Cultivated Blueberries are cultivars of the North American blueberry. There are native edible European blueberries, or Bilberries, or Whortleberries, which you may find growing wild in damp, acidic soils, particularly in upland areas of the UK. In Scotland, these are called “Blaeberries”.
Health Benefits. Contain vitamin C and anthocyanins.
Both types of Blueberries require an acid soil, apparently it should be of a pH less than 5.5. You can test the acidity of your soil with a simple test bought from a Garden Centre. If your ground is not naturally acidic, then you could grow them in a large container filled with ericaceous (suitable for lime hating plants), compost. However, you will have to ensure that the containers never dry out. You can increase the acidity of the soil if necessary by lightly sprinkling ammonium sulphate on the soil. Whatever you do, remember never to add lime or plant them where lime may leach into the ground. Try to provide a moist and sunny position. There are compact varieties, up to 60 cm high, which are suitable for growing in a container. In addition, there are large varieties of “highbush” Blueberry, which eventually with the right conditions may reach 1.5 m high. The most widely available and cheap variety seems to be “Bluecrop”, a tall variety. Fruit catalogues usually recommend a spacing of up to 1.5 m between plants, which seems a bit excessive judging by the growth so far of my Blueberries after several years. Most blueberries are self-fertile but the usual recommendation is to plant two different varieties to improve fertilisation of the fruit. Remember to make sure that there is no chance of lime contaminated water, leaching into your Blueberry bed.
Fertilisers must be of the “ericaceous” type, such as are suitable for heaths and heathers.
Pests and diseases. It is essential to net the plants against the birds if you want to harvest any fruit! If you have problems with wasps, immediately pick any fruits that have turned blue and are almost ripe. If you put the fruit in a sunny window, you can ripen them further until they are really sweet and the flesh goes dark mauve, as shown on the RHS berry.
Pruning. There is not much pruning required in the early years but obviously cut out any damaged or dying branches. After a few years, it may be necessary to cut out wood which has stopped fruiting to encourage new fruiting growths.
Best used fresh in pies, muffins, or curiously coloured ice cream.
They are best stored frozen.
Tall Varieties of Blueberries.
Chandler. Heavy cropping with huge 18mm berries with sweet taste and slight tang.
Toro. Large crop of smaller sweet berries with a slight tang.
Spartan. Medium yield of large, good tasting fruits.
Ozark Blue. A large crop of 17mm berries with a sweet and slightly acidic taste.
Bluecrop. This is a tall, up to 1.2 to 1.5 m high, upright variety, readily available. It has large, tasty, light blue berries ripening in August and September in the North.
Earliblue. This variety has best tasting small berries with a small crop.
Dwarf Varieties of Blueberries suitable for container growing.
Sunshine Blue. This is claimed to be the most suitable and reliable variety for small gardens and containers. It grows to about 1 m x 1 m, with heavy crops of medium berries of good flavour.