How to Grow Fresh Blueberries
October 14, 2014
Various cultivars will fruit at different times from December through to late Summer. Check with you local nursery for plants that are suited to your region. Many blueberry plants require a cold snap over Winter but the varieties have different requirements, with some plants being suitable for warmer climates.
Plant in late Autumn or early Winter
Blueberries require an acidic, free draining soil. I have been advised by a grower in the past that they recommend home gardeners grow them in pots so that the soil environment can be monitored and maintained. If you are interested in testing your soil, it should be a pH of 4-5.5 I have never bothered with testing, and the plants I have look lovely and healthy and have a promising crop developing this year.
Water regularly, at the base of the plant. The plant is a free form bush, no training or support is required.
Fertalise plants in the Spring. Blood and Bone and Seaweed solution are my choices plus a few handfuls of compost from the heap as it is ready. I regularly (weekly, or fortnightly) add our coffee grounds to the base of the plants also. In Winter I tend to give them a break and use the coffee in other areas of the garden.
Mulch around the base of the plants to retain moisture as the roots are close to the surface. Pine needles, and wood chips, coffee grounds and tea leaves all will assist to maintain an acid soil.
Add netting over the plant to protect the developing fruit from birds, and maybe the children also!
Blueberry plants may also require some further cover or protection on extreme weather days (as with all plants) to prevent leaf burn.
As the plants develop remove about a third of the old wood (after 3-4 years). The blueberries will crop on older wood. You may wish to prune out any branches that are too close to the ground and those that are weak. While the plant is essentially a bush it requires good air circulation around the center of the plant as with fruit trees. Remove any small central branches that are crossing into the center also.
Plants are said to reach full cropping potential after five or six years. Last year we had two small blueberry bushes, they are young, small plants and we harvested enough fruit for the kids to head out and collect a small handful each day. This year I have added an additional three plants of varying varieties so am hoping to have a much larger crop over the coming years, with enough to cook with and freeze.
Berries are deciduous/semi deciduous with the leaves turning a glorious red in Winter. It is recommended that you have two species of blueberry plants that fruit around the same time to ensure pollination.
I have not encountered any pests or issues growing blueberries to date.
Harvest fruit when it is plump, soft and deep blue in color.
Blueberries will freeze well. They may be frozen whole, or pureed and frozen in ice cubes to use in baking or juices.
Below you will find a few links to my recipes so that you can enjoy your blueberry harvest:
Kitchen Harvest: Susan Berry, Frances Lincoln, London, 2002
1001 Hints & tips for the Garden 2nd ed.: Dr Judyth McLeod, Readers Digest, Utlimo, 2007
Organic Gardening in Australia: Pauline Pears (ed.) Dorling Kindersley, Campberwell, 2003
Are you growing Blueberries? Do you have any additional tips that you can provide?
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