Blueberries are an increasingly popular addition to Kiwi backyards. A fruit high in antioxidants, easy to grow year-round, with attractive foliage and suitable for smaller spaces, it's easy to see why they are a superfood of the garden!
The blueberry is a good example of a fruit taken from the wild and transformed into an easy to grow edible delight. They thrive in New Zealand’s varying climatic conditions.
Blueberry plants grow naturally as a bushy shrub, up to 1.5m tall or can be pruned to keep at 1m tall. The blueish-grey-green leaves make a striking show in the summer garden. Flowers appear in clusters of pink and white, which are attractive to bumblebees.
Blueberries make a wonderful edible hedge. Plant around 1m apart to form a delicious and attractive edible hedge. Varieties which go well together to create a hedge include: Misty and Marimba; Climax and Tifblue; Bluecrop and Dixi.
Blueberries can be planted year-round. The better the soil, the better your berries will grow. Blueberries prefer a free draining, more acidic soil with a high proportion of organic matter. They are best planted in a sheltered, well drained position in full sun.
If you are starting with an existing garden bed dig in organic matter like Tui Sheep Pellets and compost to your soil. Then you can add a layer of Tui Strawberry Mix or Tui Peat Plus to the planting area. If planting in pots and containers fill with Tui Strawberry Mix.
Choosing a variety
Consider your climate when choosing a variety as blueberries love a certain amount of chilling time. Select a plant that will suit your environment. Most blueberries are at least partially self fertile but planting a combination of varieties of the same type will ensure good cross pollination and therefore good cropping. Different varieties also have different foliage colours in summer and autumn, which look really stunning.
Top varieties to plant include:
Blueberry Northern Highbush - varieties suited to the more temperate regions of New Zealand. These varieties flower in mid spring and produce berries from December to February.
Blueberry Southern Highbush - varieties best grown in warmer areas of New Zealand as they have a low chill requirement. Fruiting from later spring to February.
- Petite Blue
Rabbiteye - best grown in warmer areas of New Zealand as they require less winter chilling. Fruit from January through to April.
Check plant labels for individual planting instructions. The best times to plant are early in the morning or late in the day, so the plants aren’t exposed to the hot sun straight away.
Planting blueberries in the garden:
- Dig a hole approximately twice the depth and width of the root ball of your plant and partly fill with Tui Strawberry Mix.
- Gently loosen the root ball of your plant.
- Place the tree in the hole, and fill in with Tui Strawberry Mix, ensuring the tree is no deeper than it was in the container or bag.
Planting blueberries in pots and containers:
- Partly fill with Tui Strawberry Mix, and tap on the ground to settle the mix.
- Gently loosen the root ball of your plant.
- Place your tree in the pot, and fill in with Tui Strawberry Mix, ensuring the tree is no deeper than it was in the container or bag.
Don’t let your blueberries produce too many fruit when young. They tend to overfruit when young, so not enough energy is put into root and branch development.
Feed your plants and they will feed you. Replenishing nutrients used by your blueberries ensures they will grow to their full potential. For blueberries planted in garden beds feed in spring and summer with Tui Citrus Food, it has extra potassium for flowering and fruiting. For blueberries in pots and containers use Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser.
Water to keep moist throughout the growing season, though don’t let the plant get too wet or too dry. Well watered, well nourished blueberries will have a better chance of keeping insect pests and diseases at bay.
- The fragile branches need care when pruning. Not all blueberries lose their foliage over winter, but if they do this is a good time to prune. Blueberries fruit on the previous season’s wood, so be careful not to remove too much of this when pruning as you will end up with less fruit in the upcoming season. Prune out any dead or diseased wood and branches that are crossing over one another to allow more light and air in.
- Birds love blueberries so protect your bush with netting.
- Add Debco SaturAid to the soil to prevent it from drying out in the summer months.
- Pick the fruit that ripens first to bring on the other fruit that has yet to mature.
- Blueberries are ideal for freezing, as they keep their shape and flavour. They can also be cooked from fresh or frozen.
For tips on growing other berries read our Berry Growing Guide >