Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bare Bottomed Blueberries

….or in other words, it’s time to buy them bare root. Blueberries are easy to grow with varieties suitable for both the landscape and containers, offer stunning fall color, can be frozen, are really good for you and taste yummy! The stores here in the Pacific Northwest typically have fresh plump berries in July but by growing a few different varieties at home you can harvest for up to three months at a fraction of the cost.

Quick facts;
  • Pollination – two varieties are best although some are self pollinating.
  • Hardiness – zones 3-10 depending on variety
  • Yield – 2-15lbs fruit/plant depending upon variety.

How to grow (the basics);
  • Soil – acid soil with a pH4-5.5, well drained but can tolerate wet feet in winter
  • Culture – Blueberries are shallow rooted; ease off on the hoe! A light surface application of organic fertilizer or ammonium sulfate in the spring is beneficial
  • Pruning – some required on older branches. Renew to new shoots.

More details;
Go to this link for advice from the Washington State University extension service, contact your own state extension service or ask at your local nursery. Local experience is invaluable.

Spring flowers
Ideas for using blueberries in the landscape.

Bushes can be used for hedges, screens, foundation plantings, accent shrubs and espaliers. Any variety can be grown in a container but take the ultimate size of the blueberry variety into account when choosing a pot. A 5’ bush is going to look pretty silly in a 15” tall container. North Sky and Top Hat are two dwarf varieties if you are space-challenged.

Their seasonal ornamental qualities allow for many great plant combinations. Early spring growth is bronze followed by pink or white bell shaped flowers. In summer the green leaves contrast with the abundant blue berries. The leaves turn fiery shades of scarlet and yellow in autumn, revealing colorful bare branches in winter after they fall. A true four season shrub.
Fiery fall color

Which ones?

The varieties listed here are some of those recommended for the Pacific Northwest since many of my readers live in this area. Don’t despair if you live elsewhere! Your nursery should be able to recommend the best varieties for you or the Rainier Nursery website can help USA gardeners throughout the country.

Early season

Spartan; a large, light blue, firm berry. Needs well drained soil. 4-6' tall. Red fall color, Zones 4-8


Patriot; Great for colder regions of the PNW  being hardy in zones 3-8. Dark blue berries, 4-5’ tall and 4’ wide. Good flavor and yield. Orange fall color.

Top Hat; A baby at 18” tall and wide. Like an edible bonsai! Zones 3-8.

Mid season

Bluecrop; light blue berries, very large and flavorful. Upright to 4-6’. Ripens mid July and bears for one month. Red fall color. Zones 4-8.

Chandler; the world’s largest blueberry. Bushes are upright, 5-6’ tall and bear for over a month with consistently high yields. Zones 6-9

Sierra; makes an edible 8’ tall hedge. Vigorous and upright. Zones 5-8

North Sky; at 18” tall x 3’ wide this is perfect for a container or rockery. Annually produces 1-2lbs of medium sized fruit in mid July. Perfect for a dish of ice cream. Red fall color. Zones 3-8

Late season

Jersey; A consistent and heavy producer of spicy berries opening in mid August until frost. 5-6’ tall . Yellow fall color. Zones 4-8

Legacy; 5-6’ tall with brilliant orange fall foliage which lasts into the winter. Fruit ripens in August. Zones 5-8.

Sunshine Blue; a pretty evergreen selection which boasts berries in shades of white, pink and blue all at once. Hot pink flowers are followed by up to 10lbs of fruit from early August through September. Zones 7-10. Recommended for the PNW, the South or California.
Sunshine Blue
Photo credit; Life on the Balcony

Where to buy bare root;

So make a list of your favorites, dig out your recipe books and start dreaming of summer cobblers and pies topped with a nice dollop of good vanilla ice cream. 

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