Blueberries look good, taste good and are good for you so really it’s all good! The berries are high in anti-oxidants, nutrients and dietary fibre and are popular for fresh eating and creating culinary delights. There are two types of Blueberry grown in NZ – ‘Highbush’ which is deciduous and ‘Rabbit-Eye’ which is evergreen. They require similar growing conditions but ‘Southern Highbush’ and ‘Rabbit Eye’ varieties are more suitable for the warmer areas of NZ. Blueberries will grow best with another Blueberry planted close by for cross pollination. They are slow growing and long-lived and are usually pollinated by the Bumble Bee.
Situation – Morning sun in warmer areas otherwise full sun. Blueberries like a nice cold winter.
Soil – Blueberries demand an acid soil. They do not like clay. If you don’t think your soil is acid enough then you may need to incorporate some acidic potting mix or bark when planting. Mixing Sulphur in to the planting hole will also make the soil more acidic – follow the quantity guidelines carefully. As Blueberries are slow growing they are suitable for container growing and this is an easy way to ensure they are growing in the correct acidic conditions.
Water – A consistent supply of water is best especially when the berries are developing. Do not allow the plants to completely dry out in summer – especially important if container grown.
Feeding – As long as the soil conditions are right a layer of mulch or compost applied regularly should be all they need.
Cultivation – Take care when weeding as Blueberries have roots close to the surface. It is probably best to hand-weed. Do not use weed spray close to the plants.
Pruning – Blueberries fruit on the tips of the previous year’s growth. This is often described as ‘1 year wood’ i.e. established vigorous branches will put on new growth each year as this is where the fruit will develop. As your Blueberry bush matures remove any thin or straggly branches and cut out old tired branches keeping the bush open and not too crowded. Any pruning should be done in winter on a warm dry day.
Harvesting – Depending on the cultivar harvesting will begin in November and go through to summer. The full flavour develops several days after the berries turn blue, they do not store particularly well so gobble them up quickly or pop some in the freezer. Don’t wash the Blueberries before freezing as this will remove the protective ‘bloom’ on the skin and make them tough.
Wairere Nursery 826 Gordonton Road, R D 1, Hamilton Ph: (07) 824 3430 Email: Open 7 days 8:30am-5pm