Growing Blueberries On A Balcony: Essential Tips for Urban Gardeners

Unlock the secrets to thriving blueberry plants on your balcony

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By Linda Ferraro

Growing Blueberries On A Balcony

Growing blueberries on a balcony is a slice of heaven if you love blueberries as much as I do. I can confidently say they are my favorite fruit, and I always try to keep a stash in the fridge. I adore enjoying them on their own or in a fruit salad, and I find them irresistible in muffins, fruit tarts, and pancakes. To me, a smoothie isn’t complete without this tiny berry.

But let’s focus on the right ways of growing blueberries at home, even in a small space like a balcony.

Growing Blueberries on a Balcony: Soil Type

Blueberries only thrive in soil with a pH lower than 5.5, so you’ll need to use an acid-reactive substrate. A potting soil designed for acid-loving plants is ideal. For the container, choose a pot that is at least 40 cm in diameter and depth, planting only one plant per pot.

Blueberries have relatively shallow roots, which is why the soil should be worked gently, preferably with your hands rather than tools like small hoes or trowels.

Acidifying the Soil

To acidify the soil, it’s beneficial to enrich it with peat moss, sulfur, sulfuric acid, or phosphoric acid.

How to Grow Blueberries on a Balcony: Suitable Varieties

There are several varieties of blueberries, but not all are suitable for pot cultivation on a balcony. Small varieties are ideal for home cultivation.

  • Sunshine Blue: A semi-dwarf variety with a bushy habit and lush vegetation.
  • Top Hat: A dwarf variety, ideal for pot growth.
  • Chippewa: A medium-height variety.

When to Sow

If you want to try growing blueberries on your balcony, you can start from seeds or use pre-grown seedlings available at nurseries and garden centers.

If starting from seeds, sow in early spring in a seed tray. Once the seedlings are large enough, proceed to transplant them. Blueberry plants should be planted in spring. In southern regions with a mild climate, planting can also be done in the autumn season.

Growing Blueberries on a Balcony: Exposure

Blueberry plants love sunny exposure. Sunlight promotes rapid ripening and sweeter fruits. It’s advisable to place the pots in full sun, ensuring they receive direct sunlight for at least 6 hours each day.

Moreover, blueberry plants should be protected from wind and drafts, as they are particularly sensitive. Therefore, position them in a sunny area of the terrace but sheltered from the wind.

The Ideal Climate

Generally, blueberries grow and develop best in cool, humid, and shaded environments. Additionally, to bear fruit, the plant needs cold winters and must spend a good part of the year (between 400 and 1000 hours) at temperatures ranging from a minimum of 2.5 °C to 9 °C / 37 °F to 50 °F.

Due to these climatic needs, growing blueberries is not recommended in areas with mild winters. Otherwise, the harvest could be scant and disappointing.

Various species of blueberries are very sensitive to wind as well as to sudden temperature changes.

Choosing the Pot

For growing blueberries, you need to choose a pot size that is suitable for the maximum potential development of the variety being grown.

Generally, pots with a capacity of 25 to 40 liters, and at least 50 cm deep are recommended. Rigid plastic pots are preferred because they keep the plant in position and promote uniform root growth.

Pruning

Pruning is an important task for blueberries, as it stimulates the growth of new fruiting branches and removes old or diseased ones. To prune correctly, start by removing small, weak, and excessive suckers from the base.

It’s important that the renewal of older or exhausted branches is done gradually, replacing one or two branches per year. This approach ensures that the plant maintains adequate vigor and continues to produce fruit abundantly.

growing blueberries on a balcony
Starting off right… One of the fundamental things is to choose plants suitable for your local climate.

How Often to Water Blueberry Plants

Blueberry plants should be watered often to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. In case of extreme heat (temperatures above 30 °C / 86 °F), it is advisable to increase the frequency of watering. However, it is essential to avoid waterlogging. To address this issue, it is recommended to spread a layer of expanded clay or perlite at the bottom of the pot.

Since blueberry plants thrive in soil with a maximum pH of 5.5, it’s best to avoid tap water for irrigation as it tends to increase soil pH due to its lime content. To maintain acidic soil, it is better to use salt-free water.

Adequate water for irrigation can be obtained by mixing water and vinegar in the following proportions: 2 tablespoons of vinegar per 10 liters of water. Let it rest overnight and then use this water for watering the blueberry plant, avoiding stirring it and not using the sediment at the bottom of the container.

How to Grow a Blueberry Plant from the Fruit

It’s not easy, but why not try? It is indeed possible to grow a blueberry plant from the fruit, in addition to from seeds or a developed seedling. Here’s how:

  • Fill a small pot with potting soil.
  • Crush a blueberry with your fingers and place it on the soil, then cover it with more soil.
  • Moisten the soil.
  • Cover with a plastic container (e.g., the bottom of a plastic bottle) to create a greenhouse effect.
  • Frequently water the soil to keep it always moist.
  • Once the first leaves appear, proceed with transplanting the plant into a larger container.

How Long Does It Take for a Blueberry Plant to Grow?

The blueberry begins to produce from the second year. During the first 3-4 years, the amount of fruit increases in direct proportion to the development of the plant, then stabilizes around the 5th year.

The ripening period varies depending on the variety and the cultivation areas. In warmer areas, fruit ripening begins as early as April, while it is delayed until July in areas with a more continental climate.

Harvesting

The harvesting period for blueberries varies depending on the cultivated variety. In general, harvesting can be done starting from June, and then lasts for about a month.

Blueberries are ready to be harvested when the skin of the berries is intensely blue even near the peduncle.

Blueberry is a fruit that matures in stages: it is necessary to proceed with harvesting every 3-4 days. This is a great advantage because it allows having always fresh fruits available for a longer period.

Once harvested, the fruits can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week without losing their nutritional properties. Obviously, harvesting must be done strictly by hand.

growing blueberries on a balcony
A dream harvest

The Most Common Mistakes to Avoid in Growing Blueberries

In my experience, the most frequently made mistake is the choice of soil: planting blueberries in neutral or alkaline soil without modifying the pH can prevent the plants from absorbing essential nutrients, thus limiting their growth and fruiting. Get soil with these characteristics at least to start off on the right foot.

The other frequent setup error is choosing blueberry varieties that are not suitable for one’s climate. This can lead to poor yields or non-ripening of the fruits. It is therefore fundamental to research which varieties grow best in your geographical area and to get advice from a nursery on this point.

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