October 10, 2009

Grow your own Blueberries 2007 - 2009

We have two blueberry plants because apparently you need at least 2 different plants from different cultivars so they can pollinate each other. So I’ve separated the info on each plant as they will grow slightly differently.

However all blueberry plants need the following care:

  • Acidic/ericaceous soil 4.5 to 5.5 pH.
  • Feed and water regularly throughout the growing season. Where possible, use rainwater as the lime contained in tap water will reduce the acidity in the soil over time.
  • After the first 2 or 3 years, begin to prune out the oldest stems each autumn in order to encourage healthy new growth the following year.
  • Remember to cover fruits with netting in summer to protect your crop from hungry birds!
New Blueberry Bush – bought June 2009
  • Plant: “Blue Crop”
  • Variety: Mid-season Highbush
  • Yield: Considered the best all-around variety for consistently heavy yields of high-quality fruit. The berry is larger than average, light blue, and extremely flavourful. Ripening from July-August.
  • Height: The upright open bush grows to 4-6 feet (46-72 inches).
  • Colour change: red autumn foliage set against red stems in the winter.
  • Hardiness: Fully winter hardy.
The photos below were taken 1 June 2009:

New blueberry 1 June

The new blueberry plant was bought from our local garden centre and it was only £7 for this established plant that already has fruit growing on it, so we’re really pleased.

New blueberry 1 June berries

The photo below was taken on 25 June 2009:

Blueberries 25 June

The new blueberry plant is looking very well, although it dries out quite quickly. We didn’t transplant it from the pot it was bought in, because Steve’s Mum thought it shouldn’t be disturbed whilst it’s in the fruiting stage – I don’t know if she’s right but she’s been gardening much longer than me so I’ll take her word for it! We just put the pot into a big heavy pot to stop it falling over. I will also need to buy some ericaceous soil as blueberries prefer an acidic environment. But the berries are growing nice and fat so it will be interesting to watch them turn blue!

The photo below was taken on 1 July 2009:

New Blueberries colour change 1 July

Woweee! We have got 4 berries that are turning blue! Although I’m finding it difficult to understand any information I find on how to look after blueberry bushes (like when to feed and prune) it seems to be doing OK without any meddling from me!

I would say that when buying a bush, it’s definitely worth buying one that already has fruit on it, unlike our older plant (see below).

The photo below was taken 11 July 2009:

Blueberries ripe 11 July

These are the first fruit pickings from the new blueberry bush! There are quite a few unripe blueberries still on the bush, so we should have quite a good crop. We haven’t tried them yet, but just popped them in the fridge as they should keep for a couple of weeks in there. I’ll probably make a cake with them, or maybe serve them with pancakes.

The photo below was taken 19 September 2009:

Blueberries 19 Sept I have to confess that I have pretty much neglected to look after the blueberry plants, which is shocking really since they cost us the most money! We didn’t get many berries from the new plant and since then I’ve just given it the odd watering every week. The leaves are now changing from green to red, which is normal as we’re approaching Autumn.

Apparently you can plant bushes for containers at any time in good growing weather, but if you want to plant them in the ground then you should do it after leaf fall (November to March). So as soon as I can pull my finger out and buy some ericaceous compost I’ll the plant some TLC and re-pot it in a bigger pot. I’m still unsure what size pot I should use. Apparently the best size pot is 12-15 inches in diameter, but I’ve just read that it shouldn’t be more than 5cm larger than the rootball, so I’ll have to get my measuring tape out!

 

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Old Blueberry Bush – bought June 2007
  • Plant: “Top Hat”
  • Variety: Dwarf cultivar
  • Yield: White blooms in the spring give way to sweet, plump blueberries in July and August.
  • Height: grows to 2 feet (24 inches).
  • Leaf colour change: bronze autumn foliage.
  • Hardiness: resilient to wind

Our old bush was bought from Van Meuwen via The Mirror newspaper and when it first arrived it was quite small and not bushy at all – just a few weak little twigs!. Although it is a dwarf-variety it has taken us 3 years to get it to look more like a bush. It cost more (£8.49) than the new bush (£7) which was a much more established plant, so we have learnt our lesson about buying from mail order companies!

The photo below was taken May 2008:

Blueberry 5 May 2008 It did flower in May 2008 but we didn’t get any fruits and that’s why we bought the new plant to help it pollinate.

The photo below was taken 1 June 2009:

Old blueberry 1 June

The leaves have turned really dark green and I’m not sure if that’s good or not! It looks pretty healthy so I’m not too worried.

The photo below was taken on 25 June 2009:

Old blueberries 25 June

I’m really pleased with how the old blueberry bush is looking now. There was loads of new growth and so I trimmed it back to give it a better shape! Occasionally I pour cold tea (no milk or sugar!) onto the soil as I read that it contains acid and it seems to be doing the trick. I should really buy a soil tester but I can’t seem to find a good one.

The photo below was taken 19 September 2009:

Blueberries 19 Sept-1

I’m hoping that the browning of the leaves is just the natural Autumnal colour change and not because I’ve neglected the plant so much! I have bought a PH soil tester off Ebay, so when it arrives I can really see how alkaline the soil is!

 

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The photo below was taken 10 October 2009:

Blueberries repotted 10 Oct 09 Well I’ve finally pulled my finger out and got myself some ericaceous soil (well actually Steve’s Mum got it for me from B&Q – she had to go to a bigger store to get me a 20 litre bag as our local store only had massive bags).

 

So this morning I repotted both plants. I decided to plant the new plant in the pot that it’s been sitting in to anchor it down. This pot is 18cm/7 inches in diameter and although a 12-15 inches diameter pot is recommended, the rootball was very small so I didn’t want to use a massive pot at this stage.

 

I had to find a much bigger pot for the old plant as the rootball had filled the old pot. The pot I used was 38cm/15 inches in diameter so it’s the right size now and shouldn’t need repotting again. I ended up using the whole 20 litre bag for these 2 plants, plus a bit of the old soil.

 

I got Steve’s Mum to advise me on how many crocks should go into the bottom of the pots (quite a lot in the case of the big pot) and she told me to press the soil down well around the plant to make sure there were no air pockets. I watered both plants after repotting as they were really dry, despite all the rain we’ve had recently.

 

I used my new PH/Light/Moisture tester to test the PH level and I’m happy to report that it is now 4 which is acidic, so hopefully the plants will be happy that I’ve given them the growing medium that they need!

I might prune the old plant a little bit once it’s settled into it’s new home.

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