fruits, blueberries stand out as a delightful and healthful choice for home cultivation. The end of winter/fall is the perfect time to plant blueberries. Not only are these little berries bursting with flavor, but they also offer numerous health benefits. In this "berry beneficial" guide, we'll explore why growing blueberries in South Alabama is a fantastic idea, provide insights into the differences between Rabbiteye and Southern Highbush varieties, share valuable tips for successful cultivation and delve into the intricacies of planting and nurturing blueberry bushes for a bountiful harvest.


Blueberries are not only delicious but also incredibly nutritious. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins and fiber, they make a fantastic addition to your diet. Interestingly, blueberry leaves contain even more antioxidants than the fruit itself, making the entire plant a treasure trove of health benefits.


Blueberries love to be pruned. To maximize production, keep your blueberry bushes at shoulder height. Prune them after the last harvest, typically around July 4, to maintain a healthy and productive plant. Remove dead or diseased wood, and thin out crowded branches to allow for better airflow and light penetration.


Blueberries thrive in acidic soil, and in South Alabama, where azaleas flourish, so, too, can blueberries. Incorporate pine leaves and coffee grounds into the soil to create the acidic conditions that these plants love. Conduct a soil test to ensure the pH is between 4.0 and 5.5, and amend the soil accordingly.


Blueberries need a certain number of chill hours under 45 degrees to produce fruit. In South Alabama's grow zone 8/9, chill hours range between 500 to 600. Rabbiteye and Southern Highbush varieties are well-suited for this region and can produce within the required chill hours. Choose the right variety based on your climate and specific needs.


Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil for planting your blueberry bushes. Full sun exposure is crucial for optimal fruit production.

When planting, space blueberry bushes about 4 to 6 feet apart, allowing enough room for air circulation and future growth.

Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of your blueberry plant. Mix the native soil with organic matter like peat moss or well-aged pine bark.

Plant the blueberry bush at the same depth it was in the container, and water thoroughly after planting to help the soil settle around the roots.


Southern Highbush varieties produce large blueberries with smaller yields and softer skin.

Rabbiteye varieties produce smaller berries but have a larger and longer yield, with thicker skin meaning a longer shelf life.

Plant at least two blueberry bushes for pollination, and mixing different varieties is recommended for optimal results.


Blueberries, being 85% water, thrive with regular watering. During spring and summer, water them twice a week with a good, long soak to keep them happy and promote larger, sweeter berry growth.


Blueberries benefit from regular fertilization. Apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring before new growth begins.

Avoid over-fertilizing, as excessive nitrogen can lead to vigorous vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production.


Blueberry leaves contain more antioxidants than the fruit itself. While the berries are delicious, don't overlook the health benefits of incorporating young blueberry leaves into your diet. The younger leaves are perfect for fresh eating, while the older leaves can be dried for teas or powders. The taste is slightly citrusy, making it easy to hide in your kids' food for a nutrient boost.

Growing blueberries in South Alabama is a rewarding and healthful venture that involves understanding the varietal differences, following proper cultivation practices and embracing the unique attributes of blueberry leaves. By incorporating the insights shared in this comprehensive guide and tending to your blueberry bushes with care, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of these nutrient-packed berries. So, roll up your sleeves, grab your gardening tools, and get ready to experience the joy of cultivating your own blueberry bliss in the heart of South Alabama. Happy gardening!


This is a savory recipe for blueberry BBQ sauce recipe! Great for a marinade or as a slather/dip. I love a simple and quick recipe, so I try to only use ingredients that can be commonly found in a pantry and not 100 weird ingredients you have to make a trip out of to buy that you’ll never use again. Also, a spoonful equals a tablespoon in my books.


  • 2 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 small onion diced (or a cup frozen)
  • 2 spoonfuls of minced garlic
  • 2 spoonfuls of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or a dales/Moore’s
  • 2 spoonful of paprika (or liquid smoke if you have it on hand)
  • 1 spoonful onion powder
  • 1 spoonful garlic powder
  • 3 spoonfuls of brown sugar (or white if that’s all you have)
  • 2 spoonfuls of white vinegar (or apple vinegar if that’s what you have)
  • 1 spoonful honey (or molasses, karo syrup, etc.)
  • 1 can Rotel hot or original depending on your spice level. (Don’t drain) (If you don’t have Rotel, a can of diced tomatoes or tomato paste works as well.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Throw everything into a pot or a deep pan, and let it cook down on a medium high for about 30-40 minutes until everything is broken down. You can use that as a marinade with the bigger pieces of blueberries/onions/tomatoes or put into a food processor and break it down into a true sauce that you can use within 2 weeks in the fridge, but freezing or pressure canning it make for an even longer life.