Growing Blueberries

Always looking for productive and exciting crops to grow, I was interested to hear a fairly new plot holder’s enthusiasm for the crops she had harvested for a couple of blueberry bushes. As we know, they are high in antioxidents and very expensive to buy so, I have looked into possible suppliers of these plants and the conditions for good growth and harvests. I even went so far as to buy a couple of plants myself – having uprooted a row of unproductive blackcurrant bushes.

On the face of it, our ground is not ideal though, at least, we are on acid ground which is essential.

Advice on growing Blueberries and Cranberries – from The Dorset Blueberry Company:

Blueberries and cranberries need similar well drained soil to that needed by rhododendrons and azaleas; a lime-free (ericaceous), type with a pH 6 or less, either in the garden or in containers. They are hardy down to about minus 12 degrees C.

  • In mineral, sandy soils, add plenty of chipped pine or other conifer bark, either mixed with the garden soil or mixed with peat for a ‘berry bed’.
  • In non acid conditions, grow in containers using rotting bark chippings, ideally pine, mixed with ericaceous compost, to encourage good drainage and healthy root systems. A 2 or 3 litre blueberry plant should be potted up two sizes bigger – a 12″ pot is a suitable first step. They can then be potted into a halfbeer barrel in 2 – 3 years where they will stay for life.

Cranberries can either be planted in hanging baskets, windows boxes or a 12″ pot. They are also good planted below a blueberry in a large tub or planted as underconer with azeleas or camellias etc. in acid soils in the garden.

  • Peat, leaf mould, pine needles and even well rotted lawn mowings all provide good organic matter for incorporating into soil or used as a mulch. Never use manure or animal based fertilisers as they may kill the fine fibrous roots.
  • A sunny site encourages good fruit ripening, full fruit flavour and the brightest autumn colours but, semi-shade is suitable.
  • Make sure the plants you receive are well watered before planting.
  • Plant to the same depth as in the original pot. Water thoroughly.
  • Feed with “slow release” fertiliser pellets such as Osmocote, lightly covered with compost in spring when the buds begin to burst. If cranberries are planted around blueberry bushes they will receive feed at the same time. If grown on their own they can be fed in May. A carefully measured and diluted acidifying liquid fertiliser may be used instead of a slow release fertiliser if growing in neutral or just slightly acid soil.
  • Protect ripening blueberries from birds before they show any signs of colour. No need to do this for cranberries.
  • The long canes produced in late summer may have their tips pinched out to encourage branching and a compact bush but, do not do this after about mid August to allow the resultant growth to mature before winter.
  • In winter, once the leaves have fallen, cut back the old woody stems that have fruited, to where there is young growth – any low branches near the ground. Take the top third off any long single canes that missed being pinched out in summer.
  • The long trailing, woody stems of cranberries grown in tubs and hanging baskets may be trimmed back a little to encourage dense growth and future flowing and fruiting near the crown.

Sit back and enjoy your plants! They have plenty to offer all year round.