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Planting blueberries – The beginner’s guide to growing tasty blueberries
Last Updated on January 21, 2020 by John
Blueberries are incredibly healthy for you and, relatively simple to care for. When it comes to growing blueberries the requirements are easy. Keep the soil moist, plant in acidic soil or ericaceous compost if growing in pots in full sun, all though it’s worth noting that they will tolerate shade. Finally prune every year by around one third, preferably in March. To learn more and dig deep into the detail, read on.
Always keep the compost or the soil moist but never leave it soaking. On the other end of the spectrum never let it dry out in between waterings. Ideally, the soil wants to be kept moist, especially over summer whilst the berries are forming. It’s also worth noting that they should be watered with rainwater as tap water is not ideal unless you have absolutely needed an alternative such as when theres a drought. This means get them water butts setup and collecting rainwater from any roofs you can.
Plant in acidic soil or ericaceous compost if growing in containers
As mentioned, if you can help it, water your blueberries with rainwater rather than tap water. Blueberries prefer highly acidic soil and if you use tap water it can change the pH balance which can cause your blueberries to throw a bit of a tantrum. In order to avoid problems in this area, it’s recommended that you keep the soil pH level at 5.5 or lower. This is something you can check not only in the springtime but a few times throughout the year if you feel so inclined. If you have to lower the pH level of your soil you can always add some ericaceous compost or dig in some mulch made from pine needles and bark.
Growing blueberries in containers usually circumvent this problem as you can plant them in ericaceous compost and feed with an acidic feed.
In terms of feeding, an annual application of fertilizer to keep the pH levels at optimum conditions is best and more important for container-grown plants. Blueberries are not very hungry plants so you don’t have to feed them more than once a year. In fact, they are quite sensitive to overfeeding. Make sure you use an ericaceous feed for lime hating plants often marketed to hydrangeas, rhododendrons and azaleas as they also need acidic feeds.
Blueberry bushes grow with branches that shoot upward and canes that grow out from the branches. It is on these that the buds produce flowers and subsequently berries. They are grown on old wood. The best berries are grown on canes that are around 3 years old. But this also means that you have to prune regularly to get rid of canes which are five or six years old, in order to make way for new development. It’s recommended that you remove about one-third of the older wood every year to optimize productivity. You shouldn’t have to do this the first two or three years you have the plant, it’s only something you have to start doing with more mature blueberry bushes. When you prune try to do it at the beginning of March.
Blueberries need protection against very severe winter so if you live in the Northern parts of the country you might need to put some fleece around it to protect it again frost and add a layer of mulch around the base of plants.
Blueblueberries grown in containers should be wrapped in bubble wrap around the pot and fleece around the top half.
How to plant blueberries
You can plant blueberries directly in the ground or in a container. No matter where you plant them you want to make sure that the soil meets the acidic requirements listed above. You can test the soil pH level with a home kit before you plant so that any adjustments to the soil can be made.
If you are growing blueberries in a container you can simply pick more acidic, compost mixtures and fertilizers known as ericaceous compost and feeds. The container should be at least 30cm in diameter for a brand new blueberry plant and once it gets larger, between 60cm and 50cm wide.
Plant in well-drained but moist soil in a sunny position
Blueberries need well-drained, acidic soil and they prefer light soil over heavier soil so if you have heavy soil, consider mixing in plenty of organic matter and compost with grit to improve the soil structure. They also need a lot of sun so find a place in your garden that is sheltered but sunny. Failing this, they will grow in a more shady location but they want fruit as well.
The most common problem you will face is that a bird. Birds, particularly pigeons, we’ll try to eat the buds, the leaves, the fruits, and everything in between. You can cover your blueberry bushes with netting or fleece, or include things like scarecrows. Keep your eyes peeled for aphids. You will see these on the tips of the plant or the leaves. You can remove them by spraying them with water, or applying commercial pesticide but make sure it’s suitable for fruit and double-check how long you can eat from the bush after spraying.
Picking the Fruit
Once your fruit is ripe, from the middle of summer onward, you will notice the colour change from green to the quintessential blue of blueberries. You can pick them as soon as the individual fruits ripen which will give you ample fruit throughout the season. Once you have picked them you can eat them fresh, dry them, freeze them, use them in cooking or make them into preserves.
Different varieties of blueberries can fruit at different times and produce different size fruit so it’s well worth shopping around and considering a few varieties, they also fruit better when planted in groups of two of more.