Trawling the local plant nursery the other day, I spied some blueberry plants. I’ve seen them on sale before but haven’t wanted to risk a purchase for two reasons: they’re expensive and I’ve been told they’re a bit tricky to grow.
Sometimes the Woman in My Head (WiMH) likes to be spontaneous. She ignores my protests about my budget and past plant failures and simply turns a deaf ear to my reasoning.
And this is how it happened that the three of us, the blueberry plant, the WiMH and I, walked out of there together.
The blueberry plant has not been potted up yet. It sits watching me with a doleful eye (really, it would if it had one), while I gather information to ensure its best possible chance of surviving.
I was careful to select a variety that didn’t require cross-fertilisation, one suited for the subtropical climate of my region. I chose a Sharpeblue, botanical name: Vaccinium hybrid, a Southern Highbush variety, described as tough and vigorous with excellent quality, large fruit. It also fills the self-pollinating condition, with very low chill requirements and it grows well in both sandy soils and heavier loams.
Mmm, it all sounds very promising thus far.
I have no room to plant it in the ground so I’ve chosen a pot in which I’d planted snow-pea seedlings with such hopeful enthusiasm just a few weeks ago. Sadly, some ‘mysterious marauder’ has decimated the snow-pea vines which are no more than bare stalks now, so they must go. A little voice reminds me this could be the fate of my blueberry bush, but the WiMH dismisses my concern with an impatient harrumph and motors on.
Apparently blueberries like an acidic soil so my preparation includes ensuring a soil pH. in the range from 4.5 to 5.5. Ideally, I should be testing the soil pH. but I’ve decided instead, to dig in some coffee grounds and sphagnum peat before I plant; both measures for acidifying the soil.
Good, well-aerated soil, mulched to protect the plant’s fine, fibrous root system is ideal. Fertilising every other week with a high sulphur content fertiliser, careful pruning and ample watering are all necessary conditions for success.
Now, just imagine me enjoying plump healthy blueberries atop my breakfast, if not next summer, then perhaps the following. They take 2-3 years from scratch to begin fruiting. That all depends of course, on the ‘mysterious marauder’ of snow-pea vines not developing an appetite for blueberry bushes.
“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”
― T.S. Eliot