Skip to main content

News from the farm

Blueberries in the blood

I love seeing the berries start to turn blue. It starts with one or two, and then boom, in about a week’s time there will be masses.

We would usually start picking around the 21 July, but this year you can put that forward about two weeks; all that hot weather we had recently has brought everything on.

Most of our seasonal pickers come from the Czech Republic, but this year only four can come because of Covid-19. We’re in the same boat as other growers. We take on 25-30 people for the picking normally, and we have recruited that locally this season. We have enough people and that’s all I can hope for really.

I’m a third-generation blueberry grower, with my mother before me, and her father before that. We’ve been growing blueberries on this farm since 1949; my grandfather actually introduced the first blueberry to the UK full stop. He was one of four who responded to an advert offering four free blueberry plants from British Columbia, and the only one who made it work commercially.

Even up until the 1990s, we were the only ones growing them in the UK – that was before the health benefits around antioxidants became known and it really took off. A blueberry bush can be left in the ground for a very long time; we are still cultivating the same ones we had in the 60s. They get pruned in the winter, we put nets on in May and start picking in July, with the season ending in August.

The farm has very sandy soil; it’s about 10 miles in from the coast, next to Hampreston Heath, a Site of Scientific Interest in Dorset, where there are slow-worms, sand lizards, nightjars and all kinds of flora and fauna. The blueberry plantations are right by that; the bushes are 6ft at maturity, and this season we will produce around 18-25 tonnes, or 5.5 million berries.

Blueberry breeding has come forward at such a pace over the last 20 years. Here we grow the early season variety Duke, main season varieties Blue Crop, Blueray and Berkeley, and we’re trialling some new ones that have very large and very firm fruit called Titanium and Megasblue. Older varieties have the tendency to be a little softer, which I prefer, but nowadays the fashion is to have a real crunch.


4 Weeks

Hi David, Are the older varieties of blueberry more hardy and longer lasting? From this article does that mean blueberry plant last about 20 yrs? in a pot or in the ground?

0 Reply

David Trehane

David Trehane is a third-generation blueberry grower from his farm on the Dorset Heaths - the oldest blueberry plantation in the UK. His grandfather answered an advert for a blueberry plant in 1949 and was the first to make it work commercially. Taking on the farm from his mother, David converted the farm to organic in the 1990s. He also runs an agri-tech business. 

Wicked Leeks: Coronavirus Special

Wicked Leeks issue 3 is out now, covering the impact of coronavirus on food, farming and changing habits, plus opinions, interviews and the best seasonal recipes.

Read more

Store cupboard tips and tricks

Make your own Nutella, wow your family with an Italian breadcrumb flourish or transform store cupboard staples into delectable desserts.

Read more

Live Life on the Veg

Riverford's veg hub, with recipes, veg help and community ideas.

Go to Riverford

Join the Wicked Leeks community

Sign up for the newsletter and receive the five latest stories, once a week. Wicked Leeks magazine is published by organic veg box company Riverford.