Blueberry “Glamour Crop”
The Blueberry has proved to be a ‘Glamour Crop’ in Europe, the United States of America and the Middle East. Few West Australians have tasted fresh Blueberries. They make a wonderful ingredient of Pies, Muffins, Icecream and Yoghurt. The fruit can be eaten fresh or frozen for future use. Blueberries make a delightful jam.’
New varieties that favour warmer climates have recently become available and this has extended the growing areas so that people in Perth can now grow the Blueberry.
The commercial potential looks excellent, Australian Growers have the opportunity of not only supplying the local market with this exciting fruit but also exporting to Northern Hemisphere countries in the ‘off season’. There is a seven million dollar growing venture set to go at Bullsbrook in Western Australia.
The Home Garden Prospects
Blueberries make a wonderful addition to the home garden, they are easy to grow and are very ornamental with their pretty ‘Lilly of the Valley’ like blooms through Spring and early Summer. These are followed by the berries which start out a green colour and mature to a deep purple, black. The foliage colours up vividly during the Autumn with dashes of Red, Orange and Purple before going into its deciduous phase. The plant makes an attractive shrub for the garden and unlike a lot of other berry shrubs does not sucker up all over the garden. It is easy to care for and doesn’t overtake the garden, only growing to about 2 metres in height.
Planting Distance: 1 metre to 1.5 metres
Bearing Age: 3 to 4 years
Life Expectancy: Indefinite
Height: At maturity – unpruned 2.5 metres, pruned 2 metres
Spread: 2.5 metres
How to grow Blueberries at home
The major requirement is that the crop has an acid soil, this can be achieved by adding copious quantities of· local compeat or Organic to sandy soils. Although Blueberries will crow in the full sun they can be planted in a position that will receive light shade in the afternoon and they will still succeed.
One of the great secrets of success for shrubs like these, with fairly shallow roots, is a thick mulch of organic material such as well rotted animal manure or matured lawn clippings. Watering is critical during the summer months as Blueberries must be kept moist. It is important to keep the plants moving with regular applications of Nurserymens General Purpose garden fertilizer. Ideally they should be fed every 6 to 7 weeks through the growing season which extends from September to May.
It is very important to plant two different varieties of Blueberry to achieve best pollination. Single plants will not produce a reliable crop.
It is recommended that in the first three years the plants be stripped of flowers and fruit in order to maximise growth. After the third year you should commence in the middle of winter to remove old, unthrifty canes to promote new flowering growth in the spring.
Plants will reach full production in 6 to 10 years. Berries ripen over a period of 7 weeks, not all berries within
a cluster will ripen at the same time. Select only the ripe berries and leave the otters to ripen for later picking. Ripe berries will hold on a bush for about a week without deteriorating or dropping. Berries are very tender so handle them carefully. Blueberries can be successfully frozen.