I recently overheard someone say to a friend “thank you for those blueberry plants: we had more than we could eat”.A
nd I couldn’t stop thinking I wanted more blueberries than I could eat. I’d dismissed them as fussy and foreign but the thought of a blueberry glut was irresistible.
We grow plenty of fruit with varying success. Most fruit plants, being perennial bushes or vines, need some pruning or tidying but are largely low maintenance. Blueberries are not native to the UK but will grow happily in the right conditions. Unfortunately our garden has the wrong conditions.
Blueberries are ericaceous which means they like acid soils – preferably light and sandy. If you can grow camellias and rhododendrons then you can probably grow blueberries. Our soil is heavy and alkaline so to stand any success with blueberries they would have to be grown in containers.
It’s not that hard to fabricate the conditions they need. Ericaceous compost takes care of the pH issue. It is best to water them with rainwater which is slightly more acidic than tap water. A mulch (thin surface layer) of leaf mould, pine needles or composted bark will also help maintain an acidic pH as well as preserving moisture and suppressing weeds.
The second thing to consider with blueberries is that although the nursery may claim the plants are self-fertile, they will fruit better if they can cross pollinate with another variety. I bought three different varieties: Bluecrop, Darrow and an un-named plant…
I have planted them up in nice wide containers because they spread their roots close to the surface. As well as ericaceous compost I gave them some slow release fertiliser for ericaceous plants. Now they are in the front garden against a south-facing wall between the apricot and fig.
I hope they are successful: it would wonderful to pick our own rather than buy some that were grown on the other side of the world!