How to grow: Blueberries

A close up of a bowl of blueberries

Blueberries were the first of the ‘new’ wonder foods, to be followed by pomegranates, cranberries, grapes… but despite the hype, this fruit really is packed with vitamins and antioxidants.

What’s just as important, when you want to get the kids to eat them, is that they taste great! Blueberries are so easy to grow and the plants are genuinely very attractive, plus they are compact enough to grow on the patio in a large tub.

They provide a visual treat all year round: in the spring you have the new leaves and flowers, in the summer the developing fruit, in the autumn tinted leaves and in winter colourful red stems – as decorative as any dogwood.

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Varieties

‘Earliblue’

Ripens earlier than most and produces a good crop of pale blue berries.

‘Coville’

Ripens later and produces good yields of large berries.

‘Bluecrop’

The most popular variety and easy to obtain from fruit specialists.

‘Herbert’

Ripens in mid-August.

A few blueberries on a white background.

Growing Tips

Sowing/planting

The one thing that blueberries must have is acid compost. So unless you garden is on a naturally acid soil such as peat or some sands, you will have to decide whether to grow your crop in a raised bed filled with peaty compost or in pots using an ericaceous (lime-free) mixture.

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The latter is easiest and it is simply a matter of buying a bag of the right compost from any garden centre. If you wish you can add a little grit to the mixture for drainage, but otherwise it is fine straight from the bag; if you can get John Innes Ericaceous compost, so much the better.

Blueberries are self-fertile, but produce heavier yields if there is more than one plant. Grow yours on a sunny, sheltered patio and water well during dry spells, keeping the compost moist but not wet. Use rainwater when possible.

Pruning is simple; there is none in the first two years after purchase, then each year after that remove up to a third of the oldest shoots in the winter, cutting right down to soil level. Any dead, overcrowded or crossing shoots can be cut out at any time.

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Blueberries are very hardy; however, when growing in pots the roots are vulnerable to winter frosts so make sure they stand in a sheltered spot. You could even wrap the pots in bubble wrap to give them extra insulation. Net plants as the fruit ripens to keep birds, such as blackbirds, at bay.

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