ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

A Taste of Success: How to Grow Blueberries in Australia 

The most important thing to remember is that blueberries really like an acid soil. So, before planting your blueberries, make sure that you do a soil test.

Have you ever dreamed about growing lush blueberries in your own garden that you can pick whenever you want? If you give them the right conditions, blueberries are fairly easy to grow.

Plus, you can even grow blueberry bushes in pots on your balcony or outdoor patio. For people with adequate garden space, blueberries also make an excellent low-growing hedge.

There are different varieties available to suit the various climate zones around Australia. So, no matter where you live, you should be able to find a variety that will grow well in your area.

It’s also important to note that some varieties need another bush for pollination while others are self-pollinating. You want to keep this in mind when purchasing your plants.

When to plant blueberries in Australia

The optimum time to plant blueberry bushes in Australia is from mid-winter through to early spring.

This will allow the plants to become established before they start flowering in spring and producing their delicious fruit in summer.

How to plant blueberries 

If you want a headstart on fruits, I would recommend that you purchase established plants from your local nursery or garden centre. 

Blueberry seedlings | Fruit & Vegetables

The most important thing to remember is that blueberries really like an acid soil. The optimum pH level is from 4.5 to 5.5. In fact, blueberries can be found growing naturally in pine forests in the US.

Before planting your blueberries, make sure that you do a soil test. You can purchase a soil testing kit online or from your local garden centre. 

If you find that your soil is not acidic enough, you can lower the pH by adding some sulphur. Try to do this at least 1 month before planting to ensure that the soil pH has been lowered sufficiently.

Adding lots of compost to the soil will also help to lower the pH and this should be done before planting your blueberries, anyway. Blueberries require a nice rich soil that is free-draining.

Choose a sunny spot in the garden to grow your blueberries. Morning sun and some afternoon shade is fine.

Blueberry plant | Fruit & Vegetables

If you plan to grow a blueberry hedge or you want more than one plant, space them around 1.5 metres apart. This will give each plant enough space to grow.

Make sure that you apply a good layer of mulch around the base of the plants. If you happen to have a pine tree growing in your yard or nearby, pine needles make an excellent mulch for blueberries because they’ll improve the acidity of the soil.

How to care for blueberries

Blueberry plants | Fruit & Vegetables

Blueberries need plenty of water, especially during a dry summer. Make sure that you water your plants every 2 or 3 days to ensure that the soil remains moist.

You only need to feed your blueberry bushes once a year in early spring. Choose an organic fertiliser that also contains a decent amount of potassium. It’s this vital nutrient that will help the plants to produce lots of delectable fruits.

Blueberry bushes should be left to grow naturally until they’re around three years old before you prune them. Pruning is best carried out in late winter or early spring after the danger of frost is over.

Blueberry pruning | Fruit & Vegetables

Remove any damaged or crossing branches or those that are trailing along the ground. After about four years of growth, you can thin out the branches. 

For this step, you want to cut a quarter of the old branches right down to the ground. This will encourage the plant to generate more fruit-producing branches.

The remaining stems or branches can be trimmed back to an upwardly growing bud.

How long do blueberries take to grow?

It takes around 2 years for an established blueberry bush to start producing fruit.

Once your bushes are around 4 to 8 years old, you can expect to harvest around 2 to 7 kg of fruit per plant depending on the variety you’re growing.

When to harvest blueberries

Blueberries can generally be harvested from mid-summer. Once the berries have turned a dusty blue colour, they’re ready to be harvested. 

Harvesting blueberries | Fruit & Vegetables

How to harvest blueberries

Ripe blueberries can be picked by hand because they should come away from the bush fairly easily.

You will find that berries will ripen sporadically, so keep checking your bushes on a daily basis for fruits that have ripened.

Blueberry pests and diseases

The main thing you’ll have to deal with is birds stealing the berries before you have a chance to pick them. The best thing you can do to prevent this is to cover your bushes with bird netting.

Blueberry bird netting | Fruit & Vegetables

Wait until the berries have started to develop before netting your bushes so that bees and other pollinators can easily get to the flowers.

Blueberry companion plants

When selecting companion plants for your blueberries, remember that they love acidic soil.

Therefore, anything that you plant near your blueberries, should also prefer growing under these conditions. 

Some ideal companions include:

  • Thyme
  • Strawberries
  • Basil
  • Cranberries
  • Borage

Good flowering companions include azaleas, rhododendrons and hydrangeas.

Avoid planting nightshades such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers near your blueberries as well as brassicas like cauliflowers, cabbages and broccoli.

Growing blueberries in pots

If you want to try growing blueberries in pots, select larger pots that are at least 30cm in diameter.

Blueberry plant in pot | Fruit & Vegetables

Be sure to select an acidic potting mix such as those designed for azaleas and rhododendrons.

Make sure that you keep your pots well-watered. In summer, you’ll find that your plants will need watering at least once a day.

FAQ

Where do blueberries grow best?

There are different varieties of blueberries that can be grown in almost every part of the country except for the dry and arid regions. Blueberries will grow best in a sunny spot in the garden that has free-draining and acidic soil.

What are the best heat-tolerant blueberries?

For warmer regions around Australia, select low-chill blueberry varieties such as Southern Highbus and Rabbiteye. These don’t require the colder winter temperatures to produce plenty of fruit.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

ADVERTISEMENT

Leave a Comment