Blueberries are very tasty, nutritious and easy to grow. As I’ve seen, the compact little bushes thrive in the open ground or a container and different varieties provide a harvest from early summer till early autumn. These blue gems are “super-food”, packed with health-giving antioxidants and nutrients, so what more could a gardener want?
You’ve got it – I wouldn’t be without my blueberries. And I’m not alone, judging by their all-year-round availability in supermarkets. But sadly 95% of this ever-expanding market comes from outwith these islands.

SEFARI, the Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institute, is keen to see UK growers increase their tiny market share to 50%. Climate change is adversely impacting crop yields, so researchers are identifying the reasons for this and coming up with new varieties to help growers.
Researchers want to broaden the gene pool of blueberries and are trying to transfer the benefits of our wild Scottish blaeberries, Vaccinium myrtillus, to the commercial blueberry crop. 

These improved fruits would contain more health-giving antioxidants and plants would be more vigorous and crop over a longer period.
As well as being good news for consumers generally, more exciting new blueberries will become available to gardeners. 
Fortunately several Scottish nurseries are already providing a wide selection of varieties together with advice on how to get the most out of them. 
James MacIntyre and Sons, for example, offer more than 20 varieties.
You’ll always get a better crop if you buy more than one bush. Like other “self-fertile” plants, blueberries benefit from crossing with a neighbour of the same or different variety.

Blueberries demand acidic soil. When using a pot, you simply buy compost for acidic loving plants, but, even with very alkaline ground, I get good results by adding generous quantities of sulphur chips every year.

Otherwise, plant in moderately fertile, free-draining soil and mulch. 
Like everything else, my blueberries suffered during this year’s long dry spell because I frankly couldn’t spare any water for perennials with established root systems. 
Interestingly of two bushes that are cropping just now, I see ‘Herbert’ coped very poorly with the drought, resulting in a much smaller crop than usual. 
On the other hand, ‘Rubel’ is much closer to the wild blueberry, with smaller, tangy, antioxidant rich fruit, and it seems to have handled the drought much better, yielding lots of berries.

Looking after blueberries couldn’t be easier. They won’t need pruning for the first two or three years and only moderately thereafter. 

Prune in winter, remembering fruit forms on the previous year’s wood. 
Remove dead branches and one or two older ones, cutting back to the main stem, together with any very low-growing ones.


Plant of the week

CLIMBING PATIO ROSE ‘MERENGUE’ has deep crimson flowers borne in clusters and flowers over a very long period. Mine has put on a stunning display for weeks, unaffected by rain or wind. It has reached about 120cm in height and continues to spread sideways along a trellis. Its only downside is that the flowers are not scented.