Grow soft fruit Blueberries
Blueberries are bursting with health-giving antioxidants, and also make pretty pot plants. They carry small pink or white bell-shaped flowers and many have attractive foliage.
They command a premium price, but it’s not difficult to grow your own – three or four plants will give a good supply.
Choose at least two varieties as bushes produce far more berries if cross-pollinated, and you can get a longer cropping season.
The following varieties are Best Buys from our last trial:
- 'Chandler' - big berries and joint heaviest crop
- 'Toro' - joint heaviest cropper and one of the best for autumn colour
- 'Spartan' one of the longest croppers with big tasty fruit
- 'Ozark Blue' had the third biggest crop[ of berries over a long period
- 'Nui' - respectable crop and a long cropping period
- ‘Earliblue’was the winner in our members' taste test. Unfortunately the yield was low and it had the shortest cropping period.
Expert tips for growing blueberries
Buy plants in pots at any time of year. Plant in pots unless you have very acid, moist soil. Use ericaceous compost for these lime-hating plants, and repot into larger pots each year up to 30-40cm diameter.
Position in full sun for the sweetest berries, but move plants to semi-shade in very hot weather so they don’t need constant watering.
Caring for your blueberry plants
- Feed plants in pots in April and in July, using a balanced fertiliser for acid-loving plants at half strength. Plants in the ground need little or no feeding. Water regularly; it’s crucial not to let the compost dry out or the plants will die.
- Prune any strong new shoots to around 60cm in July to encourage branching. In winter remove weak, dead or damaged stems, plus any that are crossing the centre of the bush or hanging down below the pot rim.
- Once the bush is three years old, cut out one or two of the oldest stems at ground level. In future years aim to remove about a quarter of the oldest stems each year.
Restore old, overcrowded bushes by pruning in winter. Remove dead, spindly and damaged branches, then take out most of the older stems – these will be thick and woody, leaving the thinner, greener more pliable younger shoots.
If there is no young growth, just cut the whole plant down to the ground and let it regrow.
Replace plants if all the growth is weak and spindly – strong, healthy plants should crop for 20 years or more.