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Blueberries - Preparing for Harvest
Last Updated: 11/12/2020
Late Spring is one of the most exciting times in the blueberry grower's calendar.
Not only are our bushes in full flower, we can see the bees working way to pollinate the flowers and converting them to tiny fruitlets as the flowers themselves drop off.
This excitement then turns to anticipation as we watch the tiny berries swell and become round, changing colour from green to pink and finally, blue and ready to pick!
What should we be doing to keep our plants safe from predators and growing healthily?
Blueberry plants have very fine root hairs and so do not appreciate over feeding. Its probably one of the most common causes for a blueberry plant to die. Fine tuning that some more, adding manure to a blueberry is the absolute cardinal sin. My analogy of this is suggesting that you jump into a bath of battery acid. Not nice, is it!
Assuming that you've planted your blueberry plants in the ground (we'll cover pots in a mo!), in lovely ericaceous soil, hopefully you will have given them a nice mulch of rotted woodchips or bark or pine needles as well. All you need to do is sprinkle a tablespoon of a slow release ericaceous fertiliser around the root zone and you're done for the year. We recommend a slow release ericaceous fertiliser for best results.
If you're growing blueberries in tubs, then you can go straight in and feed in the same way, but you may want to check that your tub hasnt been filled with roots. If it has, pot it on to a larger size or you'll spend all day watering!
Each year is different, but if you have a dry spell, make sure your blueberry isn't suffering from thirst. They dont want to be kept soaking wet by any means, but at the same time, dont let them dry out. This will give you tiny fruit that will probably drop off. Just give them a good soaking when they need it. In a pot, lift the pot up and if it feels light in weight, thats a good indication of thirst.
The common misconception is that blueberries must ONLY be watered with rain water. Thankfully, that's bunkum! In a drought situation, they would rather have any water than none at all. If your water butt is empty, then just use tap water. It'll keep the plant alive until rain comes (with its higher acidity) to restore the balance.
Our biggest reason for reduced yields in our plantations is birds. They are voracious, especially in early season, just when you've built your anticipation to fever pitch. You've watched your berries turn pink, thought "I'll pick them tomorrow" and in the morning, GONE!
The only way to defend against this is to net them out, making sure you seal every gap against blackbirds and thrushes. You can build your own wooden frame to keep the net off the bushes themselves or you can buy a rectangular frame from a garden centre. You will need to keep the netting in place from the time that the berries first start showing signs of ripening until they have been harvested.