Learn how to grow blueberries yourself in this growing guide.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that summers wouldn’t be the same without blueberries. Eat them fresh or incorporate them into different mouth-watering recipes — there’s just so many ways that you can enjoy these tasty treats.
Not only do blueberries taste great, but they also come with many health benefits. Just a cup of blueberries is enough to provide an average person 24% of their recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. These tiny fruits have also been found to promote healthy bones, skin, heart, and so much more.
There is one problem though. Blueberries can be pretty expensive especially if you buy them from the supermarket. But don’t worry! There is a way that you can enjoy these nutritious and tasty fruits without spending a lot.
How, you ask? By growing them yourself.
But before you can get started, first you’ll have to learn how to grow blueberries!
How to grow blueberries: The steps
It’s probably not common knowledge, but surprisingly, growing blueberries is so easy that you don’t even need to have a garden. In fact, growing blueberries in containers and pots is considered the best way to grow and enjoy these fruits. That’s because these fruit-bearing plants love acidic soil, which most garden soils are not.
Here’s how you can start planting blueberries in a pot with three easy steps. But before you begin, see to it that you have already prepared everything you need such as:
- The Blueberry plant
- Ericaceous compost
- Large and wide container
- Watering can
- Rainwater (highly-recommended)
Ready your blueberry plant
About 20 minutes before planting, soak the blueberry plant in a bucket filled with rainwater. The reason behind this is because rainwater is more acidic compared to tap water which will give the blueberry plant a head start.
For the container, you can choose pretty much anything attractive to use, preferably about 15 inches wide. The bottom of the container should be covered with crocks to provide good drainage. Finally, apply a layer of high-quality ericaceous compost on the bottom of the container, then place a smaller plastic pot on top. Fill the surrounding area with compost.
The perfect pot
See to it that the compost or worm compost is level with the root ball of the blueberry plant then add the perfect garden soil on top. You can do this by pushing and firming the compost down around the pot by hand. The compost should be just below the rim of the container.
And don’t forget that blueberries need to be repotted every two years in the autumn.
Place the blueberry plant in the hole created after removing the smaller plastic pot from the container. Make sure that when you do this, the top of the root ball is level with the surface of the compost.
Now, you may be tempted to mulch the top of the pot with manure, but don’t. Doing so will change the acidity level of the soil which is something that your blueberry plant will not like. Instead, use pebbles, gravel, slate, shells, or pea shingle as mulch.
Important blueberry growing tips and reminders
If you want to learn how to grow blueberries in containers properly, there are a few things you need to remember. With these tips, you’ll get the best fruits possible.
Acidic soil is a must
As mentioned earlier, blueberries thrive well in acidic soils. Most varieties of blueberries will want the pH level of the soil to be 4.5 to 5.5. Make sure that the soil meets this requirement especially if you plan to use any found in your yard. You can buy a simple pH level testing kit from garden stores to help you find out if your soil is compatible or not.
This is why growing blueberries in a pot is more advisable compared to in your garden. That’s because you can easily buy an acidic, blueberry-friendly soil to ensure your plants will thrive.
As with any other kind of plant, failure to prepare the right soil is one of the most common gardening mistakes.
Blueberries need a lot of sunlight
Blueberries need at least six to eight hours of sun per day to grow healthy. As such, it’s recommended that you move the pot to its final position in a sunny, sheltered spot before filling in the container. Otherwise, it will be too heavy to move once filled up.
You can use a sun calculator or the tried and tested wristwatch to time how much sunlight your precious blueberries are getting. This is very important especially during the growing season. But at the same time, be careful if you live in an area that gets very hot afternoon sun.
So if you have a greenhouse, forget about the idea of placing your blueberries there. After all, too much of anything is bad.
Lots of water
This may sound confusing, but blueberries require lots of water, however, the soil needs to be well-draining because they don’t like being waterlogged. Additionally, it is highly recommended that you use rainwater for watering your blueberries to maintain the soil’s acidity.
If you’ve been thinking about a DIY rainwater butt project, now is the perfect time to start building one. You can also buy ready-made water butts from stores if you’re not a fan of the DIY stuff.
Also, when you grow blueberries you’ll learn that the leaves of blueberries act like umbrellas. So don’t be too complacent that your plants are getting the water they need when it’s raining. It’s worth checking if the soil is consistently moist (not soggy). There’s a good chance that the rainwater is not making it to the container because of the leaves, so keep that in mind.
Blueberries are not a big fan of too much fertiliser. Feeding the soil with fertiliser twice a year in the early spring should do the job. However, you can’t just use any fertiliser for blueberries.
Remember that the soil needs to have a consistent level of acidity (check the pH level of the soil regularly) to survive. A fertiliser that works well for tomatoes should not be used for blueberries, or they will die. What they need is something that is suited to acidic plants like rhododendron or azalea feeds.
You wouldn’t have much of a problem with blueberries in this department because they don’t require as much pruning as other plants. During the first two years, pruning is rarely needed except when there is any crossing or misplaced branches to remove.
It is important that you prune blueberries during their dormant season. Ideally it should be done in late February or early March. This is so you can easily recognise fruit buds from leaf buds — the fat ones produce flowers and fruits while the flat ones form shoots and leaves.
Fruiting and pollination
Many blueberries are partly or fully self-pollinating, however, it’s advisable that you grow a minimum of two. Three would be even better. Doing so means that you’ll have cross-pollinating plants which are known to produce larger fruits.
If you want to extend your blueberry season, you should consider growing more than one variety of blueberries that produce fruits at different times. You would know that the fruits are ready for picking once they are completely blue and have a white surface bloom.
Protecting your blueberries
Blueberries usually don’t suffer from pest and disease problems. However, they can occasionally suffer from vine weevil, powdery mildew, and Phytophthora root rot. What you need to watch out for are birds who can strip off the fruits of your blueberries before you can even get your hands on them.
So before the fruits ripen, build a netting to protect your precious plants from these predators. Once the growing season is over, you’ll need to protect your blueberries from the coming winter. Transfer them to a protected area or move the containers against a building to shield them from strong cold winds.