THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON ATTAINABLE SUSTAINABLE.
March is one of my favorite months. Plants are shaking off their winter sleepiness and the first leaf and flower buds are starting to swell.
My marker for the start of the gardening year, along with the patches of welcome sunshine, is new growth on my blueberries. They’re one of the first plants that I learned to grow, and I’ve stuck with them year after year.
I want to share some practical steps to growing high-yielding blueberries in containers. Whether you’re gardening on a patio, rooftop, or balcony, following these universal tips will mean that you to have healthy, bountiful plants year after year.
Blueberries are ideal for growing in pots.
First off, blueberries are acid-loving plants and it’s easier to monitor that in a pot. Second, they’re low maintenance! A little bit of feeding, pruning and protection from birds is all they want. I always advocate perennials because there’s no need to replace potting mix every year, not to mention sow new seeds.
Growing blueberries is a great way to produce some of your own fruit. They’re great in containers and urban gardens.
Finally, they’re pretty! Usually gardeners have two choices: Either a plant looks good or it provides an edible crop. It’s a frustrating trade-off but one that we have to live with. Blueberries, however, are both edible and ornamental. They have lovely white flowers and attractive red and orange autumn foliage. Even the blueberries don’t look half bad!
Care and maintenance
Along with their cousin bilberries (that grow wild on the peat moorland near where I live), blueberries like boggy soil. It’s difficult to overwater them and important that you don’t let them dry out over the summer months. Keep the soil moist but not soaking. They’ll do best in a spot with as much sunlight as possible.
Soil should be kept at a pH of 5.5 or lower when growing blueberries. Investing in a simple pH meter will allow you keep an eye on the level. Sulfur chips can always be added to increase the acidity of potting soil. Similarly, use rainwater (as opposed to alkaline tap water) whenever possible. If you only have access to tap water, you can mix in a little vinegar (about half a cup for one gallon is a good rule of thumb).
During the main growth period (from about April onwards in most places), feed monthly or bi-monthly with an acidic fertilizer. Repot plants with an acidic compost every couple of years. They’re not hungry plants so don’t overdo it with the feeding! An alternative, if you’re after the no-fuss option, is to mix in some slow release fertilizer at the start of the season.
Whilst self-pollinating to an extent, blueberries will produce bigger, more abundant berries if cross-pollinated by a different variety. It takes two to make a blueberry pie! Growing two cultivars, with similar blooming times, is one of the best things you can do. Different varieties bloom at different times and you want flowering to occur within a similar time window. This chart from Fall Creek Nursery (who specialize in growing blueberries) is a useful tool for choosing varieties.
Because blueberries are keen on moisture, it’s beneficial to add some water-retaining materials to your potting mix. Vermiculite is a good option, as are both peat and coir.