The gorgeous blueberries grow best in cooler climates, favoring Albania, especially during the wintertime. As blueberries are hard to find and expensive to afford in their fresh state, AgroWeb.org is bringing you tips on how to grow them at home, in your garden and maybe even how to plant them in a small yard.
Fresh blueberries are a great addition to the Albanian fruit bowls and are rarely grown in home gardens. However, as the succulent fruit becomes increasingly popular, blueberries are finding their way into more and more gardens. If you are wondering whether they’ll grow in your area, ask yourself if azaleas grow well in your district. If they do, then blueberries will succeed too, because like the azalea, blueberries are members of the Ericaceae family. Because of very high demand as researched by AgroWeb, more and more farmers from Albania and Kosova are cultivating blueberries quite successfully. The wild blueberry quantities that get collected cannot simply cover the local and international markets needs, thus paving the way to their cultivation.
Most productive cultivars originate from North Albania stock, where they grow naturally. With their attractive spring flowers and bright autumn foliage, blueberries can also be used as decorative garden plants. All blueberries grow to around 2m or less, so they’re also absolutely ideal for small gardens.
Where and how to plant
Blueberries need a freely draining, acidic and preferably sandy soil where the topsoil is enriched with organic matter, such as peat. Blueberries are shallow-rooted shrubs with fine, fibrous, surface-feeding roots. Blueberries love the consistent moisture that drip irrigation provides, but perfect drainage is equally important.
Rainwater is ideal for irrigation so make sure to expose the plant if in vases in the outside part of your balconies. Blueberry plants absolutely need to be kept outside because they love the cold weather. Blueberries grow best in full sun all year round but will grow even in partial shade.
The best time for planting is between late autumn and spring, when plants are sold bare-rooted in plant nurseries in Albania. During this period the blueberry plants are less likely to suffer from transplant shock than at other times of the year. However containerized blueberry plants can be purchased year-round. Soak the bare-rooted bushes in water for half an hour before planting. Plant containerized stock as soon as they’re removed from pots — the roots dry quickly and recover slowly. Create a planting hole about 15cm wider and deeper than the root system. Water well after planting and connect a dripper to the base of each plant to ensure thorough watering, resulting in plentiful fruit.
Pruning and harvesting
Once the bush is old enough, it will produce 4-9 kg of fruit. Remove any weak, dead or crossed branches at any time of the year. Fruit starts hard and green, softening as it ripens, attaining its distinctive blue-black color with a coating of white bloom.
Once fruits are fully darkened, taste a few before harvesting. Blueberries do not get any sweeter after picking so it would be a shame to pick them too early. Full sweetness takes a week or so beyond full color to develop and timing varies between cultivars. Pick the fruit by hand, but be sure not to rub off any of next year’s berries that are already forming on the branches
What if you can’t plant?
Deep-frozen blueberries won’t lose their vitamin content for two years. In case, you cannot find them fresh, you can indulge on frozen ones./AgroWeb.org