How to grow fresh blueberries at home

 In Fruit, Grow your own

 

Have you ever wanted to grow fresh blueberries at home? It’s a lot easier than you would imagine provided that you follow a few important tips. I’ll outline them here. Please read on!

Blueberry is an all round good garden plant. The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and contains high levels of antioxidants. So it’s good for your health.

grow fresh blueberries, flowers, gardening

The pink flowers of ‘Summer Blue’ blueberry

The flowers are white or pink, bell shaped and lightly fragrant too. Although most lose their leaves in winter

blueberry with autumn leaf colour

Blueberries can provide spectacular autumn leaf colour

[deciduous] many give very good autumn colour before leaves fall off.

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing your Blueberry

You may read that its preferable to grow two different varieties together or in close proximity. The reason for this is to improve pollination which increases yield.

There are many varieties of Blueberries. Most are of the ‘high bush’ blueberry type.

I’d recommend growing –
Early cropping during July – Duke and Patriot
Mid-season for late July to August – Bluecrop and Sunshine Blue.

Growing in the soil

grow fresh blueberries, blueberry bushes

High bush blueberries growing in a garden in winter.

I’ve found that the secret to growing blueberries is to provide a light open free draining soil which is acidic (pH of 4.5-5.5).

A sandy or peaty soil with the correct low pH level would be good but heavy clay or chalky soil would not be.

Your soil should have plenty of organic matter incorporated into it but not be high in plant food.

There is a symbiosis between root friendly fungi and the functioning of the roots of a blueberry plant. The fungi reside in peat so peat would be the obvious ingredient to use if there were not such bad environmental implications in the harvesting of peat.

Consequently we must search for an alternative and one that maintains good structure as it ages.

Read more about these root friendly fungi here. They benefit virtually all plants!

Growing in containers

If you have an unsuitable type of soil all is not lost as you can grow them in containers.

I particularly like to grow them in wooden containers. I feel that there is then less temperature fluctuation in the root zone. Oak barrels cut in half make excellent containers to grow fresh blueberries in.

pot grown blueberry bush with a bowl of fruit

A fine pot grown ‘Summer Blue’ blueberry bush

You’ll need to use the correct potting compost. Most ericaceous composts are ideal and can be used if you grow fresh blueberries in containers. Of those currently available I think that the Melcourt lime free and bark based compost is the best.

 

 

Water and feed

I find that it is essential that whether they are grown in containers or in the open ground they must have a steady supply of water all summer.

Rain water is best but if you have to use tap water, which is often alkaline, then the plants will need feeding with acidic fertilisers.

Using plant foods such as Maxicrop Seaweed plus Sequestered Iron or Miracle-Gro Ericaceous feed will help to ensure good plant health

Take care not to over feed as generally speaking blueberries have about half the nutrient requirements of other fruit plants.

Planting

blueberries on a branch

‘Patriot’ blueberries

You can plant blueberries almost at any time of the year from container grown plants.

If they are to go into open ground the general recommendations are –

  • Plant them out 1-1.5 metre apart ensuring that the pot has been watered well first.
  • Rub a little root friendly fungi such as Root Grow to the roots to kick start this plant and fungi symbiosis.
  • After planting water in well.
  • Add an acidic mulch such composted bark, pine needles, leaf mould or cocoa shell.
  • After planting, remove all the round fat flower buds to put all the energies into forming a good supportive framework of stems.
  • In the second year after planting most of the flower buds should also be removed. This will produce a very healthy and bushy plant that can support an abundance of fruit. I must confess that I do not do this as I grow mine in pots and find this delay in fruiting un-necessary.

Pruning

Before pruning it is important to understand on which kind of wood fruit is produced.

The largest fruit is produced on the tips of one year old shoots whereas the greatest quantity of fruit is produced on the short side shoots of older wood.

When pruning is required it is best done in the winter and is similar in method to the pruning of black currants.

fresh blueberries ripening

‘Bluecrop’ blueberries beginning to ripen

Pruning should encourage new strong growth while retaining fruit producing older wood.

First, prune out all dead, diseased, damaged, crossing, weak growth, stems that are too close to the ground. Aim to keep the bush centre open.

When the bush is three years old start to remove one or two of the less productive stems at ground level. Thereafter remove about a quarter of old main stems each year.

 

 

 

Pest and Diseases

Blueberries are generally free of most pests and diseases. However they do suffer from animals and birds.

blueberries growing in pots in rows

A commercial plantation of pot grown blueberries in the New Forest area.

Netting bushes against these attacks is the best protection.

Blueberries can suffer from frost damage if they come into growth and there is a late frost. To protect against these late frosts cover with a double layer of horticultural fleece.

 

Growing your own blueberries is really easy and will certainly provide you with fruit to add to your morning porridge, granola or cereal but might also provide enough to make delicious blueberry jam. Here’s a recipe for that!

More reading

If you grow apples you might be interested to read my blog on fruit thinning here or on winter pruning here.

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