Help me pick two blueberry bushes

Not for this year – to plant next spring. Maybe. So this is aspirational. :drooling_face:

long background info

I have a carmine jewel cherry tree that I planted pretty much as soon as they became available. I built a cage around it, but it never worked, and I might have grabbed one or two under-ripe fruits, but the critters got the rest. But this year I completely covered the cage in hardware cloth — ground, sides, top — except for the door, which is covered with window screen that can be rolled up (and is, most of the year. And!! It worked.

But the bush has gotten too large, and I’m not sure the flavor is worth it getting the one spot that is actually protected from critters. I love blueberries, and have many blueberry bushes growing happily in my yard, but I don’t get any berries, because the wildlife eats them all long before they ripen. So my plan is to remove the cherry bush and replace it with two blueberry bushes, one early and one later.

But… the one cherry that was inside the cage when I completed it ripened fully, and was actually pretty decent. So I hacked back the bush to make it fit, and if it does okay next year, and I like the cherries enough, I’ll keep it. Otherwise, the space goes to blueberries.

Constraints:

  • This is zone 6, Massachusetts.
  • The cage is only about 8’ tall.
  • I’m not worried about pollination, there are probably 8 other types of blueberries nearby that flower reliably.
  • Looking for high yield in cramped quarters. (two bushes is pushing it.)
  • Looking for strong, excellent blueberry flavor.
  • Prefer smaller berries, but will accept large.
  • Prefer berries that keep, ha! as if I’ll get enough for that to matter.

Also, I would prefer to buy from Nourse, which is nearby and reliable.
https://www.noursefarms.com/category/blueberry-plants/

Some that I have been considering are
early: Reka or Bluecrop
late: probably Jersey

But I’d love to start a discussion about blueberries, the pros and cons of different cultivars, etc. (Or maybe that’s already been done, and just a recommendation between Reka and Bluecrop would be good.)

Thanks.

Very few Northerns get that big, and you could always prune them. Regular pruning is required anyway for best results, once mature. I have only tried
Cara’s Choice
Chandler
Ka-Bluey
Liberty
Legacy
Pink Popcorn
Razz
Spartan
Toro
Draper
Northland

The latter two are new and I have not grown them long. Out of these so far Cara’s Choice has the most complex flavor. Ka-Bluey to my surprise is also excellent. Cara’s has medium berries on a small compact bush. Legacy is also excellent. A larger more vigorous bush. I plan to keep them all, as any of them is usually better than anything I can buy at the store. Spartan is great for an early ripening type. Larger berries. Northland is a smaller berry with a more wild taste. What I heard. I look forward to trying them.

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I have some Northland. They are much smaller than the typical “northern high bush”, and as a result, will produce less per square foot. They look good when they are green, but like all the other blueberries, I’ve never gotten any that are close to ripe.

Both Bluecrop and Jersey are very old varieties. I do not have much success with them. So I can’t comment much.

Here is my Elliott. About 4.5’ tall.

Here are my other 4 large bushes. From right to left, Duke, O’Neal, BlueRay and BlueJay. Actual it is O’Neal that is 7.5’ tall. It is very upright and strong. Since the rows are from North to South, the tall O’Neal may have blocked both BlueRay and BlueJay. Duke is about 5’ tall. O’Neal 7.5’, both BlueRay and BlueJay about 4.5’ tall.
I’m going to move all 5 bushes to my blueberry row.

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For me Legacy, Toro, and Liberty have been the most productive. Legacy was third in that group in productivity. Yet the best flavor. Toro is sweet but a soft berry. Good flavor though. Liberty out produces all others. Berries are ok not great. They tend to ripen quick and almost fall off the plant. Many fall when harvesting. I may remove it. Production is only one factor. Not much else going on with Liberty.

Spartan is my favorite NHB and is fairly early.I’ve read that Reka is very good and may have that one,but ID tags were mixed up.
Rubel was found in the wild,when Elizabeth Coleman White was paying people to find plants,in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.The berries are small,very flavorful and ripen in the mid late season.

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I’m sure climate and seasons have an effect on how plants perform. Most of the 60+ blueberries in nursery catalogs today do well SOMEWHERE, but that doesn’t mean everywhere.

Toro is one that “looks good” for yard plantings. I don’t know that I’ve eaten the berries.

Liberty has impressed me with vigor, berry size, and total harvest…and is among the tallest growers for a NHB.

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Agreed. Plus not many have tried them all. So you don’t know what you don’t know. I can only comment on what I have grown.in zone 6a/5b.

My plant was impressive but then something happened. It became too dry I think? Most of the plant died. It has a bit remaining alive, but it is doing nothing. No berries this year. I will let it go another year and it it fails to thrive it will be removed. No plans to replace it as I’m more into flavor and to me it was just OK. I liked the berries but many others have superior flavor. I have three in containers I will move to in ground where liberty was, well I’ll pick one to go in ground. Cara’s Choice is small so a root pouch works just fine. What’s nice is fabric pots are never damaged by winter weather. It stays out all year. I have done this for many years now.

