Apr 18 2022 Kevin Keane

Growing Blueberries & Pest Prevention

Tuesday 19th April 2022

 This week’s topics;

  • Growing Blueberries - what’s needed and some handy tips
  • Pest prevention - prevention is better than cure - some bits and bobs that come in handy to keep pests at bay

 We all know and love the taste of homegrown fruit & veg - it’s hard to beat for flavour and very satisfying to grow and blueberries are no different, packed full of flavour, high in vitamin c and antioxidants and are considered a superfood. You’ll be glad to know these are an easy fruit to grow and the shrub itself is very ornamental with beautiful bell shaped flowers and a great Autumn colour - well worth growing even if you don’t like blueberries.

They have one main requirement, that is that they are grown in acidic soil, or soil with a low pH level - if your own garden soil has a pH at least as low as pH 5.5 you’re good to go - if not - if you have alkaline or limey soil not to worry, you can easily grow them in a pot or container using ericaceous compost and giving them an ericaceous feed once or twice a year. Ericaceous compost and fertilizer is readily available in all good garden centres, and if you want you can test the pH of your soil with some handy pH testers. If you have a water butt or barrel you can water them with rain water rather than tap water - not essential - but our tap water can be somewhat alkaline whereas rainwater is of a lower pH level. Blueberries will be quite happy in containers with the right compost and best to locate them in a sunny sheltered spot to get the best yield - most varieties will be happy in a medium to large size pot and blueberries are self fertile meaning you don’t need a second plant or a pollinating partner, however, if you do plant a second plant of a different variety you will get an increased yield or a bigger crop - so definitely worth considering growing a few plants if you have a few mouths to feed. 

Blueberries are a hardy shrub, so good to be left outside all year. They'll flower in Spring and you’ll be harvesting the berries in late Summer or early Autumn depending on variety.

Plants are best protected from birds as the fruits start to ripen by using some plant protection netting - stretch some netting tightly above the plants to keep the birds away. Any pruning in the first couple of years is just to keep a nice open centre, cutting out any crossing branches. You can also cut out any dead, diseased or damaged branches and any branches that are too low or touching the ground. You can cut back one in every four old stems down to the base to promote new growth and keep the plant producing berries.Pruning is best done in winter when the plants are dormant. Once the fruit matures from green to a nice blue they are good to harvest, you’ll need to pick the fruit on a few occasions as not all the berries will ripen at the same time. 

These delicious fruit will freeze quite well and can be cooked or eaten fresh - lots of recipes to use up your crop - from smoothies to cakes, muffins, on top of cereal or porridge - if you want you can send any blueberry muffins to me for a free tasting service - available all year round…..

Some varieties to lookout for are Vaccinium Bluecrop and Brigitta Blue or Goldtraub - all good, reliable and easy to grow

 

Prevention is better than cure…

 

Helping our plants to avoid pests and diseases is better than putting lots of effort into treating problems once they’ve occurred - we’ll always have a few problems to deal with, but we can somewhat limit them by a few preventative methods -

The most important is to ensure the plants are in the right place if they like a sheltered spot or a shady area or if they are happy in windy or coastal areas. If we do our best to give them the best growing conditions we can start off on the right foot. Plants, no more than ourselves, will be most productive if they are well fed and watered - and plants that are strong and healthy are a lot better able to defend themselves from pests or diseases - so keep your plants well fed - feed according to their preferred amount and type of feed. Osmo range of organic based feeds are second to none & I’d highly recommend them

Caterpillars and birds can cause damage to fruit and veg plants but some plant protection netting can be of great benefit to keep these visitors away from your crops - make sure you put the netting up in good time and have it raised above your plants.

Garden fleece can be handy to protect plants from any late frosts - giving plants that little bit of extra shelter from frost - this can be useful inside polytunnels and greenhouses and also outside for any tender plants.

Grazers are a range of preventive products - especially good to prevent damage from rabbits & deer - and they also do a range of slug defence and caterpillar products - grazers are very eco conscious - their products don’t harm or kill any animals - they help plants help themselves.

Copper tape is a great slug preventive - you can place it around your pots and containers - it has a slight electric charge that slugs don’t like to cross over and some have a serrated edge - a great preventative method to keep slugs from damaging your plants