Growing fruit and vegetables in a greenhouse is arguably one of the most popular uses for the controlled gardening environment.
There are many reasons for this – not least of which being that it can give you more of an influence over how plants usually associated with the wild can develop.
A good example of this is the blueberry. The blueberry plant is a perennial that produces the popular fruit – although these are generally picked from wild bushes.
However, blueberries can also be cultivated – and there are many benefits to doing this. The fruit itself is high in fibre, very low in cholesterol and has the highest amount of antioxidants, so it is a good thing to have around for the kitchen.
Now is a great time to get started, as blueberries are a popular summer fruit throughout the July to September period – but they will require a spell of cold weather, in addition to a degree of patience, as the plant can take several years to reach its full potential.
Professional garden writer Lia Leendertz underlined the importance of getting the acidity levels of the soil just right. A pH of between 4.5 to 4.8 should be ideal, although the fruit can tolerate anything up to pH 5.2. This can be developed with a mix of 40 per cent coir – shredded coconut husk – 40 per cent peat and 20 per cent perlite.
In an article for UK national newspaper the Guardian, Ms Leendertz suggested growing the bushes in large pots with plenty of access to sunlight. If they are watered often, they should grow very well – although problems can still arise.
"Blueberries take a few years to get up to their full fruiting potential," the expert commented, adding: "If newly planted fruit trees do bear flowers and fruit, it is actually a good idea to nip them off and not allow them to develop. This makes the plant direct all of its energy into putting down roots and putting on plenty of growth, which will make it a better crop-bearer in the long run.
Ms Leendertz said that while a few fruits can be expected to grow in the first year, the plant will not normally be at its peak of production until the following year.
"You shouldn't need to feed for the first couple of years," she remarked, explaining that this is because there should be plenty of fertiliser in the compost.