How To Grow Buckets Full Of Blueberries In Containers

Have you ever considered growing blueberries in pots? These berries are really great for you, and they are packed with vitamins and antioxidants. You can eat them straight from the bush or you can just make jam and desserts.

The plant looks great, too. It requires acidic environment to grow well. Every gardener would agree that blueberries grow better in pots than they do in the ground.

The plant likes moisture, but overwatering is not recommended. It doesn’t like heavy and clay-rich soils.

Choose the right plant

Blueberries are perennial shrubs from the genus Vaccinium. There are different species within the genus, and the name depends on the area.

In North America, we have two main types:

  • Highbush blueberries (most cultivated blueberries derive from these)
  • Lowbush blueberries (semi-managed)

Rabbiteye blueberry is a southern type obtained from the Carolinas to the Gulf Coast States.

Northern Highbush blueberries are hybridized with other Vaccinium species  to obtain the Southern highbush blueberries.

Huckleberries and whortleberries are also called “blueberries.”

Many other species are referred to as blueberries.

Blueberry cultivars

Blueberries grown in containers are usually American highbush types. They are cultivated on a dwarfing rootstock and release small plants. Highbush plants have upright growth habit, and can grow up to 3-5 feet. Dwarf blueberries grow about 2 feet.

We give you some American blueberry cultivars you should take into consideration:

  • Top Hat (zones 4-7).
  • Sunshine Blue (zones 5-10).
  • Pink Popcorn (zones 4-8, pink berries)
  • Pink Icing (zones 5-10).
  • Bluecrop (zones 4-7, the most popular blueberry variety)
  • Duke (zones 5-8).
  • Spartan (zones 5-7)

Most plants aren’t self-fertile and require a pollinating partner. Even fertile plants need at least one companion to give better fruits.

When to buy the plant

Buy your plants in early spring or fall. This eases the transplantation to new pots.

Get the right pot

Young, pot grown and barefoot blueberries grow well when planted into containers no smaller than 12 inches in diameter. The container needs to be at least 18 inches deep. Once your plant outgrows the pot, use 12-inch pots. The bigger the better.

Avoid plastic/composite resins in the garden. You can use terracotta/ ceramic pot, wooden planter or a metal planter.

Upcycling is also an option. Use 5 gallon buckets, 55 gallon barrels, reclaimed wood (planters), potato sacks, old sinks or tubs.

Proper drainage is a must.

Make holes in the container and put rocks at the bottom.

Prepare the soil

Blueberries like acidic soil with 5.5 or lower pH value.

You can also make your own acidic compost. Use pine needles, conifer bark, wood chippings, oak/beech leaves, citrus fruits and nitrogen-rich green kitchen scraps.

A soil pH testing kit can be of great help in the process.

Plant the bush

First, put some of the growing medium in the base, and place the shrub. Keep the shrub upright and at the center of the container, and keep it at the same depth as they were planted. Add mycorrhizal fungi to the container and fill the container with growing medium.

Press the potting mix. Make sure you don’t leave air pockets. You shouldn’t press it too hard either. Leave some space at the top of the container and add mulch.

Pick the right position

Place the pot on a sunny patio, balcony or a sheltered sunny spot in the backyard. Greenhouses and polytunnel are a good option, too. Blueberries like unheated and sunny indoor spots.

The shrub needs at last 6 hours of sunlight every day. In cool areas, place the blueberries in pots in a sheltered position. You need to protect the shrub from wind and cold temperatures. If the shrub needs companion, make sure the plants are clustered together.

Watering

Blueberries in pots require more water than plants grown in the ground. Make sure their roots aren’t soaked in water. The soil needs to be moist all the time.

Watering systems work really well for this purpose. Tap water reduces acidity, so make sure you use rainwater. Blueberry shrubs prevent rainwater from entering the pot, so make sure you water the plant regularly.

Fertility

Blueberries don’t like being over-fertilized or when the medium is too rich in nutrients. But, the shrub still needs to be fertilized. Your fertilizer shouldn’t affect the acidity of the soil.

Here’s how to keep the soil acidic while fertilizing your plant:

  • Mulch the pots each spring using ericaceous mulch of pine needles, oak or beech leaves leaf mold, conifer wood chip or bark clippings
  • Give the plant ericaceous liquid feed or vinegar solution 2-3 times a year
  • Scrap 1/3 of the potting medium every 2-3 years, and add fresh ericaceous compost

Pest protection

Blueberries are resilient to pest, but aphids can be a real problem. They colonize the soft shoot tips or the leaves. To control aphids, you need plants that attract ladybugs and lacewings. These will keep the aphids away.

Birds can be a problem, too. Fruit cages are really useful, and you can also use bird netting.

Winterizing blueberry containers

Protect the plant from wind, and insulate the pot with bubble wrap or burlap/hessian. Mulch of straw prevents freezing. Use old fabric or horticultural fleece to protect the blossom from a late frost.

Pruning

In the first two years, the shrub doesn’t need pruning. After that, prune mature plants in late February and March each year to build good shape and size.

Clip off dead or damaged stems, and growths at the end of the branches that fruited the previous year. Get rid of 25% of the oldest steps at the base.

Harvesting

Blueberries don’t ripen at the same time. You will have to go to the shrub every day to pick the ripe berries.

Sources:
www.ruralsprout.com
extension.umd.edu

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