Blueberries

Some of Brymac’s blueberries.

22.11.14 Today I visited beautiful Peachester, on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, to attend an open day at Brymac Blueberries.  A hot day, despite Spring not being over but well worth the trip for the information given by Dean (Bryant), owner of the farm. I have previously killed off a Blue Berry bush and wanted to learn how to make one thrive! so I can have the thrill of cropping my own at home.

There were maybe 5 varieties on offer for sale. I have come away with four plants for $10 each:

Two Powder Blue  – The fruit has a powdery blush and is medium in size. It is one of the toughest blueberry varieties with a harvest later in the season. A bigger harvest can be achieved by mixing with other varieties such as the tifblue or others will suit. A great selection for QLD and northern NSW as they don’t need many chill hours for the fruit to set.

One Rabbiteye – This is a late season variety, which can endure warm and humid summers and tolerate dry conditions like no other, making it right at home in Northern NSW and Queensland. Its name comes from the calyx, which when ripening looks just like little rabbit eyes looking back at you.

One Sunshine BlueThis low chill variety produces a heavy crop of mid sized summer fruit in almost any climate. Needing only 150 hours of winter chill, Sunshine Blue will fruit reliably even in the subtropics. This compact semi-evergreen shrub is also the most tolerant of a higher pH, and is well suited to growing in containers.

Not sure how many acres Dean and family have up there but there are two acres under bird/hail netting with mature blueberry bushes, many up to 2m tall. These plants were planted around 1980 by a previous owner of the property. The property was completely overgrown when Dean first inspected and to his surprise found a mature orchard of blueberries under the mess.

Dean uses Biodynamic methods of farming – no chemicals, no fertilisers, no sprays and very little problem with pests due to the extreme good health of the plants. A Brix meter comes up with an amazing reading of 31.

There are perhaps 20 ducks living inside the enclosure that have kept the Fruit Fly population down to zero since they were introduced as they eat any fallen or any infected fruit. There are also at least two native bee hives which help pollinate the plants.

Dean makes his own compost for mulch using the lasagne method, no turning. This compost is the mainstay of his feeding method for the plants. He vehemently abhors any form of commercial liquid fertilizers, used by many other growers. These cause the plants to burn out, destroy the soil microbes and only feed the plant not the soil according to Dean. Plants fed this way crop “sour sacs of water” in his words and become sick and attract insect pests.

Dean mixes his compost with Biochar for best results.

Dean uses a drip watering system on his farm which he has found to be the most efficient and beneficial, at the rate of 2lt per hour.

Some of the interesting facts Dean provided us with:

  • Blueberries are very shallow rooted. The surface of the soil must be kept moist at all times. Use a good compost or hardwood (not pine) chips as mulch and water every second day. Allow the pots to drain well – do not use a tray. The hardwood mulch allows water through but is tough enough to keep the heat out.
  • BB’s love acidic soil.
  • Tubs (the “bigger the better” according to Dean) are great for growing BB in a home setting. Use an acidic potting mix such as Searles Azalea/Camellia mix (any quality acidic mix would do) and mulch the plants well.
  • BB require the presence of Mycorrhizal Fungi in order to thrive. Fungi need the carbon to grow hence the Biochar (see above).
  • Only prune out the old canes once they are 5/6 year old as production decreases on older canes. BB fruit on all growth.
  • BB’s sucker prolifically. At the farm, these are mowed over.
  • BB’s can be left on the bush for 7 to 10 days after first turning blue. They can double in size and flavour during that time. They are ready for picking when given a slight twist they fall off into the hand easily.
  • Coffee grounds make a good addition to your compost pile or used as mulch, but watch the PH.
  • Don’t wash off the bloom on organically grown fruit!  It’s not harmful in any way. Store bought fruit on the other hand could be covered in pesticides and always needs to be washed.

