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BOTANICAL NAME: Vaccinium spp
FAMILY: Ericaceae
ORIGIN: North America

The blueberry is a bushy deciduous shrub native to North America. It has attractive glossy green leaves that turn red to yellow in autumn. The flowers are small and pinkish-white in colour. Most varieties are self-fertile but cross-pollination will improve fruit set. Blueberries need a well-drained acidic soil (pH 4.8 - 5.2) high in organic matter. Soils may be made more acid, if necessary, by adding peat or a sulphur fertiliser to them. Irrigation is vital, blueberry plants need ample water, particularly between blossoming and fruit development. Do not plant in poorly drained soils. They do best in a sunny position but will tolerate partial shade.

The fresh fruit is delicious and it can be used for jams, pies, ice cream, cheesecake, muffins, fruit syrup and pancakes. The fruit can be dried and used like a raisin. Berries will keep in the fridge for up to a week and also freeze well.

The recommended planting time is spring in temperate areas, mid-autumn in subtropical areas so it establishes before the cooler weather. Set plant to the same depth it was in the container. Space plants 1.2 m apart. Water well in dry spells and mulch the plants annually each spring with compost. Mulching is highly beneficial to keep soil moisture even. Fertilise 1 month after planting, and then each year at bud burst.

Pruning: Little pruning is necessary in the first 2 years other than to shape the bush and remove dead branches. Restrict cropping; by removing flower buds, until a strong branch framework has developed, aim for a vase shape with an open centre. Fruit is produced on year-old wood. From the third year pruning is essential to maintain fruit size and quantity. Prune the bushes annually in winter; retain 4 to 6 older stems each year and encourage 1 or 2 new shoots. Please note: Blueberry 'Sunshine Blue' is semi-dwarf with a dense habit of growth and requires very little pruning.
Harvesting: Blueberries begin producing fruit by the third year and can continue production for up to 20 years. Pick the berries when they have turned completely blue.
Cultivars: 'Sunshine Blue' is a low-chill variety suitable for most climate zones; it needs only 150 hours of winter chill. It grows as an evergreen bush to 1 metre high and fruits heavily in summer. It is one of the most ornamental of the blueberries, producing pink flowers during the winter, so would make an attractive fruiting hedge. It also grows well in containers.

SORRY but due to quarantine restrictions between Australian States no plants at all can be ordered by residents of Norfolk Island, Tasmania and Western Australia. These restrictions are very important as they prevent the spread of plant pests and diseases. No potatoes, garlic, shallots, strawberries or tubestock can be sent to South Australia. No tubestock can be sent to Northern Territory.
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