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Blueberries - Vaccinium Corymbosum

The high-bush blueberry is becoming more popular in the garden. The rich, fruity flavour that is a characteristic of the berries has made it popular as a fruit to be eaten straight from the bush and for inclusion in an ever-increasing number of desserts and other dishes. Its disadvantage as a garden fruit, at least for some people, is that it must have acid conditions. In chalky or limestone (alkaline) regions bushes could be grown in large containers away from the normal garden soil, but this could become quite a chore, no matter how tasty the resulting berries.

A vigorous blueberry bush, such as this,
with plenty of ripening fruit, must be
protected to stop birds from stripping
away the fruit before it ripens.

The bushes and berries are decorative and are a useful addition in the potager or ornamental border.

Cultivation

Choose a sunny site, although a little light, partial shade will be tolerated. The soil must be acidic. Add ericaceous compost (soil mix) if your garden soil is just on the borderline. Set out the plants at any time the weather and soil conditions allow between autumn and early spring. Plant them as free-standing bushes, 1.5m/5ft apart. Mulch with manure, but only if it has not been “sweetened” with chalk or limestone. An ericaceous compost can be used or marginally acid soil. Do not allow the soil to become dry, watering 
regularly as necessary. Propagate from softwood cuttings taken in midsummer.

Pruning and training

Because the fruit appears on the second- 
or third-year wood, do not prune until 
cropping starts. After that, cut out any dead or weak wood and then remove up to a third of the oldest wood to promote new growth. Prune in winter or early spring.

Harvesting and storage

Pick as the fruit ripens and store, if necessary, by freezing or bottling.

Pests and diseases

Blueberries are remarkably trouble free. The worst problem will be birds, which will steal the fruit, but netting will solve this.

Pruning an established blueberry bush

Blueberries fruit on older wood, so no pruning is needed for several years. Thereafter, cut out any weak or misplaced shoots as well as the old wood that has ceased fruiting in order to stimulate new growth.

Varieties

  •           ‘Berkeley’
  •           ‘Bluecrop’
  •           ‘Bluejay’
  •           ‘Bluetta’
  •           ‘Duke’
  •           ‘Goldtraube’
  •           ‘Herbert’
  •           ‘Patriot’
  •           ‘Spartan’