13 thoughts on “Blueberries”

  1. Good report Lissa 🙂 lots to know! E.g. that Blueberries sucker … the Powder Blues which were sent rather than the Gulf Coasts that I ordered, might be a blessing after all.
    Did he explain about the pH with coffee grounds? I’ve read they are acidic but my testing of them they are neutral. I’ve read to use them with BBs but now I wonder if it’s worth it.
    Good that he recommends the Azalea mix, I’ve used that!
    And the plantation is under hail netting meaning that it is also shaded to an extent even though the netting isn’t exactly shadecloth.
    Hardwood chips! Great idea but from whence, I wonder.

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    1. He was a font of information. I’m sure there is more he could have told us but we only had so much time.
      Not sure about the coffee grounds – not something I have access to myself. You might have to ask him direct if you can. They have a website as well as a FB page. They’re very quick to answer questions on FB but that’s not much use to you. Here’s the website: http://www.brymacblueberries.com.au/
      Yes, I thought the same thing about the hail netting. Some shade provided. Still pondering where I’m going to put my new plants. Will have to go buy two large planters and lots of potting mix. They need to be somewhere where I can see them to water every second day.

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      1. Thanks, I’ll follow-up that website. Planters … wicking pots you won’t need to water so often. From the 2 other sites I’ve had my BBs in, this semi-shaded site is the one they are thriving in. If someone chops down the trees which give the shade, I’ll need shadecloth.

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  2. Excellent information. We inherited some old blueberrie bushes from a friend who is moving away. I thought that transplanting them would make them die but they are doing amazingly well and most of them have blueberries on them. Not bad considering I was going to use them for cutting material! They must be over 30 years old, ancient for blueberries but they have a new lease on life in the predominately spent horse manure that they are currently living in with a top dressing of oak leaf mulch. Again, cheers for this excellent post 🙂

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      1. Err…I live in Tassie? I wasn’t sure how I followed your blog but I follow it in my RSS Feed Reader so obviously I liked what you were saying at some time in the past ;). I still like it so you are staying put in my RSS Feed Reader. Cheers for the info. We may have crossed paths in the blogosphere someplace? I follow a few Queenslandy blogs. I lust after tropical fruit but can’t be doing with all of that sweat.

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  3. Elaine – Dean tells us not to allow wet feet, no trays. And yet Michael (who came briefly yesterday) tells me he grows his plants in self watering pots. I’m ambivalent about using them due to Dean’s comments. I would also have to wonder how efficient a pot that waters from the bottom would be for a plant with surface roots.

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  4. All my Blueberries are in wicking pots. As are my Figs and Citrus. BBs around 2 years, Figs 4-5 years including both really wet years. A 1 inch hole is all that is needed for drainage.
    There is no wet feet with this system. The overflow hole means only the mix below the overflow holds static water. Water wicks up to around 300mm depending on the type of mix. So shallow roots are not an issue, the plant pumps water up for itself too and it takes it from the water on the move from the reservoir. Roots don’t grow into the reservoir in the system I use, although they do grow if you use a grille and a pure water reservoir. There’s many systems and variants.
    I’ve bought 12 more 200L bins to make into wicking bins for the rest of my fruit trees including digging up some that are struggling in the ground.

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    1. I’ll keep that in mind then if I end up buying new pots. Hoping to use existing empty clay pots without going to extra expenditure but I suspect I will buckle and buy some new ones.

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  5. What a great report Lissa! I was so hoping I could go… I’m trying to strike some cuttings from my plant, and another I had at my mum’s. I planted the one at my mum in a large self-watering pot, and it has been doing well, although I think it needed repot soon as it’s been a few years, and it has sunk in the pot.

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  6. Thank you 🙂 When I repot plants in pots I try to lift the whole thing out (try to have a large strong son as an accessory) and add new quality potting mix and some Organic Xtra at the bottom. So far the plants seem to appreciate this.
    I have a Jackfruit growing in a pot that we did this with and it’s doing really well. Whether it will ever fruit for me is another matter lol.

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