How to Grow Blueberries
In the wild, blueberries grow in acid, moorland soil. In the garden they need a moist, peaty, very acid soil and an open, sunny position. If your soil is limey, grow the bushes in pots of acid compost. The cultivated blueberry originates in America.
Planning the crop
Don't try growing these bushes in your garden unless you have a moist, acid soil. Prepare the soil several weeks before planting by digging a hole about 1-1.2 square metres. Break up the subsoil with a fork but be careful not to bring it to the surface. Mix an equal amount (by volume) of damp peat substitute or sieved leaf mould with the topsoil, and fill in the hole with this so that the ground has time to settle before planting. Do not manure the ground.
How many to grow: Blueberries may grow to 1.8 m high with a spread of up to 1.2 m. Each bush produces 2.5-5 kg of fruit, depending on weather and soil conditions. Plant at least two bushes, ideally of different varieties, to ensure pollination.
There are four different groups. Low bush blueberries are suited to cold districts; high bush require some chill; southern high bush prefer warm districts; and Rabbit Eyes do well in very warm areas. Ask your nursery or garden centre to advise on varieties in the group best for your climate.
Plant blueberry bushes in the prepared ground, 1.5 m apart, at any time from late autumn to early spring. Containerraised plants may be planted at any time, provided the weather is suitable. After planting, apply a 15 cm mulch of sawdust. Between one month and six weeks after planting, apply sulphate of ammonia to the soil at a rate of 30 g per square metre. Also, in early spring of every year, apply some pelleted slow release organic fertiliser. Except for removing any stems lying on the ground, pruning is unnecessary until the third winter.
Pruning: From the third winter onwards, cut back old, dry stems every winter. Cut them back either down to ground level or to a vigorous new shoot near the ground. Blueberries fruit on the tips of the previous season's growth. They first produce sideshoots from the base of the plant soon after flowering in spring. Then in early to midsummer, vigorous growths push up from the base of the bush. Hard pruning in winter will encourage this renewed growth and result in larger, earlier fruit.
Pests and diseases
These plants are generally trouble-free.
Harvesting and storing
Pick the berries from the middle of summer to mid-autumn as they ripen. Go over the bushes several times.