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26 November 2015

How to grow blueberries

I forget when we bought our blueberry bushes, it must be at least eight years ago now. We planted them along the fence line that we then had in front of the garden to keep our Airedale girls away from the tomatoes (they picked their own) and the compost. The blueberries struggled in full sun for a few years and although we got the odd berry, I can't say they were a viable crop for us there.  When we took the fence down, I put the blueberry bushes into pots to wait until the following spring when I intended to replant them in another spot. Well, those bushes started growing in the pots and looked very healthy so I decided to replace the soil, add compost and mulch and see how they did in the pots full time.

If grandchildren or birds discover the berries they'll be picked as soon as they change colour but leaving them on the vine for as long as possible will improve the sweetness and taste.

In that first year they gave us a couple of cups of blueberries, the following year there were more and this year the bushes are full of berries. They're in full sun most of the day and partial shade after about 3pm. I keep them fertilised with comfrey, a sprinkling of potash in spring and they're watered with rain water about three times a week. Good water is critical for blueberries. They thrive on rainwater and don't do so well on tap water containing minerals. They don't like any manures but they love acidic soil - so if you're growing camellias, you're in the right area for blueberries. I give them the cold leftovers and grounds of the coffee pot occasionally to boost the acidity in the pots a bit.

Keep the berries close together to aid in pollination. There are two blueberry seedlings on the side as well as one avocado I'm growing from seed. Propagation by cutting is quite easy and a good way to increase your stock of blueberries quickly.


As I was watering the garden yesterday morning, I noticed that two of the bushes are now as tall as me. They can be pruned which you would do after they finish fruiting. I prune ours like I prune my roses - vase shape, open in the middle, prune out any branches that cross over each other and any branches that touch. You can cut back any shoots that grow too tall. Once they get to the stage where you're pruning, they take off and grow into strong bushes.


Blueberries come in many different varieties and can be grown in cold and warm climates. We have Biloxi and Sunshine Blue. Of those two, here, Biloxi is the better. Both Biloxi and Sunshine Blue can set fruit without pollination from another plant but fruit is increased if you provide a means of cross pollination. Check varieties and pollination requirements here at Daley's site. It's easy to propagate blueberries. I took six inch cuttings at the end of winter and they started growing new leaves in spring. Doing this you can develop a nice stand of blueberries, just make sure you have the right varieties for your climate and types that pollinate each other. If you're growing them in the ground, they must have good drainage. They like to be wetter rather than drier, especially in summer, and here, watering three times a week with rainwater seems to keep them happy. Otherwise their a hardy plant, easy to grow, despite what you may have heard, and definitely worthwhile addition to the back garden.

17 comments:

  1. Blue berries is on list of things I want to grow. But last year our raspberries got taken over by yellow jacket and didn't get a single berry.
    Some what scared to put in any type of fruits or berries. Figures the same thing will happen.
    Coffee is on

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  2. I have had a great deal of trouble growing blueberries here in California, they are currently struggling down in our pasture, roughly the same size as they were when I planted them three years ago! I think I may dig them up and pot them and see what happens! Thanks for the tip.

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  3. I love reading everything you post. I don't grow blueberries, and in truth probably never will. However, just seeing other women going about their daily duties and giving advice strengthens me. I'm truly thankful for all the knowledge you freely give. Today, I'm filled with peace as I think about you going to prune your blueberry bushes and how happy you must be to see they are really starting to take off!

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  4. We are blessed with lots of wild (low bush) blueberries. They thrive under the pine trees, with all the acidic soil. My sister grows domestic blueberries in big pots, and they seem to grow better in pots. Yours look wonderful.
    Barb from Canada

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  5. This is the second year we have had our blueberries, Rhonda and we have more fruit than last year. I wish they grew as quickly as your elderberry though. Thank goodness I planted that little cutting in a pot otherwise it would have taken over by now if it was in the ground :-)

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  6. I had to smile when I read about the girls eating your blueberries. I used to have one that would gently pick and eat blackberries, & now I have a pup that picks and eats cherry tomatoes. I've never tried propagating our blueberries. You've inspired me to give it a try next year.

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  7. Thanks for your post...I have one blueberry in a pot, a friend said to put pine needles on the top of the soil to help with the soil acidity so have been trying that.....looks like I need to try to get some more plants...we had loads of flowers this summer...no berries so far though. Thanks for your help.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, you need more than one bush. Some blueberries can self pollinate but even those that do, produce more berries when they're cross-pollinated.

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  8. Thank you for all the information. I have two blueberry bushes that I bought in Lidl two years ago that have never done very well. I will really give them some more time and effort after reading this.

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  9. Thanks Rhonda. Very useful information. I have one blueberry bush in a huge pot, about 3 years old and it has produced really well this year. I'm taking cuttings now I've read your advice and will keep my eyes open for a (hopefully reduced) second plant. I have been giving it some coffee grounds too and the odd top up with the camelia potting mix. Might collect some pine needles from our park too. Thank you again.

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  10. Happy to read they do well in buckets, I think I'll try them next year then. We don't collect rain water, but we do have acces to a dug well of the neighbors. Maybe too many minerals too then?

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  11. Hi Rhonda, thankyou for this post, very helpful info. A few months ago we planted two bushes from Daley's and they've already given us a couple of handfuls of delicious berries. We've planted two more today. Ours are in the ground, but we noticed the original two are looking a little burnt and some of the leaves are curled on one, so we wondered if they've been burnt by the winds we've been getting here lately (we're new to Bribie Island ex Boreen Point so getting used to the climate in this area). Do you think they're affected by winds?
    We'd also started using bore water on them as we were told the local borewater is great for vegies and fruit trees, but I noticed your comment about minerals in the water so possibly this is the problem. We'll go back to straight rainwater for them.
    I've only recently found your blog and love reading it, thankyou again.

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    Replies
    1. I think they'd be tolerant of wind but I think bore water contains minerals, possibly calcium, and that would harm the bushes.

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  12. Hi Rhonda, really interesting to read your blueberry post. I grow strawberries, mulberries and apricots but never have any luck with blueberries, they just die! I have two in at the moment that have survived 6 months and one or two berries developing on each - that's a record, I will phase try pots and see how they do.

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  13. g'day rhonda & hanno!
    i bought myself a blueberry from green harvest, only the one so far, it's so tiny! will purchase more later on, some great tips there, i only bought one cos someone said they won't grow here but it's hard to get anything to grow here, you really have to work the soil & the town water is also bore water. i am keen as i LOVE blueberries!
    great post as usual :))

    selina from kilkivan qld

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  14. Thanks for this post Rhonda, some great tips on growing blueberries, good information to get me started.

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  15. Perfect timing... my little blueberry bush is plodding along slowly but this has given me food for thought... and food for food! ;) Look forward to home grown blueberries nad raspberries!

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