Blueberries (Vaccinium species)

Blueberries are attractive and long living plants that are perfect to grow in the home garden. Grow them in a sunny position, protected from harsh winds and you will enjoy many years of pleasure from this plant. Some varieties have been know to grow for over 50 years, and they don't really hit their straps until 7 to 10 years old where they can be over 2 metres high. You therefore need to allow for this and grow them at least 1 metre apart.

They are a free standing bush that do not require staking. They have delicate bell shaped flowers in spring, clusters of berries in summer, and brilliant bronzy foliage colours in autumn.

Blueberries are acid loving plants, related to Azaleas, Camellias and Rhododendrons. Therefore a soil pH of 4 to 5.2 is preferable. Good drainage and plenty of organic material will be beneficial. Raise the garden beds if necessary. Do not apply lime, as this raises the pH. Adding peat moss may help lower pH because of its acid nature. A plant grown in a pH too high may show leaf yellowing, will grow slower, and can die. Other ways to manipulate pH involve the use of sulphur which takes over a year to take effect, or even iron sulphate, which can more rapidly reduce pH within a month or so.

If growing in pots, you can buy a specialist acid-loving plant potting mix that ensures you start with the right pH, and have good drainage. Make sure there are enough holes in the container and that they are not flush to the ground so as to prevent good drainage.

When planting blueberries, it is one of the few plants that you should tease out the roots, partcularly if they have curled around the pot in a root bound fashion. If so, spread the roots out in a natural fashion. You may need to dig quite a wide hole to do this. Plant deep enough so there is a good amount of dirt covering the top roots. Pat soil down firmly, and to keep good drainage and irrigation in mind, plant it in a slighly raised mound, and build a wall around it out further so as to catch water.

Mulch well with pinebark, sawdust, straw or even pine needles. You will prevent weeds, prevent evaporation and be creating natural organic matter over time. It also helps keep the soil cooler in summer. Water enough to prevent drying out, but not enough so as the plant is continuously saturated. This might be daily during hot weather to once a week in winter. An irrigation system on dripper or soaker hose would be handy.





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