Native to the United States, these delicious berries need minimal pruning or training and grow well in patio containers. The sweet, summer fruit is packed with goodness and tastes even better when cooked.
How to Grow
Blueberries need moist, acid soil with a pH of 4.0–5.5. They prefer full sun but will tolerate some shade. Plant bare root shrubs in the winter; plant container-grown shrubs at any time if well watered. Add leaf mold of composted pine needles to the planting hole to maintain acidity, and mulch in the spring with more of the same. Space blueberries 4 feet (1.2 m) apart, water well during dry spells, and net developing fruit against birds. Blueberries are partially self-pollinating and can pollinate their own flowers, but they crop better if other varieties are planted nearby. Don’t allow pot-grown plants to dry out, and feed regularly, especially when in fruit. Unless your soil is acidic, grow blueberries in large containers filled with ericaceous, lime-free compost, available from garden centers.
Varieties to try include: ‘Berkley’, ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Bluetta’, ‘Duke’, ‘Coville’, ‘Earliblue’, ‘Herbert’, ‘Patriot’, ‘Spartan’ and ‘Top Hat’.
Pruning and Training
Blueberries are pruned from late winter to early spring, when the swelling buds show which parts of the plant are alive. Avoid pruning stems with lots of healthy fat buds; these will bear fruit in the summer.
To prune established shrubs, prune out a few of the oldest stems, leaving 4–6 main shoots. Tip-prune stems that fruited last year, cutting back to strong buds. Remove lateral branches growing too close to the base, and thin the center of overgrown shrubs. Never remove more than a quarter of the shrub at once.
Watch Out for These Pests and Diseases
Birds can strip plants of berries in a matter of hours. Net bushes before the fruit starts to ripen, and secure it at ground level so birds can’t sneak underneath.
Blueberry stem blight is a fungal disease that can also cause problems by entering enters the plants through wounds and pruning cuts. It causes the leaves to brown and die, weakening the plant and reducing the crop. Remove and destroy all infected growth.