How to grow dwarf blueberries in a container garden

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One of my favorite fruits is a nice, plump blueberry: baked into muffins or pancakes, blended into smoothies or eaten fresh, they’re colorful and delicious. That’s why I decided to add blueberries in a container garden when I lived in an apartment.

I purchase most of my seeds and bare roots from Park Seed and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. For my blueberry plant, I ordered a Sunshine Blue Dwarf Blueberry plant from Park Seed.

It came in a pot that was 3″ or so wide. I transplanted it to a large, bright red plastic planter I bought at Wal-Mart with a removable water tray.

Planting your own fruits and vegetables can save a ton of money from your grocery budget. As of the time of this writing, Sunshine Blue sells for $19.95 at Park Seed, and if all goes well, you’d successfully have several years of harvest. According to Park, each plant bears 5 to 10 pounds of fruit!

It also reduces the amount of plastic you use if you don’t have to buy plastic containers of blueberries anymore. You can freeze any extra berries you don’t bake, make into jam or eat fresh to have some later in the year.

Dwarf blueberry plant in large a red planter
I transplanted my tiny blueberry plant to a red, cheery plastic container on my porch. It had plenty of light, water and space in its new home.

Choosing and preparing

Before ordering a plant, make sure you choose one that is appropriate for your growing zone, or make arrangements if you’re going to try to use one in a greenhouse or with a growing light. You don’t want to order a plant only to have it die.

There are different types of blueberries: highbush, lowbush, half-high and rabbiteye.

“(Sunshine Blue is) a southern highbush type with a low chill requirement — only 150 hours! — which means it’s great for the south,” Park says on its website. “However, it’s very hardy as far north as Chicago, too!”

You also may want to test your soil. Blueberries like soil that is moist and very acidic. Try to keep the pH between 4- 5.5. According to Park Seed, the Sunshine Dwarf deals better with a higher pH than other blueberries prefer. You may also want to aerate your soil.

I chose Sunshine Blue because it came from a company I trust, the variety had good reviews, and it was a dwarf variety that only gets to be 3-4′ tall. I didn’t need a giant plant on my porch. Sunshine Blue is also self-pollinating, so I only needed one plant– perfect for my space.

Blueberries in a container garden

After I moved the blueberry to the large planter, I took the water tray off so that the plant would fully drain. I wanted the soil to be moist, but not flooded if I over-watered or if there was a heavy rain. I had my pot on the edge of a covered porch– it received lots of sunlight and some rain, but I provided a good deal of water myself.

Once it was planted, I mulched the top to help the soil retain moisture. The Farmer’s Almanac recommends waiting one month after planting before fertilizing the soil.

When flowers appear on your plant, it’s easy to start dreaming about blueberry pie, but you might want to wait. As with growing strawberries, it’s recommended to pinch off flowers for the first year or two if you planted a two year-old plant. It lets the plant become more established and strong.

You’ll probably want to consider getting some kind of protection for your plant to guard against birds or roaming toddlers. Nets work well to keep birds from scoring your blueberries as a yummy snack.

When the berries are ready to pick, they’ll turn a deep blue and practically fall off when you go to pick them. Then you can enjoy them all you like!Blueberries in a container garden

My blueberry plant grew strong and tall (for a dwarf plant) in its new home, bearing beautiful berries.

My blueberry plant

I bought my blueberry plant in early 2015. Berries are normally ready by mid-summer, depending on your growing zone and variety of blueberry. My plant was strong and grew beautiful berries, and I loved seeing it on our porch. When I planted it, I was a bit worried that it would be complicated to grow or suffer if I couldn’t monitor the pH closely, but I was pleasantly surprised: it was incredibly easy to grow.

I wish I still had it. It was an incredibly healthy and beautiful plant, but unfortunately, it died when I was pregnant. I was very busy and ill, and my doctors placed me on restricted activity. Cramps and early contractions kept me from going up and down the stairs and hauling water as much as I needed to in order to tend to my extremely large container garden, and sadly, many plants died.

But my daughter was worth it! I still have two giant red planters. I’m looking forward to planting another blueberry and watching when she realizes that it produces “boo bewwies”– one of her favorite foods!

Growing blueberries in a container garden is just one of your options for delicious homegrown produce if you’re short on land. I’ve successfully planted okra, mint, morning glories, wandering Jew plants, lemonbalm, oregano, thyme, lavender, sage, basil, snapdragons, strawberries, kale, tomatoes and several other plants in my container garden over the years.

If you don’t have the space for a container and are renting, see if your landlord will allow you to plant blueberries (or some other type of berries) in the ground. If you’re planning to live at your house or apartment for at least a couple of years, it would be a good investment. Who knows? Maybe your landlord will cover or split the cost since it would be an asset s/he could market to future potential tenants.

What are your tips for growing blueberries? Have you tried planting them in containers? Do you have a favorite berry plant in your garden? I’d love to hear about it!

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