GROWING BLUEBERRIES ON THE MID NORTH COAST

Delicious and versatile – they’re just two of the reasons why blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum and Hybrids) are among the most popular fruits to grow in home gardens. 

You can grow them in an orchard, veggie bed or garden bed – dwarf varieties will even grow happily in a large container. Blueberries grow across many climates, which means there’s a variety suitable for most. 

GROWING NEEDS

When it comes to soil, blueberries prefer acidic conditions. In alkaline soils, grow blueberries in containers filled with a potting mix formulated for acid-loving plants (Searles Gardenia, Camellia and Azalea Potting & Planting Mix is ideal). If you’d rather plant in a garden bed, soil pH can also be lowered with the addition of acidifying products such as sulphur. However, if you’re insure of your soil pH drop into the nursery and we can test this for you. 

Blueberries also need very well-drained soil. In heavy, clay-based soils, grow blueberries in raised beds or containers. While these plants tolerate partial shade, full sun produces the best crops. Keep plants sheltered from cold winds and well-watered, especially during hot, dry or windy conditions and when fruit is forming.

Blueberries don’t need lots of fertiliser. Fertilise in spring using an azalea and camellia plant food and keep the area around each plant well mulched with organic mulch. This will help to keep the soil moist and cool.

Pruning isn’t a big issue for these plants either. Young blueberries are pruned to shape bushes, while older plants are pruned in winter to encourage new growth by removing any old, dead or spindly growth.

FLOWERS AND FRUIT

Depending on the variety and climate, blueberries can flower and fruit from late winter through to early summer, so grow several varieties to enjoy a long harvest. 

Most varieties are self-fertile, but will produce better with other blueberries growing nearby. They do, however, need protection against birds which might steal fruit before you get a chance to harvest it. Use bird-safe netting stretched tautly to avoid ensnaring birds or reptiles in the covering.

Blueberries have few other problems, although they can be attacked by fruit fly in fruit fly-prone areas. Protect crops using organic fruit fly baits. Blueberry rust, a disease recently introduced into Australia, can also pose a problem. Treat with a fungicide and avoid overhead watering.

While some blueberries ripen all at once, most home garden varieties crop over many months. Pick berries when they are fully-coloured and sweet. Leave berries that are tart, poorly coloured (still green or pink tinged) or firm on the bush to fully ripen.

Blueberries can be eaten fresh, added to cooking, or frozen to use later (that is if they last that long!).

VARIETY GUIDE

There are many varieties of blueberries on the market, and they vary in a number of ways. Fruiting time, necessity for winter chilling (low winter temperatures) and the size and colour of fruit can differ wildly from variety to variety. While some blueberries tend to grow quite large, there are also several naturally-dwarf varieties available which are ideal for home gardens – especially in small spaces, containers, raised garden beds or to grow as a low hedge around a vegetable garden.

Varieties suitable for the local area include:

VarietyDimensionsFruiting periodComments
Brightwell2 x 2mDec-FebSuited to hotter areas. Vigorous grower and heavy yielder.
Sunshine Blue1 x 1mOct-DecMore tolerant than other blueberries of alkaline conditions and needs little pruning. Suited to small spaces or pots.
Tiff Blue1.2 x 1.2mNov-JanOften described as one of the better flavoured varieties. Bushy upright growth. Higher water demand.

The nursery stocks all of these varieties for $12.95. All are grown on site so are acclimatised and ready to grow!

Caitlin

Wingham Nursery & Florist

02 65534570

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