Fresh blueberries can cost a pretty penny at the grocery store, but did you know it’s easy to grow your own…even on a balcony! Depending on the variety you choose, it can take 2 or 3 years for a plant to start producing fruit but once it does, you’ll enjoy picking berries for many years to come. Here’s a tip sheet to get you started…
What size container to use?
Roots on this plant are shallow but they spread wide, choose a container that’s at least 20″ across. For stability, consider the mature plant’s height when choosing a depth size, a minimum 18″ deep pot is a good bet (repot to a larger size as it matures). It requires well draining soil so make sure the container has several drainage holes at the bottom.
What soil to use?
They need an acidic soil and thrive between pH levels of 4 and 5.5 (here’s how to test it). A good potting mix is one part peat moss, one part medium-sized bark, one part acidic potting soil and between 1/4 to 1/2 cup of soil sulfur. Top with a layer of bark chips or compost after planting to help keep roots cool. Fertilize once in the early Spring with an acid based fertilizer.
They thrive in full sun but you can get away with some shade during the day (especially in hot climates). Keep in mind the more sun it receives, the more bountiful the berries.
Water every other day to keep soil lightly moist (may require daily waterings in hot, dry weather) and then deeply once a week, do not allow the soil to dry out. Caveat: Although it requires regular watering, don’t over do it and make sure the soil is well draining and not soggy or saturated, it does not enjoy wet roots at all.
When to harvest:
Once the berries are a deep blue and release easily when picked, they’re ready for harvesting. For the most flavorful berries, keep them ripe on the plant for a few days before picking.
You won’t need to prune much for the first couple years, remove any woody or dead stems to encourage new growth. When to prune: in the off-season when it’s dormant. More mature plants will need to be pruned in early Spring, you’ll find some good information on this page: The Ohio State University.
After fruit production has stopped, quit watering and add mulch. If you live in a zone with colder winters than the variety you are growing is zoned for, you may get away with moving the container into an unheated garage (cover with cardboard or wrap with burlap if especially cold), otherwise moving the container against the house and wrapping in burlap should do the trick.
- Grow at least two different varieties to ensure cross-pollination and position them near each other (about 3 feet), this will produce a higher yield with bigger fruit. If you choose varieties with differing harvest dates you’ll enjoy fresh berries all season long.
- Birds love them just as much as we do, keep them covered with netting during fruiting season to protect your harvest.
- Occasionally mix used coffee grounds into the top of the soil, they are slightly acidic and your blueberries will love them! Not a coffee drinker? Try grinding up lemon or grapefruit peels and gently mix them into the soil.
- For new plants: Encourage plant growth by removing all blossoms in the Spring (before they can produce fruit).
- Troubleshooting tips: If it’s not Fall and the leaves are turning red or yellow, the soil pH level may be too high. If the leaf growth is a pale yellow, the soil likely doesn’t have enough pH. Test your soil levels to ensure that the pH is between 4 and 5.5.
- Plants can produce fruit for years and years, repot in a larger container if it becomes root bound as it ages (do this during the dormant season).