Hailed as a ‘superfood’, blueberries are expensive to buy in the shops, but easy to grow yourself, producing delicious and nutritious berries packed with vitamins and antioxidants. They can easily be grown at home in containers of ericaceous compost, where they have fantastic ornamental value. Upright, compact shrubs, the white blossom in spring is followed by indigo blue fruits in summer. Plus, leaves develop incredible red and orange hues before falling in autumn.
Upright, compact shrubs, the white blossom in spring is followed by indigo blue fruits in summer. Plus, leaves develop incredible red and orange hues before falling in autumn.
Although a lone blueberry bush will bear some fruit, growing two or more to pollinate each other will give you a heavier crop per plant. Different varieties tend to flower at around the same time, but crops mature at different speeds, so grow a mix of early, mid and late varieties to extend your harvest.
Blueberries are extremely high in antioxidents and vitamin C, hence their ‘superfood’ status.
How to grow
Blueberries must be given acidic growing conditions: not just lime-free (ericaceous) soil or compost, but ericaceous fertiliser too, plus rainwater for watering if possible. Grow in a sunny, sheltered site in deep moisture-retentive, yet free-draining, soil – add coarse grit to heavy soil.
Blueberries make attractive container plants (in pots up to 50cm wide). Keep moist at all times, although beware of over-watering, too. Apply an ericaceous mulch such as bark chippings, in spring, to help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay – if you have a shredder then chip your Christmas tree and use this as mulch. Start pruning when bushes are several years old, removing the oldest stems annually in late winter. Birds love the ripening fruits, so protect the crop with fleece or netting.
Pick the berries when they’re blue-black and detach easily from the plant. The crop ripens over several weeks, so harvest every few days.
How to store
Freeze as soon as possible after picking.
‘Duke’ AGM: Heavy and early cropper. Firm, mildly sweet berries.
‘Herbert’: Large and particularly well-flavoured fruits, late ripening. ‘Sunshine Blue’: Heavy-cropping mid-season variety, great for growing in pots. Attractive pink blossom.