Toro produces well too, berries are bigger than Liberty. Again here just OK flavor tending to be very sweet, but lack richness of Legacy, Chandler, Cara’s Choice or Ka-Bluey all of which are excellent.
Pink Popcorn is interesting but more a novelty. The berries are light pink and very chewy almost like wax! It’s super early beating all others for first ripened blueberries. Spartan too is an impressive plant.
Production was amazing this year even though Liberty produced nothing. I pretty much get berries all growing season from the ones I have. Also nice yields. I found what I like and get enough berries to satisfy my needs. I also grow blackberries, red and black raspberries, honeyberries, currants, gooseberries, sweet and tart cherries, mulberries, service berries and strawberries. So my small fruit production is very good. I had a fantastic year and my freezer is full not to mention my dried fruit storage. I also grow peaches, nectarines, pluots, plums, dogwood cherries, hazelnuts, quince, and jujubes. Not to mention figs and some tropical or sub tropical fruit like pomegranates.
For next season I’m adding some more blackberries and another jujube, also rhubarb.
Each year as plants mature production increases. I don’t see me adding much more. I’m finally where I want to be.

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When we visited NJ Pine Barren, we saw a lot of wild blueberry bushes. Some of the named varieties were collected from such areas. So I think blueberry would thrive in rich and moist soil, good drainage, and some shade like at edge of forest.

My native soil is heavy, not rich and more rain in spring, then dry over most of summer. So my best varieties are early ones. Heavy mulch, particularly leaves, help a lot for the moisture.

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Congrats…sounds like you’re ready for whatever…

My two favs are Reka and Hannah’s choice. I have read that Hannah’s choice has better yields back east than here in the pacific northwest…but… I LOVE the flavor so the lower yields are ok with me. Reka - med berry bigger than Rubel, maybe a little smaller than bluecrop. Early but I can pick over about 6 weeks. great flavor.
Hannah’s choice is early also. Couldn’t find Hannahs choice out west so ordered from Hartmann. Very happy with the company and the plants. They are commercial and retail.
Have also loved everything I have ever received for Nourse.
I am in Vancouver, WA zone 8b

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Blueray- an old one, my favorite out of about ten varieties I grew many years ago.

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Well I think I am. But one never knows! Hey thanks for all the info. Thanks to all who commented. It’s nice to have some opinions on which direction to go. I may replace some one day.

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Between Reka and bluecrop… No question! Reka!! Flavor… length of picking season. I do have both of these varieties.

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I’ll definitely try to obtain Reka! thanks for all the advice.

Hmm, how hard are mature blueberry bushes to transplant? I have both a KaBluey and Rubel that crop, but I will never get anything from them. The KaBluey seems to crop fairly heavily, too. (It’s out of the way, and I don’t always see it between fruit set and rodent depredation, but this year I did, and tried netting them all. Sigh.)

I slid the mature bushes, trying to keep the soil on the root ball, into a large plastic bushel basket. Drag it to the new spot (in my case transport it 13 miles away) and sort of roll it into the new planting hole. Depending on how much you disturb the roots, you may need to prune back the top some. It is an effort, but the bushes took it in stride. I have some Kablueys that seldom get a berry. They must not be hardy enough here near Minneapolis. For some reason 2020 was a very poor blueberry year for me. I have most every variety that claims zone 4 hardiness.

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My transport is about 50 feet. :slightly_smiling_face:

Does anyone with kabluey know it’s season? (Early, mid, or late, as blueberries go.)

Years ago I needed to transplant my mature blueberry plants. I waited until late fall or winter. dug up as much of the roots as I could. They are pretty shallow…but spread out. Loaded plants onto tarps and drug them approx 70 ft to new site. Lots of peat moss in planting hole. Follow spring trimmed back pretty severely and removed all berries. Gave a little organic all purpose fertilizer. The next year all did well. All the plants lived… and are still doing well.
My son-in-law brought home a couple mature plants a few years ago that were being removed for a housing project. Spur of the moment. they were so happy to have big plants…but… they let the plants produced LOTS of berries the following spring. By the next year, one plant died and the other plant didn’t show much life. SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO MOTHER!.. so… trimmed off all dead wood and didn’t let plant produce any fruit… and just a little fruit the following year. That plant survived and is doing very well.

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End of June early July. Which is early for me.Although it did have a large window of ripening. About 5 weeks. Ripening time for everything seemed long this year. So that may just be this year.

The topic got me to thinking. And a little looking. There are now over 100 varieties of northern and southern highbush and half-high northern hybrids.
Not even to mention Rabbiteyes.

Who has sampled them all…not me. Over the years, maybe 30 I’ve tried, but just a guess as I haven’t kept records. It’s probably higher, counting the Rabbiteye varieties and trying Star and some other Florida varieties over a decade ago in the Ocala, FL area and in Sebring area.

So, my post about 60 or so being “available” is probably quite conservative.
Then, there’s those like Ka-Bluey that are exclusive to Gurney’s Nursery, and some
exclusive to other mailorder firms. Then novelties, such as pink popcorn…in the garden center trade.

Lots of new University of Florida trial varieties. New NC State and UGA varieties of Rabbiteye…there may be 200 varieties. (But, many newer ones are bred for specific low chill or very cold tolerant, etc…and not likely available to the average gardener.)