Name: blueberries, Vaccinium sp.
Height: typically 1–2m, depending on variety.
Foliage: deciduous or evergreen, depending on variety and climate.
Climate: suitable for most climates, including cold temperate, warm temperate, arid/semi-arid and sub-tropical climates. Some varieties are better suited to warmer areas than others, due to lower chill requirements (less cold days required to set fruit).
Soil: blueberries need good drainage and prefer a soil enriched with compost and well-aged manure. Blueberries need an acidic soil to thrive, preferring a soil pH of around 4–5.
Position: full sun, protected from strong winds.
Flowering and fruiting: small, bell-shaped flowers are produced in early and late spring, with fruit following in spring and summer.
Feeding: apply a slow-release camellia and azalea fertiliser in spring or as directed.
Watering: potted plants may require daily watering, especially in summer, while garden plants need watering every 2–3 days depending on the weather and soil.
Blueberries are compact shrubs that grow to 1–2m high. Divided into highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum), lowbush (Vaccinium angustifolium) or rabbiteye (Vaccimium ashei) varieties, each has its own characteristics and preferred growing conditions.
Highbush blueberries are divided into southern highbush for warmer areas with low chill requirements, and northern highbush, for cool-climate gardens with high chill requirements.
Lowbush varieties are shorter but are not available in Australia due to climate suitability.Rabbiteye blueberries are the most tolerant to extremes of temperature and soil moisture. These are ideal in sub-tropical areas, as well as southern gardens.
Blueberries are primarily grown for their berries, but they also make wonderful garden or hedging plants. Great in pots or garden beds, blueberries are decorative shrubs with spring flowers, summer berries and autumn foliage. They do well planted with camellias and azaleas because they all like soil with a similar pH.
The most critical factor to growing blueberries successfully is the soil. Originally from forests littered with pine needles, blueberries prefer a soil enriched with organic matter, well-aged manure and a low pH of around 4–5. Most soils will need an application of sulphur to help lower pH to this range. A pH test kit will accurately tell you the pH of your soil and how much sulphur you need to add to lower the pH to within the correct range. It is critical to improve soil prior to planting.
If growing in pots, select a premium potting mix designed for azaleas and camellias. This will provide blueberries with the best possible start and the right root conditions.
Blueberries will benefit from an application of sulphate of potash each year in spring. Net plants with bird-netting after flowering to prevent birds stealing your entire crop!
Blueberries need a moist but free-draining soil. Raise garden beds if soil is heavy and water every couple of days, especially in dry weather.
Blueberries should be left to grow for at least 3–4 years prior to pruning, to allow the roots time to develop and the plant to establish. When pruning, remove any damaged or frost-affected branches in early spring once frosts have passed.
Blueberries are generally pest- and disease free. Aphids can be a problem in some areas – if found, treat with a insecticidal soap. Birds are probably the worst pest, eating your entire harvest in the blink of an eye. Net your plant to prevent birds stealing your crop.
After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
Strawberries: delicious juicy berries suitable for gardens of all sizes.
Raspberries: produces a bountiful crop of berries in autumn and summer.
Kale: packed with antioxidants, kale is another of nature's superfoods.
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