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True blue

Forget buying a punnet of blueberries this summer.
Here’s how to grow your own!

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Blueberries are pretty shrubs, with delicate, pink, bell-flowers that give way to delicious purple-blue berries full of goodness and high in antioxidants. They’re ideal for any sized garden as they grow well both in pots and garden beds.


POSITION & PLANTING

They need full sunshine to produce good fruit. Plants in pots need careful attention to watering. We suggest using terracotta pots and filling them with a good quality azalea and camellia potting mix, which has just the right pH for blueberries. Better still, for optimum growth, combine 50% coarse pine bark (20–25mm size) with 50% of a premium quality azalea and camellia potting mix. Do not tease the roots of the plant before planting as this will adversely affect establishment. Add a layer of pine bark to the top of the pot to protect the surface roots and minimise moisture loss from the potting mix.


FEEDING

Do not feed your new blueberry at planting time. Wait three weeks, moisten the soil, then apply Neutrog’s Kahoona around the drip line of the plant, avoiding contact with foliage or flowers. Water in well. Re-apply after signs of new season growth and thereafter every 8-10 weeks throughout the growing season, spring to autumn.


PRUNING

Young bushes require little pruning for the first three years. Remove damaged branches and less vigorous, spindly growth at the base of the plant to encourage new vigorous upright growth. After two years, mature bushes should be pruned annually in late winter or early spring. Remove branches injured by frost or wind damage, keeping only the strong and vigorous canes and laterals. To help open the centre of the plant, remove fruiting branches that are spindly or less that 30cm from the ground.


PESTS & DISEASES

In areas with high humidity and rainfall, blueberries are susceptible to fungal leaf diseases (blueberry rust). We use eco-fungicide regularly as preventative measure. Watch out for scale insects (the first sign is ants). If sighted, pour a small amount of soapy water onto the affected area. If the infestation is severe, consider a horticultural oil. Check for caterpillar damage on a regular basis and control when necessary. Queensland Fruit Fly can be a problem in warm spring/summer climates of Queensland and NSW.


MAXIMISING HARVEST

Though blueberries are self-fertile and will set commercial crops without cross-pollination, some studies show that flowers receiving pollen from another variety will produce larger, earlier ripening fruit. Blueberries require bees for pollination and fruit set.


VARITIES

  • ‘Misty’ has early spring fruit and is easy to grow in pots with large, sweet fruit. 1m tall. Good for warm and cold temperate zones.

  • ‘Sunshine Blue’ is a self-pollinating, evergreen semi-dwarf that features a highly branched compact habit to 1m. Showy hot-pink flowers fade to white during the spring. Large fruit with an excellent tangy flavour is produced in abundance (around 4kg per bush) for about nine weeks during summer. Great for pots. Good for subtropics, warm and cold temperate zones.

  • ‘Gulfcoast’ this low-chill bush variety has produced good crops of fruit in low-chilling localities where it has been trialled. The fruit is medium to large with a good flavour. The fruit holds well on the bush and has a firm texture with a good picking scar. It is quite hardy as blueberries go and has a good tolerance of root rot. Good for subtropics, warm and cold temperate zones.
     

For more varieties, check out PlantNet, (they’re) an online company selling exciting new varieties with larger fruit size. They recommend their ‘Pigeon Pair’, ‘Blueberry Kisses’ and ‘Blueberry Burst’ for cross pollination. www.plantnet.com.au



 

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Author: Words: Sandra Ross (Images: Shutterstock)