Just before Christmas we started to stock our new fruit cage with soft fruit, planting four varieties of raspberry. We have since added five sweet cherries that we are planning to train in something like the UFO (Upright Fruiting Offshoots) method. This week we continued the process by planting five young blueberry bushes.
Blueberries favour acidic conditions, ideally a pH of somewhere around 4.5 to 5.0, though perhaps a little less or a little more would be fine. In our previous fruit cage, we had blueberries directly in the ground. Our soil is on the acidic side, but not nearly enough for blueberries to thrive. We applied various composts and amendments intended for acid loving plants but although the plants survived and bore fruit, they did not show much enthusiasm.
This time we are planting in 50 litre containers of ericaceous compost. This is formulated specifically for plants that favour acidic conditions, such as azaleas, rhododendrons, heathers, and, of course, blueberries. This should be much more to their liking. We sunk the pots partially into the ground, partly to provide stability so the pots do not get knocked about or blown over in a storm, and partly to lower the height of the bushes. Planting is simply a matter of making a hole and firming the new plant in place. Everything was so wet that we did not even need to water them in.
We chose five varieties that should provide a harvest throughout the blueberry season: the early fruiting Earliblue, early-mid season Duke, mid season Bluecrop, and late season Jersey and Dixi. It is helpful to have two or more varieties for cross pollination. Although blueberries are at least partially self compatible, having two different sorts will likely improve fruit set and may well enhance fruit quality.
There is still much to do in the fruit cage – we already have three currant bushes, two gooseberries, and a Japanese wineberry waiting to be planted in their proper places, with two more currants on order – and then there are strawberries to deal with a bit later in the year. The fruit cage is not really a fruit cage yet, either – it is just our old polytunnel frame, and lacks a door or any netting. The strawberries should fruit this year and one or two of the other plants might also, so it would be good to get the fruit cage finished. February and March are busy months in the garden though, so finding time will be tricky.