Bilberry Plant Information: Learn About Bilberry Cultivation And Care
What Is A Bilberry?
A bilberry (also known as a blue berry) is a small evergreen shrub or small tree native to Europe and Asia. They are very popular in the United States because they grow well here, but are not so common elsewhere. Some species have been introduced into other countries including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada.
How To Grow Bilberries?
The bilberry plant grows best in full sun. You will need at least two feet of space between your house and the wall of your garden. If you live in a climate with hot summers, then it may benefit from some protection against frost. If you live in a cold climate, then the temperature should stay above freezing year round. Watering is usually sufficient during dry spells when regular watering would cause damage to the leaves.
When growing bilberries, you must keep the soil evenly moist. During periods of drought, the roots will rot if left without water. Soil aeration is essential for good root development. You can do this by digging a hole in the ground and filling it with peat moss or composted cow manure. Fill up any holes that appear after planting with potting mix or shredded bark mulch.
Mulching helps retain moisture and keeps weeds away from your plants.
If you don’t want to plant the berries, then you can grow them in containers. You will need a 5 gallon container for every two plants. Choose a large container if you have only one plant. The larger the diameter of the container the better, but you also want it to be at least 12 inches deep so that the roots can develop properly.
You can grow your plants from seeds or cuttings. Both methods are relatively easy to do. Let’s look at growing from seeds first. Soak the seeds in water for 48 hours before planting them. This helps them germinate quicker and stronger.
Then take a piece of paper towel or a coffee filter and wet it thoroughly. Place the seeds on the paper and roll it up. Twist the ends of the paper to form a point, then place it in a plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator for four weeks. Then plant the seeds in a good quality of potting mix in containers and leave them outside in a warm place.
If you want to grow your plants using cuttings, then you will have better results. Take cuttings from the tips of branches during the spring. Each cutting should contain at least two nodes. Plant the cuttings into quality potting soil mix and place them in a sunny window or outdoors.
How To Take Care Of Bilberry Plants?
Once your plants are growing well, there are a few things that you need to do to ensure their continual growth. You can prune the fan leaves as needed, but make sure the stem does not get too bare. Otherwise it may not survive the winter months. You may also want to apply a general purpose fertilizer or a slow release fertilizer every six months during the growing season.
Your berry plants will begin producing berries after 2-3 years. During this time you can remove any ripe berries that fall to the ground. Snails and slugs are attracted to ripe bilberries so you may need to collect the fallen berries daily. You can begin picking the berries when they are fully ripe and still soft to the touch.
You will need to pick them as soon as possible because they don’t store well and other animals will most likely eat them if left on the plant. Pick them using both hands and twist them until they come off the stem. If you are selling them, then make sure you do your harvesting early in the morning so that they are at their best for your customers.
You can dry and store your berries for future use. Spread the ripe berries out on a cookie sheet and place it in an oven (200 degrees F) for about 2 hours or until they are completely dry and hard. You may also freeze them. Blanch them first by dipping them in boiling water for two minutes, remove from the water and then place them in a freezer bag until you need them. They will keep their color and flavor this way.
If you don’t want to pick and process your own berries, then you can always buy them from the store when they are in season or growing in your area. Bilberries are very healthy to include in your diet, so make sure you and your family have them in some form or another on a regular basis. Enjoy your berry plants!
Sources & references used in this article:
Blueberry science. by P Eck – 1988 – cabdirect.org
Organic blueberry production systems-advances in research and industry by B Strik – X International Symposium on Vaccinium and Other …, 2012 – actahort.org
Establishment and Management of the Cultivated Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) by DE Yarborough – International journal of fruit science, 2012 – Taylor & Francis
New and emerging viruses of blueberry and cranberry by RR Martin, JJ Polashock, IE Tzanetakis – Viruses, 2012 – mdpi.com
Triterpenoid content of berries and leaves of bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus from Finland and Poland by A Szakiel, C Pączkowski… – Journal of agricultural and …, 2012 – ACS Publications