Vegetable Gardening for Beginners: Growing Blueberries
What could be more luxurious than picking delicious blueberries from your own garden? Read this guide about gardening for beginners to find out more!
I have around 30 berry bushes in my garden, and blueberries are probably my favorite. The sweet taste mixed with just the right amount of tanginess is practically addictive! Some bushes in my garden were planted already when I got started in 2011. And there have been plenty of additions since of course! Right now, I have a bunch of future plants growing from cuttings in my polytunnel too. I just don't seem to get enough.
That's why I wanted to write a bit more about these delicious berries and introduce you to them as a part of my series about gardening for beginners. I grow in Climate Zone 3 in South of Sweden.
Q&A about blueberries
A while ago I shared a blueberry picture on Instagram (@skillnadens and @saraskitchengarden) and got plenty of questions about how I grow them at home. So, why not make a little Q&A?
Maja: How and where should I plant my blueberries?
Blueberries love the sun and need a warm and bright spot in your garden. The roots are shallow and you have to be careful so they don't dry out though. Cover the ground around your plants with woodchips or similar to keep the soil damp. Don't forget that blueberries grow in acidic soil. So make sure to plant your blueberries in unfertilized peat or rhododendron soil, never use regular soil. Regular soil just doesn't work.
Anna-Margrethe: I want to grow blueberry bushes that don't grow too large, do you have any tips?
I don't actually have any particular varieties on my mind right now, sadly. I lost the label for my favorite blueberry bush and I don't remember what it was called. This bush is great size-wise though, waist-high and produces lots of large berries. Research many different varieties online, you can usually find lots information about size and similar if you look around.
Lasse: My blueberries won't grow. What's wrong?
The blueberry bushes can take a while to actually get comfortable in their new spot, so you might have to wait before you see any results. You have a better chance succeeding if you put the blueberry plants in pure peat moss, unfertilized in a sunny spot which is also damp. I tried planting blueberries in regular soil too, but this just doesn't work. So, make sure to use peat or rhododendron soil. You get plenty of new growth if you just cut the entire bush when you plant it. Just like you would go about taking care of your perennials and hedge plants. It sounds a bit drastic, but this is actually the best way to get the root system to really develop in the new spot.
Yvette: How large are the plants, and do you prune yours?
There are plenty of varieties out there, and some are quite tall. They can even grow as large as 6-10 ft (around 2-3 meters) or taller and almost look tree-like. Most of these varieties look more like bushes though, unless you prune them relentlessly of course. I decided to prune my blueberry bushes around the same way I do my currants, which simply means removing some of the older branches every spring. I want my bushes to grow straight upwards too, so I also decided to prune the low-growing horizontal branches. A few bushes are growing in my polytunnel too, and the plan is to use a trellis for them.
Anne: How do you fertilize your bushes?
I don't fertilize at all. But I do add 1/3 bag of unfertilized peat moss or rhododendron soil underneath every plant. I'm planning on getting my mulching materials from the nearby forest instead of buying peat moss from the store as soon as my youngest child gets a little older.
Mia: When are the berries ripe? August?
It depends a bit on the variety. It also depends on where they grow and how the weather has been so far. My plants outside here in zone 3 start to get ready in mid-August. The blueberry bushes in my polytunnel develop berries a lot earlier though, even before the bushes outside develop flowers. These blueberries ripen already in June. You can read more about this particular variety here: My Duke blueberry plants.
Oskar: Why can't you just forage for berries? Are the homegrown ones different somehow?
The berries from the garden are generally a bit different from what you can find in the wild. The blueberries in the forest are small, with a strong flavor. My blueberries in the garden are very large though, and taste slightly different. I have to say that it's better to pick your blueberries in the garden, especially if you have small children. It's just easier and more convenient.
Remember to research the varieties you feel interested in, since they can be very different. I would grow a few varieties next to each other. This will make them cross-pollinate, which means that you get more blueberries in the end. I hope this guide to gardening for beginners helped!