We have our blueberries growing in repurposed washing machine (or dryer?) innards, with an insulating layer of hessian into which the potting mix has been placed. The reason for this extra care is that blueberries wouldn’t normally grow well in Newstead soil. They need acid – and damp – conditions to grow and it is a lot easier to manipulate a large pot-full, than try and amend a garden bed. The taste and health benefits are well worth giving this fruit a go, however much extra care they need.
Blueberries (native to North America) are actually in the same family as rhododendrons and azaleas and heaths (and cranberries). Ideally require a pH of 4-5 to 5.5 – our garden soils are now around 6.0 to 6.5, and it is much more difficult to reduce pH than increase it, so adding elemental sulphur as well as mulching with pine needles or sawdust and adding pine needles to soil is a requirement. Lots of compost to help water retention and buffer the soil too.
Autumn – Harvest. Take care removing the fruit to avoid disease problems – roll the fruit gently off the bush, don’t pull or pluck..Weeding and watering.
Winter – Plant bushes in early winter wehn dormant – see above for tips on getting the growing medium right – this will determine success or failure of your crop. They also hate weed competition, drying out or waterlogging (!) Give the bush a feed of compost. Prune now if needed but generally the plants don’t need too much, encourage an open vase like shape and remove spent branches after 2 or 3 years when they will have fruited and died back.
Spring – Keep up the weeding because they don’t compete well. Mulch well. Spray with seaweed. Keep an eye on moisture and pH.
Summer – Continue weeding and watering. Harvest from now through autumn depending on the variety. Feed with compost and seaweed and keep mulch up. Take care removing the fruit to avoid disease problems – roll the fruit gently off the bush, don’t pull or pluck. You may need to net; the birds love them.
Generally – Persevere! Varieties depend on the type (highbush or rabbiteye or tetraploid) and some need cross pollinators. We have Denise Michelle, Bridgitta (all locally – Australian – developed types.
Eating – Best picked and eaten ripe, there will be a range of ripenesses on the bush so keep testing.