How to grow blueberries
You probably know already that blueberries are considered a super food by some because they are packed full of antioxidants and vitamin C and they are definitely a great addition to your regular diet. They can be expensive to buy as fruit but if you grow blueberries, not only can you enjoy the wonderful berries but they also produce scented flowers in spring, some fantastic autumn colours and even the orangey stems can add a splash of winter colour to your garden.
And apart from being a super food and a beautiful plant, blueberries are also super easy to grow and because they do well in containers, it really doesn’t matter how small your garden or outdoor space is if you want to enjoy growing your own.
Choosing your blueberries
There are of course different varieties to choose from, both evergreen and deciduous and some plants can grow up to 1.5-2m. Check the specific growing conditions they like when you choose your plant to make sure they suitable for where you are and then pick from a variety of short or tall growing bushes or even early and late producers for a longer crop (although beware these will not necessarily cross pollinate as they pollinate at different times). These are vital things to keep in mind when you grow blueberries.
It's all in the preparation
Blueberries are quite fussy about their soil and if you’re going to grow blueberries in a pot or container, use an ericaceous compost because they like light, free draining and acid soils. Choose a container that is roughly 40 – 50 cm in and make sure the container is well drained but will also stay moist (some crocks at the bottom can help with this).
And if you’re planting into the ground, before you do so you may need to test the pH levels which should be somewhere between 4 and 5.5. If your soil isn’t suitable then use the appropriate soil conditioner in the prepared holes well in advance (at least 2 to 3 weeks) to make sure it settles in and takes effect.
When and where to plant your blueberries
Choose a sunny, sheltered spot and plant blueberries in autumn or winter. Your blueberries will tolerate some shade but the more sunshine, the better the crop! They can do well in raised beds but leave about 1.5m gaps between them. And don’t forget to add acidic compost or mulch such as pine needles or composted conifer clippings.
You're not the only one who loves blueberries
You are probably going to need to net your blueberry bushes to protect them from the birds and look out for any bugs or slugs who may be tempted by these lovely plants. Keep them watered particularly in any dry spell but other than that enjoy this relatively low maintenance plant.
And then enjoy the harvest
Your blueberries should start to ripen from mid-summer onwards and it’s easy to spot when they are ready as they change from green to their deep, dusty, purply blue. They don’t all ripen at once so go back regularly to pick some more and you’ll find they pull away nicely when they are ready to eat. And when the harvest is over and you’ve enjoyed their autumn display, don’t forget that for plants that are over 2 or 3 years old you will need to prune them during the winter when they are dormant.
A few top blueberry tips to help get the most from your plants
- If you buy and plant older blueberry bushes you’ll get a better yield, quicker. 2 or 3 years is best and by 6 years old they should be producing a great crop.
- Water your blueberries with rainwater if you can, not tap water, to avoid making the soil too alkaline.
- Plant more than one variety so that they cross pollinate and produce the best yields.
- For a sweeter fruit leave the berries on the plant for at least a week after turning blue. But don’t wait too long or they’ll drop.
Eat fresh, freeze, cook or bake with your blueberries because they’re versatile as well as delicious and good for you.