Berry good time to plant

Lit­tle fruit with big flavour

Central Otago Mirror - - CLASSIFIEDS -

Blue­ber­ries have ar­rived in gar­den cen­tres, in­clud­ing the New Zealand va­ri­eties Nui, Reka and Puru. These are all good va­ri­eties for south­ern gar­dens, so head to your lo­cal re­tailer and pick up one or two bushes now.

What you’re look­ing for in a blue­berry might de­ter­mine your choice, as will the type of blue­berry. For ex­am­ple, there are three types of blue­ber­ries cul­ti­vated world­wide – Low­bush, High­bush and Rab­bit­eye, though in New Zealand we grow only the lat­ter two. Within the High­bush group there are North­ern High­bush and South­ern High­bush blue­ber­ries. North­ern High­bush va­ri­eties re­quire a win­ter chill­ing of more than 700 hours per year, while South­ern High­bush va­ri­eties re­quire only about 400 hours, mak­ing them ideal for the warmer north.

So what’s a good blue­berry for you?

If you’re look­ing for a blue­berry with large berries, Nui may be it. It has su­per-sized berries (16-20mm in di­am­e­ter) that are firm and tasty. Plants are fairly slow-grow­ing, tend­ing to spread their leafy tops out­wards rather than up­wards. It tends to have its best yield ev­ery other year, so other va­ri­eties are worth grow­ing in com­pan­ion to this one.

Nui is an early North­ern High­bush – it fruits from late Novem­ber to early Jan­uary) and re­quires 1000+ chill­ing hours. As with other North­ern High­bush types, it’s per­fect for ar­eas south of the Waikato. Flow­ers may need pro­tec­tion from heavy spring frosts though.

Reka is an­other early North­ern High­bush, fruit­ing from early Novem­ber to late De­cem­ber. It’s one of the most pro­duc­tive of the early fruit­ing va­ri­eties, though again, you may need to watch out for heavy spring frosts, which could dam­age flow­ers. The flavour­some fruit is medi­um­sized, and plants have an up­right growth habit.

Puru is an early-to-mid fruit­ing North­ern High­bush. It pro­duces from early De­cem­ber to early Jan­uary, though it some­times crops again in au­tumn.

Berries are light blue and large, be­tween 12mm and 18mm in di­am­e­ter.

It’s a mod­er­ate to heavy yield­ing plant with an up­right growth habit.

Other High­bush blue­ber­ries to watch out for are: El­liot, which fruits from mid-Jan­uary to mid-Fe­bru­ary; Jersey, a heavy pro­ducer of medium-sized fruit from mid-De­cem­ber to late Jan­uary; and Blue­berry Muf­fin, which crops in De­cem­ber and again in March/April.

The lat­ter is a com­pact va­ri­ety, grow­ing 60cm high x 60cm wide. El­liot and Jersey both grow 2m high x 1.5m wide.

A cou­ple of Rab­bit­eye va­ri­eties to con­sider are South­land and Tif­blue. South­land is a late-sea­son va­ri­ety, pro­duc­ing its berries from Fe­bru­ary on­wards.

Its medium-sized fruit is best left on the bush un­til fully ripened for the best flavour.

Tif­blue is an out­stand­ing va­ri­ety, with medium-sized light blue fruit that ripens mid­sea­son, from mid-De­cem­ber to late Jan­uary..

Plant your blue­ber­ries in a free-drain­ing, acid soil with plenty of or­ganic mat­ter dug in. Rab­biteyes are not as fussy as High­bush va­ri­eties and do not need such an acid soil.

Ber­ry­li­cious: Time for blue­ber­ries.

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