I am not sure about where you live yet Lowes Home Improvident here has a great selection of blueberry plants. I have seen at least Jersey and Parriot at our local one, it’s hard to remember for sure exactly what I have seen there.
I’ve grown blueberries for 7 years here in Maine. My 5 varieties in order of ripening…Northland, Patriot, Bluecrop, Jersey, Elliott. All have been very productive. The only one that I do not care for taste wise is Jersey. It is also the softest berry. Each one is very distinct in growth habit, ripening period and taste. My favorites taste wise are Northland, Bluecrop & Elliott. Patriot has a very strong blueberry taste but can vary depending on conditions.
Don’t just buy whatever you can find locally, there are massive differences between bushes! In my Zone 7 yard I started many years ago with Early Premier, Climax, Blueray, and O’Neal. The Blueray and O’Neal remain- the other two grew and produced well but lacked flavor and size. Early Premier was not very good at all. The O’Neals are incredible. They have ruined store-bought blueberries for my kids and I. Everyone who tries them raves about the flavor.
I added Southern Sweetcrisp based on recommendations in this forum. They have only produced a handful of berries so far but what they did produce has me very excited about this summer!
Andy, there is good reason not to plant blueberries in the soil here. Our soil is on the alkaline side and highly buffered due to the lime concentration. Here’s a good article for growing blueberies in the west: http://frontrangefoodgardener.blogspot.com/2010/01/blueberry-growing-intense-in-colorado.html?m=1
So here, we need to grow in containers or burried containers (bale of spaghnum) to control the medium. Apparently this method has had success.
My problem with the bale, as in time it will decay completely. Some real soil is needed. Raised beds can do that and it’s easier to control the pH with sulfur. I use 1 foot boards and fill the first 6 inches with a garden soil. I then add sulfur on top of it. The rest of the soil is my blueberry mix mounded in the middle as high as I can get. I have plants 6 years old in this method they are huge. It works well! I check pH at the start of each season to see if I need to make adjustments. usually not.
Do you send soil somewhere for pH testing?
No I have test strips and when the ground is saturated I dig a hole and bury the strip. Leave it there for 10 minutes. The strips are commercial grade strips meant to use in industrial applications. You can buy any range you want. i use the 4.0 to 7.0 strips as it is the range I need. 4.0 is a bright yellow, and 7.0 is black. It’s easy to get a very accurate reading.
Drew, I’d like to know how you test your soil as well.
I really need to get an official test done, especially to see how much free lime is in the soil. The more there is, the less effective adding sulfer is as I understand it. However, with your success with raied beds I’m definitely considering that option.
Most recommendations I’ve read online say to just not grow blueberries here. But, who doesn’t like a challenge.
Most universities offer soil tests, and some independant labs too. many are mentioned in various threads. I use MSU or UMass labs. I don’t test my blueberry soil as it is all from bags. I know exactly what’s in it. Which is pretty much nothing. All nutrients macro and micro need to be added.
The last time I had my normal soil tested, it had a pH of close to nuetral, slightly under.
It’s a good day to test the pH of my beds so I went out and they look good, to low pH. So I can use urea at first Holly-tone adds a little sulfur each time, so I won’t use it till mid-summer. Strips are from 2 beds. So one is a little too acidic, but not so much to adjust, just wait some time before adding anything that acidifies soil besides rainwater. i could use tap to water and raise it some after a few weeks. I’m happy they stayed acidic!
Just to show the beds.
Here is legacy, see how it is mounded up in the bed. All plants are still dormant here. Beds are mulched with a thick coat of pine bark.
Here is Raz or ka-bluey in a 20 gallon root pouch. It stays outside all year. Another method to grow these. In 4 years I will up pot to 30 gallon. Big sizes don’t matter, it’s not going anywhere!
This is Liberty during the 2016 season. I didn’t take any photos last year. Just to show fruit, photo taken 2016 07 14
I did take one of Toro last year, hard to see plant as it is surrounded by strawberry plants. many of those were removed at the end of the year.
Anyway I wanted to show what can be done with raised beds.
I agree that this one is a really nice cultivar. In my area this bush has been far more compact (somewhat dwarfing) than other varieties. It is highly productive, nice pink flowers, great flavor and ripens much later than others that I am growing. Said to be more tolerant to pH range. Definitely need a net - it’s a bird magnet!
I like Drews raised bed idea too.
Just curious, is there any reason to consider a lowbush (wild) blueberry? My only experience with them has been the freezer section of the grocery store. However, they are pretty distinct from highbush…small and cocentrated in flavor.
I think that they like them for baking for the reasons that you mention.
I agree they are great for baking, in pancakes, muffins etc. If I had more room, I would grow every wild type I could find just for baking. The highbush is not as good, some are decent in cooking but these wild types are amazing. It’s not just blueberries, just about any fruit that has wild forms, the wild forms are perfect for cooking.
Do you think it would work to have a raised mounded row in alkaline soil, which is basically a raised bed without the boards? If adjusted to the proper pH and adding peat and pine park tilled into the mounded row etc I made one 3-4’ wide
Yes, I don’t see why not? If mounded enough, adding more soil is not a problem. So if soil becomes loose around the roots, just add more. I plant trees in mounds, so sure you could.
I hope you’re right. Everyone I spoke to advised against it, including Cornell. I went ahead and did it anyway. My native soil is 7.2 and I got my mound down to 5.5 last spring, I need to acidify it a bit more but I’m wondering how quickly the soil will lose its acidity. My first year in this mound at a pH of 5.5 my blueberries all turned red and I didn’t understand why.
If you are using anything but rainwater for irrigation…what’s the pH of the water? Stuff like that can mess with your plans. If you get little rain and your water is a 7 pH then you may be fighting a losing battle to grow blueberries.
Well I use garden soil on the bottom of my beds because i want some soil there.
Maybe it best to forgo that and make the mound out of only pine and peat. Also the bigger you can make it, the better. Blueberry roots don’t go down very far. So they should stay in the mound. You could even put a physical barrier between the ground and mound, such as landscape cloth. If only using peat and pine it will stay acidic.
You can see in earlier posts by me that my beds are borderline too acidic! It is just an opened ended container, it’s not the ground. You control the horizontal, you control the vertical…welcome to the Outer Limits!
Here is one of my oldest blueberries, it is now sinking into the raised bed. Still is fine though. Why you must mound, it does settle with time, and organic matter is utilized.