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GROWING TIPS

Blueberries belong to the Azalea family and require similar growing conditions. The spineless shrubs can be either evergreen or deciduous, vary from I m to 3 m in height, and are long lived (at least 30 years). The fruit has a waxy bloom, borne in clusters on the end of branches, and ripens from early summer to autumn, depending on location and variety.

PREPARATION AND PLANTING

Soil must be acid (pH4.5-5.5), well drained, and have high organic matter (3% +). Clean cultivate, or weedicide, plant oats as a cover crop, and raise beds if necessary. Test soil and bring soil phosphorous up to medium levels.

  • Plant in full sun.

  • Planting distances for larger varieties would be I .2m between plants and 3-4m between rows.

  • When planting tease out roots and plant no deeper than the nursery level.

  • Mulch using sawdust or straw.

  • Great for growing in a pot.

CULTURE

  • Remove flowers in the first years to encourage growth. Irrigation is necessary particularly in summer, with plenty of high quality water. Fertilise as for Azalea (nitrogen is best absorbed as the ammonium ion, phosphorous usually needs to be applied, and shortages of magnesium, copper and iron are common). Never ever use any kind of manure on blueberry plants.

  • Use copper sprays at 50% leaf fall, mid-winter and budburst for fungal diseases. Net to exclude birds.  Prune out weak diseased wood, keep centres open and flowering spikes may need shortening.

  • Delay picking until fruit is sweet. A blue berry is not necessarily a ripe berry, and ripening is uneven through the cluster. An adult bush should provide between 4kg and I0kg depending on culture and variety.

  • Never ever use manure
     

USES

Blueberries can be used fresh and do store and freeze well. They can be dried, used for jams, pies, sauces, muffins, bread, pancakes, cakes, tarts, ice cream, juice, salads, yoghurt, and wine. Click here to see recipe ideas

Here is the full spiel
 

“The American Indians, living in areas where blueberries grew wild, would dry them for eating in the winter and for treating upset stomach problems. More recently blueberries have been found to reduce the insulin requirements of diabetics and to help control urinary tract infections. The bilberry, a European relative of the American cultivated blueberry, has improved night vision and has retarded ocular degeneration. 

The most exciting find in the fifty years I have been associated with blueberries came from the US Department of Agriculture in 1997. Blueberries were found to have the highest level of antioxidant of any fruit or vegetable tested. Antioxidants combat free radicals in the body. These free radicals come from smoking, air pollution, and the products of normal use of oxygen during respiration. Excess free radicals in the body are thought to cause most of the disorders associated with aging. 

Following is a partial list of the changes and disorders of aging that are brought about by damage from free radicals:

  • Conversion of desirable HDL cholesterol to the undesirable LDL cholesterol that causes heart and artery problems.
  • Collagen damage causing skin wrinkles, varicose veins and arthritis
  • Oxidative damage to DNA genetic material causing cancer.

The US Department of Agriculture studies went on to see if blueberries would cause a recovery from damage from free radicals of oxygen. Blueberries were found to be very effective. The antioxidant activity in blueberries is not reduced by freezing, the US Department of Agriculture concluded. Eating cup of blueberries daily will provide a large part of the antioxidant activity required to maintain health and delay aging. Who would have ever thought this delicious little blue fruit would have so much health benefit”. 

Article by Professor Mike Mainland in the New Jersey Bulletin.
 

GROWING TIPS

Blueberries belong to the Azalea family and require similar growing conditions. The spineless shrubs can be either evergreen or deciduous, vary from 1m to 3m in height, and are long lived (30 years). The fruit has a waxy bloom, is borne in clusters on the ends of the branches, and ripens from early summer to autumn, depending on location and variety.

PREPARATION AND PLANTING

  • Soil must be acid (pH4.5-5.5), well drained, and have high organic matter (3%+). Clean cultivate, or weedicide, and raise beds if necessary. Test soil and bring soil phosphorus up to medium levels.
  • Plant in full sun – or half day sun if in Perth.
  • Planting distances for larger varieties would be 1-2m between plants and 3-4m between rows. When planting, tease out roots and plant no deeper than the nursery level. Mulch using sawdust or straw.

CULTURE

  • Remove flowers in the first years to encourage growth.
  • Irrigation is necessary particularly in summer, with plenty of high quality water.
  • Fertilize as for Azalea (nitrogen is best absorbed as the ammonium ion, phosphorus usually needs to be applied, and shortages of magnesium, copper and iron are common).
  • Net to exclude birds. Prune out weak diseased wood, keep centres open, and flower spikes may need shortening.
  • Delay picking until fruit is sweet. A blue berry is not necessarily a ripe berry, and ripening is uneven though the cluster. An adult bush should provide between 4kg and 10kg depending on culture and variety.

FERTILIZER

  • Two parts of Sulphate of Ammonia
  • Two parts of Super Phosphate
  • One part of Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom salts)
  • One Sulphate of Potash
  • Bit of Potassium Nitrate

Or, do it the easy way -  azalea fertilizer
Mulch with pine needles