Blueberry Fruit Farming, Growing The Fastest Growing Industry In The ‘New Gold’
Blueberries are one of nature’s superfoods, crammed with essential nutrients like vitamins K and C, minerals including manganese and health-boosting polyphenols. They’ve even been proven to help with the old grey matter! If you want to include this fabulous fruit in your garden, there’s no time like the present to get planting.
They have so many roles in the body, protection against aging and cancer, maintain brain function, may lower blood pressure, have anti-diabetic effects, and prevent heart diseases among many
So here, then, is our Planting to Harvest guide to blueberries in Kenya…
Ideal Blueberry Growing Conditions
You’ll get the most from your blueberries farming if you can provide a sheltered site, free from buffeting winds, in full sunshine to help those beautiful, dusky berries mature.
Most varieties are self-fertile, so in theory you can grow one on its own. In reality, you will get far better pollination – and more fruits – if plants can cross-pollinate. For this reason, it pays to grow at least two different varieties together.
You’ll usually find blueberries sold in ready-to-plant pots. You can plant at any time of year but autumn is best or, if winters are exceptionally cold where you garden, wait until spring.
The soil that blueberries grow in is really important. They’re heathland plants, so there’s little point planting them in anything other than acidic soil. It’s literally fruitless! And they need it really acidic, ideally with a pH of between 4.0 and 5.5.
If your soil is neutral or alkaline, all is not lost – you can amend your soil by adding sulphur chips or an organic soil acidifier several months ahead of planting to slowly bring down soil pH. Or for an immediate fix, plant your blueberries into a dedicated raised bed, filled with acidic, or ericaceous potting mix.
Space plants about five feet (1.5m) apart for best yields; don’t be tempted to space them less than three feet (90cm) apart. Alternatively, plant into large containers of ericaceous potting mix, which will be a lot cheaper than filling an entire raised bed, but make sure never to let them dry out.
Keep the soil moist, watering whenever it gets dry. Mains water will gradually raise the pH levels, so use collected rainwater instead to keep the soil acidic.
Blueberries have very high value, a single plant in a year can produce five kilograms, a single kilo in the market is more than Ksh2000. It’s a very lucrative venture one can harvest continually once it starts producing fruits.
Plants in the ground simply need mulches topped up occasionally using an acidic organic material such as leafmould, bark chippings, pine needles or composted sawdust. Do not use manure, which is both too rich and too alkaline for blueberries.
Transplant container blueberries into larger pots as soon as the roots fill the container, and protect flowers from any late frosts using horticultural fleece.
Blueberries are sold fresh and can also be processed to make a wide variety of other products such as juice, jam, cakes, and wine.
To stop birds guzzling the berries before you do, consider setting up a fruit cage, or at least covering plants with netting to keep them off.
The berries are ready when they’ve taken on their distinctive blue colour all over and pull away easily from their stalks. Leave them on the plant for a few days after they’ve turned completely blue for the best flavour. Berries are unlikely to ripen all at once, so go over plants several times so you don’t miss any.
Fresh is best, but if you enjoy a bumper crop – lucky you! – you can freeze the excess or use your blueberries in any number of lip-smackingly delicious preserves.
Where to buy blueberry seedlings in Kenya
You can purchase blueberry seedlings from our nursery by contacting +254790509684 or 0724559286