Harvesting homegrown, sweet blueberries is a delight in summer. These dark little berries are rich in antioxidants and incredibly good for you, whether you choose to eat them straight from the bush or add to healthy breakfasts or dishes, they are delicious - nothing beats the taste of fresh, homegrown fruit.
Blueberry plants are easy to grow and the foliage in autumn provides an interesting splash of colour in the garden border or in a pot. Plants reach around 1 metre high and are therefore perfect for smaller gardens.
Position: Full sun to light shade
Soil: An acid pH is essential. Prefers well-drained soil of any type except heavy clay
Harvest: July to September
Hardiness: Hardy 7 tender varieties available
Blueberry plants can be grown in a bed or pot at any time of the year, as long as the soil is not frozen. Pot grown shrubs are easier to bring undercover in winter for protection from harsh weather and cold temperatures.
These acid-loving shrubs require a soil pH level between 4 and 5.5. This can be monitored using a meter or soil-testing kit.
Blueberries perform best when grown together with several other varieties 1.5m apart, which greatly aids pollination and will prolong the picking season.
Whether you are growing plants in a pot, border or bed, blueberries need a sunny spot to thrive - they can tolerate a little shade, but the best fruit and autumn colours are gained by growing in a sun-baked area.
Blueberries are happiest grown in light sandy or chalky soil types. If you garden on heavy clay, the best option would be to grow your plants in pots rather than in the ground.
If you choose to grow your plant in a pot, choose a container with holes in the bottom which is at least 30cm deep and wide. Add a few crocks to the base of the pot for drainage, then a thick layer of ericaceous compost.
Gently tease your young shrub from its pot, loosening the roots to encourage growth and place in your container.
Fill in around the edges with more ericaceous compost, firm the plant in and water generously with rainwater.
Do not add rich material such as manure. As your plant grows and fills the pot, it can be re-potted every few years.
Pair with Spring flowering Ranunculus for a truly vibrant Easter display. Plant on masse interspersed with evergreens that need a little colour boost to show off their unique topiary shapes. Ranunulcus would work well in a mixed planter on the patio or in the border where their zesty colours really pop.
Dianthus are evergreen perennials with a clump forming habit, available in a range of heights and spreads depending on which variety they choose. The Dianthus should be just ramping up by the time your Freesia. Dianthus would work well with Freesias as part of a mixed planter or border.
Pulmonaria are beautiful gentle little additions to the border, they never fail to bring a smile. The ease into any open gaps and are a magnet for early rising bees. Pulmonarias typically come in shades of blue and white and flower when all the other plants in your garden are just thinking about waking up.
Pruning is not required until your plants are 2-3 years old and should always be carried out in early spring. Firstly, prune out any damaged, dead, or weak stems, then prune around a quarter of the stems back to the base of the plants. Choose older, faded-grey stems to trim away as these will be the least productive. Any shoots being sent out horizontally by the plant can also be removed.
You can expect your plants to bear fruit in the first year, even a small crop is joyful to pick and eat. Yields will increase year on year. From midsummer, the fruits will begin to ripen. Pick darker berries first and leave the harder green berries to continue ripening on the bush until ready to harvest.
Blueberries like their soil to be kept moist but not soggy so try to avoid it drying out between watering, but ensure drainage is good. Water with rainwater as tap water will raise the pH level too much due to its lime content.
If your blueberry plants are being grown in a pot, feed once or twice a month with liquid ericaceous feed. Dilute and water the feed onto the soil according to directions on the bottle.
If your blueberry plant is a tender variety, then it will require winter protection and ideally moved into an unheated greenhouse if it is pot grown for the coldest months. Plants grown in the ground can be protected with horticultural fleece if particularly low temperatures are expected, especially when the flowers are forming in spring.
Protect your plants with netting or a fruit cage if birds become a problem for your ripening blueberries.
oftwood cuttings can be taken in early summer. Remove a cutting 10-15cm long with a sharp knife, ensuring you take a piece of the woody stem (heel) with it. Remove the lower leaves and the tip if it is soft.
Dip the end into hormone rooting powder or gel and insert it into a pot of peat-free compost with plenty of added grit and sand. Water the pot and place it in a shaded spot in your greenhouse or cold frame to take root.
Mist cuttings regularly to keep them moist until they have rooted, which should be by autumn. The cuttings can be potted on into a larger pot until you are ready to plant it out.
Hardwood cuttings can be taken by removing healthy shoots known as whips in late winter which are cut into 10-15cm lengths. Pot up each cutting in the same way as softwood cuttings and place in a bright sheltered spot such as a greenhouse to take root and grow on.
It should take Freesia bulbs 2-3 weeks to germinate, sometimes a little longer if they are too cold.
For growing Freesias indoors, corms can be planted between August and December to flower January- April. Alternatively, you can plant your corms in October to flower in March for roughly four weeks, sometimes a little longer if they are kept cool and well-watered. Compost should be a mix of 1 part sand, 1 part grit and 2 parts compost for best results.
Freesias can sometimes be a little tricky to get going. They typically require a cool period of 5®C for 3 to 4 weeks in a frost-free spot to break their dormancy. After that, it is best to keep them in a cool greenhouse for the winter where temperatures should average between 10®C and 15®C.
Try to give them as much light as possible to ensure the leaves and flower stalks do not become soft and spindly. Compost should be a mix of 1 part sand, 1 part grit and 2 parts compost for best results. .
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