Dreaming of Blueberries

Article originally published by: Kiwi Gardener

Discover the tips and tricks you’ll need to grow these nutritional morsels of goodness at home.

As snacks go, blueberries are one of the healthiest and tastiest you can grow yourself, and they thrive throughout the country. Whether eaten straight from the plant, blended into smoothies, baked into cakes and muffins, or preserved to make jams or conserves, our nation seems to have a love affair with these little antioxidant-packed gems.
Ripe blueberries develop a silvery bloom.
Pretty bell-like flowers and attractive foliage make blueberry bushes great for tubs or hedges.
Blueberries have a very shallow root system, and don’t like having their root zone tampered with. This means that mulching is vital to avoid the soil heating up and drying out, especially during the warmer months while the fruit is developing and maturing. It is also worth noting that inconsistent watering leads to dry, sour fruit. The soil needs to be able to hold onto moisture, which is especially important if you want to grow them in pots. Because of this, avoid terracotta pots as the clay is too porous and the sun soaks moisture out of it quicker than with ceramic or plastic alternative. For soils that are free-draining or sandy, blend in well-rotted compost and/or peat to act as a sponge to hold onto water.

Whilst most varieties have some level of self-fertility, it is always wise to get into the habit of Discover the tips and tricks you’ll need to grow these nutritional morsels of goodness at home. Words Rachel Vogan planting at least two plants. Choose another variety which flowers at the same time to ensure good pollination results, as this will lead to a higher fruit set and therefore a larger total harvest.

A large proportion of blueberries grown in New Zealand come from Waimea Nurseries in Nelson and Tharfield Nursery near Tauranga. These growers classify their crops into three types, which indicate their flowering habits, growth characteristics and which regions they are best suited to, along with fruiting times.

Northern highbush – these flower in mid-spring, fruit in December and January, and are suitable for all regions that have cold winters. Look for the varieties ‘Blueberry Muffin’, ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Dixi’, ‘Duke’, ‘Nui’, ‘Puru’ and ‘Reka’.

Southern highbush – these flower in late winter, then fruit anytime between October and February, and are suited to all areas north of Canterbury. They are ideal for the northern regions where the winters are not so cold, as they do not require as much cold weather to stimulate flower buds. Varieties include ‘Marimba’, ‘Misty’, and ‘O’Neal’.

Rabbiteye – these flower in early spring, with fruit appearing from January through until April. These are suitable for most regions that have warm temperatures well into the autumn. In some cold areas where winter arrives early, the fruit may not fully ripen if temperatures cool off early. Varieties include ‘Centurion’, ‘Climax’, ‘Delite’, ‘Powder Blue’, ‘Southland’, ‘Tiff Blue’, ‘Blue Dawn’, ‘Blue Magic’, and ‘Blueberry Burst’.