Growing Blueberries.

Have you considered growing Blueberries in your garden? They do well in Simola, Knysna, I have also seen some very healthy plants growing in a fairly protected garden in Brenton on Sea. Visit your nearest nursery as they have them now in stock.

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Blueberries have been described by nutritionists as nutrition powerhouses packed with antioxidants that combat cancer and other diseases, and with cholesterol-lowering properties that promote heart and urinary health and prevent macular degeneration. They are also said to be an excellent anti-diabetes food, both in prevention and control of the disease.

Like the azalea, blueberries are members of the Ericaceae family. Most productive cultivars originate from North American stock, where they grow naturally from Canada to southern USA. With their attractive spring flowers and bright autumn foliage, blueberries don’t need to be relegated to the vegetable patch, they can also be used as decorative garden plants. If you are planning to introduce blueberries into your garden remember that some species are evergreen and some are deciduous. All blueberries grow to around 2m or less, so they’re also absolutely ideal for small gardens.

Blueberries need a freely draining, acidic and preferably sandy soil where the topsoil is enriched with organic matter.  Like azaleas, they are shallow-rooted shrubs with fine, fibrous, surface-feeding roots. Blueberries love the consistent moisture that drip irrigation provides, but perfect drainage is equally important.

Rainwater is ideal for irrigation because it contains few dissolved salts, something blueberries are sensitive to. Bore, grey or recycled water is therefore unsuitable. Blueberries grow best in full sun all year round but will grow in partial shade.  To maintain soil acidity, add powdered sulfur. This helps to liberate minerals such as zinc and iron that are beneficial to blueberries. Sprinkle one handful of powdered sulfur per square metre and lightly rake it into the surface.

Blueberries begin cropping at two years. Once the bush is four to eight years old it will produce 2–7kg of fruit.

Whether or not you need at least two blueberry bushes to get fruit depends on the type of blueberry bushes you have. The two main types of blueberries are highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) and rabbiteye blueberries (V. ashei).

Plant two or more different types has another advantage. You can space out the ripening over a long period, extending the harvest — provided, of course, that swarms of lousy, screeching, freeloading birds don’t beat you to the fruit before you have the chance to sample a single berry.