It’s not just kids who are wild about berries. Blueberries in particular have achieved cult status among the health conscious – thanks to their antioxidants and reputed cancer-fighting properties.
Fresh berries can be pricy because of their brief shelf life, but it’s not difficult to grow blackberries, raspberries and blueberries at home. Blackberries and raspberries are both members of the blackberry family (Rubus spp.), while blueberries belong to the Ericaceae family. Berry bushes fare well just about everywhere, but most varieties need cold winters to fruit well.
- The best time to plant is in winter when the shrubs are dormant, but a small plant from a nursery can be planted at any time of the year.
- Plant in well-drained loamy or sandy soil that’s rich in organic matter.
- Establish the plants where they’ll receive sunlight for most of the day.
- Blackberries can grow fairly large, so plant them three metres apart.
- Alternatively, plant them against a wire fence or a wall to save space.
- Blackberries and raspberries prefer a pH of 6.3, while acidic soil (pH 4 to 5) is essential for blueberries.
- Blueberries can be successfully cultivated in pots, otherwise plant them 1.5 to 2m apart in beds.
- While a single blueberry bush will bear fruit, it’s better to plant two or more cultivars to encourage cross-pollination.
- A good mulch layer around the bushes will help keep the soil moist and weeds under control.
- Feed shrubs once in spring with a fertiliser such as 3:1:5 and repeat this once in summer to encourage the next season’s budding.
- Berries are usually ready to harvest from November to late January, depending on the variety.
- Their fridge life is brief, ranging from 3 to 7 days, so pick for immediate eating.
- Fortunately, berries freeze well. Wash them carefully, then gently pat them dry with paper towels. Spread them on a plastic or oven tray, freeze them, and then transfer them to a sturdy plastic bag and return to the freezer – they’ll keep for up to a year! Add a little lemon juice to raspberries to retain their colour.
Pests And Diseases
It’s usually not necessary to spray at home but crickets, bollworms and stinkbugs can be a nuisance, as can downy mildew and black rust. Stem borers, leaf rollers, mites and scale can attack blueberries.
Text and image: Home