Blueberries

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The cultivated Highbush Blueberry (Blueberry for short) originates in North America, however it is closely related to our native bilberry, whortleberry, or lowbush blueberry. Blueberries are a traditional American fruit, which are cultivated on a mass scale. They have recently become more popular in the UK, and are now commonly available in all supermarkets.

They are relatively easy to grow, but have very fussy soil requirements and do need protecting from birds. They are also highly ornamental and deserve a place in the garden because in autumn the leaves turn to some amazing pinks and reds.

Growing Blueberries

Blueberries need a damp and acidic soil (ideal pH of between4.09 and 5.0), and unless your soil matches these requirements there is no point growing them in the ground. Most gardeners instead prefer to grow blueberries in pots filled with acidic ericaceous compost.

Buy potted blueberries and pot up between late autumn and early spring – any re-potting of established plants should also be done at this time of year. Mulch around the plant in spring by covering  the compost with about an inch of leafmould or seasoned sawdust, and apply a general fertiliser.

Birds can be a problem, and it is best to place blueberries in a fruit cage if you have space, or cover with netting when the fruit starts to form.

They will eventually reach a height of about 1.5m

Pruning Blueberries

Blueberries don’t require a huge amount of pruning. Don’t prune them at all until the third winter, and then annually from this point on cut out any old stems either to a new vigorous shoot, or right to the ground if healthy shoots don’t exist.

Hard pruning will encourage new growth, and result in larger, earlier fruit.

Propagating Blueberries

Blueberries are best  propagated by layering.

To layer the plant, select one or two long shoots in early autumn, make a small cut so that it can be bent easily to reach the ground, and pin to the ground with a bent wire. The layer should root, and after about 2 years can be severed from the ‘mother’ plant and moved to its final location.

Phyl @ The Allotment Gardener

Lifelong gardener and allotment enthusiast. Now have 3 allotments!

Website: allotment.uk.com

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