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Home » Edible Produce » Berries & Currants » Blueberries

Blueberries

Delicious Blueberries are easy to grow in your own garden so long as a few essential rules are followed:

Soil:  This is by far the most important piece of the puzzle.  Blueberries require an acid soil so if Azaleas and Camellias don’t grow well in your area then you will struggle with Blueberries unless you can make the soil right for them.  A well-drained organic-rich soil is essential, and a soil pH testing kit is an essential tool for anyone planning on growing Blueberries.  Check your soil using the kit; the reading needs to be 4.5 to 5.5.

To lower soil pH dig through organic matter, peat, pine needles, aluminium sulphate or sulphur when preparing the soil.  Please be aware that all of these different products have different reactive times, with some having an immediate effect and others taking some time to work their magic.  Good quality potting mix for Azaleas and Camellias can also be dug through the soil with good results, but ensure the soil is monitored on a regular basis to make sure it stays quite low.

In Pots: For best results use a premium potting mix for Azaleas and Camellias and select a fairly large pot.  In warmer months a layer of mulch will help keep the fine root system cool, and ensure plants are fertilised every 3-4 months with a slow-release fertiliser for Azaleas /Camellias (to help keep the correct soil pH).  Top dress the soil every year in Spring with fresh potting mix and repot when the plant starts to grow too large for the pot.  Regular watering is essential; remember, the quality and taste of the fruit is completely reliant on the quality of the growing conditions.

Positioning: Full sun, or at the very least, 4-6 hours of sunlight, preferably afternoon sun is required for good fruit ripening.

Watering: Whilst Blueberries will not tolerate waterlogged soil, regular and deep watering is essential for a good crop.

Protection from Birds: Blueberries are also a very tasty treat for birds, and as we cannot harvest them until ripe, the chances of picking them before the birds is very slim without some form of netting to protect them.  It is recommended a frame is built over the Blueberry patch to ensure you get to enjoy the fruits of your labour, but ensure bird netting is used as bees are needed to pollinate the flowers.

  General Information:

  • Most Blueberries need a chilling period in order to set fruit. For warmer areas, Rabbiteye types are more suitable, or the evergreen Sunshine Blue which is very reliable without a cold Winter.  Rabbiteye types need a different variety nearby for cross-pollination.  Highbush types are more suited to cooler climates and whilst a second variety is not essential for cross-pollination, it does result in better size and quality fruit.
  • Plants generally begin cropping at about 2 years old, and pruning is required to ensure good fruiting year after year.  Whilst the aim of pruning any fruit tree should be to create an open vase-shaped plant, the removal of any spindly and dead looking branches in late Winter/ early Spring is recommended.  Ideally, we would also remove flowers from the developing plants for the first few seasons too so they have adequate time to develop good strong roots and growth before fruiting starts in earnest.  Plants can be tip pruned by about 1/3 during the growing season to keep growth fairly compact but this is not essential.
  • Do not harvest your fruit too early.  Blueberries will not ripen after being picked so give them at least a week after they have fully darkened to sweeten up.  Always test taste a few berries to make sure they are ready, and be careful not to damage the shoots on branches as this is where next year’s crop will come from.
  • Blueberries freeze exceptionally well, and this is the best way of preserving most of the nutrient goodness in the fruit.  Wash and pick out any damaged fruit and pat dry before spreading out in a single layer and freeze until solid.  Once frozen berries can be placed into a plastic bag or container for safe storage.