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Blueberries have been a staple of breakfast pastries and power-smoothies for many years, providing both a deliciously satisfying taste and a range of health benefits. Now, with the help of fish-waste, blueberries can easily be grown in your own garden. So If you enjoy eating a raw handful or making desserts with them, growing blueberries in aquaponics gardens is a sustainable cultivation technique that won’t let you down.
In this article, you will learn tips on how you can make your aquaponics system conducive for blueberry growing.
Why Grow Aquaponic Blueberries
Blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) are a large flowering and fruiting plant species native to North America. Botanically speaking, blueberries – unlike raspberries and strawberries, are true berries, which means they are formed from a single ovary.
Blueberry bushes not only make an excellent fruiting plant, but they also add beauty to your aquaponics garden. Their creamy-white flowers that bear purple berries in summer are a delight to see. By fall, the foliage turns into scarlet red, and in winter, twigs give off red and purple shades, adding a dramatic scenery to your backyard.
Blueberries are generally not picky, which is why they make good plants for aquaponics. When the growing conditions are just right, they will reward you with great-tasting harvests.
Health Benefits of Blueberries
Without a doubt, blueberries taste wonderful, and they’re packed with nutrients as well. They are considered a superfood. The fruits contain potassium, folate, fiber, vitamin C and B6, and phytonutrients – all of which promote heart health.
Blueberries are also rich in antioxidants; in fact, they are found to be among the fruits with the highest levels of antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage and diseases, like cancer.
By eating one cup of fresh blueberries, you will benefit from the following nutrients:
- 84 calories
- 0 g of cholesterol
- 1.1 g of protein
- 21.45 g of carbohydrate
- 3.6 g of dietary fiber
- 14.74 g of total sugars
- 0.49 g of fat
With all the numerous health benefits of blueberries, it’s safe to say that consuming it regularly will lead to better health and overall well-being.
Varieties of Blueberries
When growing blueberries in aquaponics gardens, choosing the right variety is the key to the successful growth of your plant. While the well-known type of blueberry is the low-bush blueberry found in the wild, it’s good to note that there are three types that you can cultivate in your garden.
- Vaccinium angustifolium or Canadian blueberry – a low-bush type growing anywhere between 6–18 inches; they prefer cold conditions
- Vaccinium corymbosum or The Northern Highbush Blueberry – high-bush type reaching an average height of 5-10 feet; they are well-suited for temperate regions.
- Vaccinium virgatum- also called Southern Black Blueberry or Rabbit-Eye Blueberry – it can reach a height of 3-6 feet; it’s infertile in itself, so it needs to grow with other varieties to allow pollination.
Note that low-bush types thrive best in cold conditions, while the high-bush types are more tolerant of temperate climates.
Growing Requirements for Aquaponic Blueberries
To enjoy a bountiful harvest of blueberries for years, here are some things to consider for your aquaponics system:
Aquaponics System Types
You can grow your blueberries in a standard media-filled bed.
Blueberry bushes have a shallow root system, so they are sensitive when moisture drops, especially in summer. For this reason, choose gravel as your media as they hold water really well.
Water and Air Temperature
Maintain optimum water and air temperature between 72F and 76F to help with fruit setting and proper growth of the plant.
Let your blueberry bush enjoy a minimum of 8 hours of sun; for optimal growth, 12-16 hours of sun.
Black crappie, which can survive in acidic to alkaline conditions and a temperature range between 60 and 75°F, can be a perfect match for your aquaponic blueberries.
Using transplants, rather than seeds, is a more feasible option. Space your plants at least three feet apart as the bush can spread out. Flowers will start to appear when the plant reaches one to three years old in spring. By summer, the fruits will start to ripen, changing from green to that distinct dusty blue you see in blueberries. At this point, you can start harvesting. Not all of the berries will ripen at once, so harvest several times.
Birds are the main pests you need to deal with when you have blueberries in your garden. As soon as you see fruits start to turn purple or blue, you can put up your bird nets.
Common Problems When Growing Blueberries
One of the common problems you may encounter when growing blueberries in your aquaponics garden is iron chlorosis. This disease is characterized by yellowing of leaves and premature defoliation. Soon, your plant will be severely weakened. The distinct yellowing of foliage will be apparent in spring, but it can also develop later in summer. If you spot this problem in your garden, you might want to consider adding iron chelate to your system.
While other varieties of blueberries can survive and thrive in warm climates, remember never to subject the plants to high temperatures, like 100 deg F and above. This, along with direct sun exposure, results in low-quality of fruits or the complete destruction of the bush. That said, it is very important to choose the right cultivar based on your local climate.
Pruning your blueberry bush is also essential to the maintenance of the plant. Cut any twigs that appear weak and make the cuts several inches below the affected twig.