Like most fruits, blueberries can cope with a bit of shade, but do best when they have full sun all day. We’ve planted our blueberries in the ground at Booyong – apparently, they thrive in a pot. According to Australian Blueberries blueberries need soil with an acidic pH: ideally between 4.0 and 5.0. How do you lower the pH of your soil? Add aluminium sulphate of sulphur– it creates acidity in the soil instantly as soon as it dissolves. They also prefer moist soil that is free-draining and has lots of organic matter. At Booyong our soil is heavy clay, so we need to add plenty of good quality compost or peat moss. Azalea potting mix is also perfect for them. They also love coffee grounds (1-part coffee to 10 parts soil), chicken manure and pine needles. Blueberry plants have a shallow and fibrous root system and need require regular watering throughout the growing season. Apply a 10cm thick layer of mulch over the soil around the new bush but make sure you keep the mulch at least 4-5cm away from the plant stem (top dress with mulch each spring). When they are growing and fruiting, water 3 times per week, ensuring that the plants are not sitting in water and remember the soil needs to be free-draining.
Flowers only form on new growth and while fruiting it doesn’t hurt to feed every couple of weeks with seasol or liquid fish. When the blueberry plant matures after 5-6 years and after fruiting (early spring) cut back 1/3 of that year’s growth and cut any inward facing branches to promote healthy circulation.
A single blueberry bush can produce 4-7kg of fruit in a season. The fruiting season is July-April, with peak production from November to January. Blueberries are so good for you, have plenty of fibre, virtually no fat, loads of vitamins A, C and K , are high in antioxidants, and contain calcium, potassium and zinc.
The roots of blueberry bushes do not extend far into the soil so all companion plants should be planted outside of your blueberry’s root zone. Blueberries can be planted alongside raspberries, rhubarb or cranberries they can also be companion planted with radishes, potatoes, peppers or endive, thyme, basil or parsley. Flowering herbs chosen will also assist with pollination.
Freshly picked blueberries are delicious, at Booyong there will be a limited amount that make it into the kitchen. The fruit is delicate and needs careful handling and the fruit doesn’t ripe at the same time, so the bush will be visited regularly throughout the fruiting season and they have a short shelf life and are labour intensive to pick, therefor expensive to buy.
According to Jackie French, blueberries grow well surrounded by native plants, especially fruit bearing ones like the lilly pilly. Native birds and possums find them a worthy and delicious snack so we will ensure we net the fruiting plant. This will hopefully deter the birds from eating the blue berries, only time will tell and we will definitely keep you informed.