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Growing blueberries

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Aug-Wk-3-Blueberry-fruit

Blueberries are ideal fruiting plants for the home garden. With their neat, prune-able size habit, they look good, are small enough to fit into any garden, will grow in pots or garden beds and have attractive flowers. And on top of all this, they produce that delicious fruit.

Blueberries are said to be full of antioxidants that improve your health. A diet high in blueberries is even claimed to counteract the effects of aging. While some gardeners will grow blueberries because of these health-giving properties, most are likely to just want them because they taste so good.

There’s a blueberry to suit most climates. In the colder areas you can grow the deciduous lowbush or highbush types, whereas the ones that require fewer hours of chill – and therefore are the best choices for warmer areas – are called rabbiteye (it’s said the fruits look a bit like a rabbit’s eyes shining out from the bush). For maximum cropping, it’s better to have more than one variety of rabbiteye blueberry.

Aug-Wk-3-Blueberry-flowers

Blueberries come from peat-filled acidic soils in their native northern hemisphere homelands so they tend to do well in areas where azaleas flourish. If your soil is a bit higher in pH and less acidic, it’s helpful to start by digging some pre-moistened peat moss into the soil before planting, or grow the plants in pots filled with an acidic mix. Try to avoid using manure, especially chicken or horse manure. Feed lightly in spring, summer and early autumn with some Acticote for Fruit, Citrus, Trees & Shrubs. Mulch with a layer of organic matter such as partially broken down autumn leaves. This mimics the plants’ natural growing conditions in the forest.

Pruning of blueberries is not absolutely necessary, but light trimming can take place at almost any time during the growing season. Heavier pruning should be done in late winter. Flowers develop on the outer tips, so cutting back too often will reduce the crop.

If you are fortunate enough to harvest a decent crop, freezing is the best way to keep the berries for later use. And freezing has been found to preserve most of the goodness in the berries. Start by removing any damaged berries and washing those that are left. Spread out on a tray and freeze overnight. Next day, put the frozen berries into a plastic bag in the freezer. This two stage process will stop them from freezing together in a solid lump.

Blueberry pests

Insects pose few problems for blueberries. Caterpillars can be controlled with Yates Success and sap suckers (thrips, aphids etc) with non-toxic Natrasoap Insect & Mite spray.

Birds are the major blueberry pest. You will find you are constantly in a race to get to the fruit before the birds steal it all. Hence, bird netting will probably be an essential during the cropping season.


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