Blueberries

Growing Blueberries in Sydney, Australia

I have always had great success with growing blueberries in Sydney. I’ve never had to net, spray or give them any type of protection, and considering the price of organic blueberries, they rate as a very profitable crop. I yielded over a kilo last year with 6 immature plants.

Blueberries at different stages of ripening

There are a few tricks to keep in mind, and some varieties are more successful than others.

1. Blueberries love moisture, and can never be allowed to dry out.
Blueberries natively grow in boggy soils. Although they won’t thrive with their roots completely saturated, I have killed two well-established blueberry plants by letting them dry out completely. One hot day with inadequate water can kill a plant, and it’s particularly heartbreaking when they are loaded with fruit. For this reason I grow them in self-watering pots. This way you can get away with watering twice a week or so, unless it’s particularly hot or windy. A bigger self-watering pot is better, because the water reservoir is larger.
I have also put a plant into the ground in an area with poor drainage. It seems to be doing OK, despite being surrounded with concrete paths, which should skew the pH towards alkaline (ie not ideal).

2. Grow in Acidic potting mix
Blueberries love a slightly acidic soil, so they thrive on Azalea/Camellia/Gardenia potting mix.

3. Fertilise regularly with pelletised chicken manure (Dynamic Lifter)
I scatter dynamic lifter around the root zone every 2 months or so.

4. Mulch well
I mulch deeply with either lucerne or sugar cane mulch. This is particularly important in summer when the plants are prone to drying out.

5. Thin fruit for bigger blueberries
The more fruit you allow the plant to carry, the smaller each berry will be, and the more susceptible the plant will be to heat stress. It may seem difficult, but thinning fruit just after they have set is beneficial, and if you thin slightly, you won’t actually get less fruit as a result – the berries will just be bigger.

6. You (may) need to net the plant
I have never had a bird take a single blueberry, but you might have crafty birds around your parts, and the bird will take the blueberry once it has turned blue, but before it’s sweet enough to eat. Infuriating! I’d recommend the wait and see approach – you might be lucky.

7. Don’t pick the berries as soon as they turn blue/purple.
Once the blueberry has changed colour it still needs a while longer to sweeten up. The colour of the berry where the stalk connects is the key – if it is deep blue there, the berry is ripe. if it is lighter than the rest of the blueberry, then it needs a bit longer.

8. Grow more than one plant, and (even better) more than one variety.
Cross pollination is important for some varieties of blueberries. I have never had a pollination problem with 2 plants, but I got more fruit when I increased my plant numbers. Another benefit of growing several varieties is that you get a longer season, because they crop at different times.

Comparison of Blueberry Varieties

Nellie Kelly (Sunshine Blue)

Blueberry-bushes

This is the original ‘Bunnings Blueberry’ and the one that got me started. This variety is a lovely dense plant with delicate pink flowers in winter-spring. ┬áIt crops heavily at the expense of fruit size, so benefits greaty from thinning fruit. It is more sensitive that other varieties to heat and drying out, so would be a great specimen for planting out. Would make a spectacular hedging plant because of its dense growth habit.

Biloxi

Biloxi Blueberry

Quite a spindly plant, but productive. Seems to like Sydney’s climate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Misty

Misty Blueberry plant

Grows very upright with almost a cane structure. Not a particularly attractive blueberry, but crops extremely well with large fruit size, even when you haven’t thinned fruit well. Fruits over a very long period. This winter I had mature fruit and new flowers at the same time.

 

 

 

 

Brightwell

Brightwell

Semi deciduous. A well-structured bush with masses of stunning white flowers. Does well for me in Sydney.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legacy

Has never done well for me. A small bush, and has never grown very much. I recently put it into the ground so see if it would improve with more moisture.

Blueberry Burst

Blueberry Burst

A new variety in the ‘Backyard Beauties’ range that claims to produce fruit the size of an Australian dollar coin. Looks like it is well on the way to that. I estimate that fruit should ripen in October.

This page is a work in progress. I’ll keep updating as I learn more and add to my collection.