Blueberries are trickier to grow. Naturally at home in peat bogs, the hardy, shallow-rooted bushes must have acidic soil to thrive: a pH of 4 is not too low, with 5 being a bit high. Since this is well below the range of most gardens, a blueberry bush grows best when planted in a large container of acidic mix. A half wooden barrel (or equivalent size) is ideal and should be filled with 40 per cent peat moss, 40 per cent coir and 20 per cent perlite, with a cup of soil sulfur stirred in to further lower the pH. The half-barrel can then be left out in the open air or buried up to its rim in the ground. Most bushes are hardy to Zone 3, but if the container is free-standing, protect the plants’ roots with some bags of leaves heaped around the base in fall.
Blueberry bushes produce best when properly pruned each year in March or early April. In year one remove flower buds. As you prune, aim for an open plant of younger stems by cutting out very low branches and any that overlap or cross. Prune away some of the oldest canes annually and all weak, spindly or damaged shoots. Head back the most vigorous upright shoots to force branching. Don’t be shy: removing up to a fifth of last year’s growth is not too much.
- ‘Chippewa’: At maturity expect 1.5 to three kilograms of large berries on a bush that reaches a height of 60 to 120 centimetres per bush; two plants ensure better cross-pollination and more fruit.
- ‘Northcountry’: Very hardy, vigorous and productive, a well-grown bush yields up to four kilograms of medium-sized fruit with a sweet wild blueberry flavour; does better than others as a single plant and foliage turns bright red in fall.
- ‘Northblue’: Large, dark, flavourful berries on a shorter self-pollinating bush described as a real workhorse, a very reliable cropper, and with vivid fall colour.
- Other blueberry cultivars of note are ‘Ka-Bluey’, ‘Northland’ and ‘Healthy Rubel’.