If you cultivate blueberries in your own garden, you can enjoy aromatic fruits from your own harvest year after year. Here are tips on how to grow them successful.
If you can’t get enough of blueberries, you should definitely think about growing them in your own garden. Blueberries are considered quite demanding in terms of location, but with a little know-how they are surprisingly easy to care for and reliably produce aromatic fruit. To ensure that blueberries also feel at home in your garden, here are useful tips about blueberries.
Extend the harvest with several varieties of blueberries.
Most blueberry varieties are sufficiently self-fertile. One bush is therefore sufficient for having fruits, especially since classic varieties ripen in July and yield up to five kilograms (10 lbs) of fruit. If you plant several varieties with early, medium-early and late ripening times, you can stagger the harvest and be well supplied from June to September.
Best time for planting blueberries is autumn or spring.
Blueberries offered in containers can be planted almost all year round. However, the best time to plant them is still in the fall from October to mid-November, and then again in the spring from March to late April. When buying, look for a firm root ball and three to four branches evenly spaced all around. Especially in the summer months, you often get freshly potted plants that have not yet rooted sufficiently in the container. The result: when they are taken out, the loose pot ball falls apart, the shrubs are slow to gain a foothold in the bed, and they decline due to a lack of water and nutrients.
Blueberries need bark mulch
Blueberries thrive only in acidic, humus-rich, loose soil. Before planting, dig a 35- to 40-centimeter-deep pit (14 to 16 in) about 100 centimeters (40 in) in diameter. Fill the pit in equal parts with peat-free bog soil and coarse bark compost from conifers. Plant the shrubs slightly deeper than they were in the pot and cover the planting site hand-high with bark mulch. Apply a thinner layer around the base of the shrub so that young soil shoots are not smothered.
Weeds disrupt the growth of blueberries.
Blueberries live in close community with special root fungi (mycorrhiza). The fungi dissolve minerals from the soil and make them available for the bushes. The roots of weeds are colonized with another type of fungus that suppresses this process. As a result, blueberries can absorb fewer nutrients and suffer from growth disorders. Important: Always weed under blueberries by hand, when hoeing, the vulnerable root system of the bushes suffers.
Water blueberries frequently and fertilize sparingly
Because blueberries have shallow roots and cannot tap the water reserves in deeper soil layers, you must water extensively during dry periods, soaking the top layer of soil 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in) deep every three to four days, make the finger test. Fertilize blueberries sparingly. It is best to rake one to two tablespoons of lime- and chloride-free complete fertilizer around each bush when flowering begins in spring.
Pruning promotes fruit set
Starting in their fourth year of growth, blueberries should be thinned and rejuvenated annually. When pruning blueberries, you should first clip all harvested fruiting branches just above a younger side shoot. Next, cut off all four-year-old branches (identifiable by their cracked, woody bark) just above the ground. Then replace them with the appropriate number of strong ground shoots with smooth, fresh green or reddish shiny bark. Weak new shoots are also removed. If there are not enough suitable new shoots, cut a few older shoots at knee height. These will form new side shoots and set flowers and fruit on them after two to three years.
Protect blueberries from pests
Blackbirds, starlings and crows often beat you to the harvest. A bird protection net over a simple wooden frame protects especially the popular early varieties from predators. In warmer regions in particular, another pest is appearing more and more frequently: the maggots of the spotted-wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) can thoroughly spoil your appetite. Reliable protection can only be provided by a very close-meshed, white vegetable protection net, also known as a crop protection net, with a mesh size of 0.8 millimeters. Do not use black nets, there is a risk of heat accumulation underneath. Put the net on as soon as the blue coloration begins and close it again immediately after picking the ripe blueberries.
Harvesting blueberries at the right time
Growing in dense clusters at the shoot end, blueberries ripen gradually over two to three weeks. About a week after the skin has turned deep blue all around, the flavor is perfect. Berries that are still reddish or even greenish at the base of the stem taste only sour or bland. Fruits intended for later consumption should be picked in the early morning, sun-warm berries can be enjoyed directly from hand to mouth.
Blueberry and huckleberry – the small difference
The terms blueberry and huckleberry, or bilberry, are often used interchangeably, but they are different species. Native to North America, blueberries or blue huckleberry form bushes up to two meters (80 in) high, depending on the variety. The skin is deep blue, the inside of the 15- to 20-millimeter fruits pale green or white, depending on the state of ripeness. The firm berries remain fresh and crisp for three to five days in the refrigerator. Blueberries grow only 30 to 50 centimeters (12 to 20 in) tall, and the fruits are deep purple through and through. The juice leaves blue-black stains on lips, fingers and clothing. The small, soft berries ferment quickly and must be used immediately after harvest.