The perfect fruit for our acidic garden soils!
Botanical Name: Vaccinium corymbosum Common Name: Northern Highbush Blueberry Family: Ericaceae
Description: On the Mendocino Coast, the Northern Highbush Blueberries that do well are low-chill types. These shrubs bear small pink flowers in spring and fruit over the summer. Blueberries are bushy and typically reach 5' high and wide. Recently introduced dwarf hybrids grow to 3'.
Varieties: 'Berkeley' – midseason 'Bluecrop' – midseason 'Collins' – early to midseason 'Darrow' – Late season and largest of the blueberries 'Earliblue' – early season 'Elliot' – late season 'Northblue' (dwarf) – midseason 'Northsky' (dwarf) - midseason
Cultivation: Blueberries benefit from a protected location in full sun and do best in a soil pH of 4 to 5.2 with good drainage. Space plants 5' apart in rows with 8'-12' between rows. They need watering 1 – 3 times/week. A drip system is ideal; keep well mulched to prevent drying out of roots. In the first year, remove flowers to prevent fruiting. After the first year, fertilize with 2 oz of ammonium sulfate per plant at bloom time and a month later, but not after July. Avoid fertilizers with potassium chloride.
Pruning: Blueberries require no pruning for the first 3-4 years and then tip-pruning to prevent an overabundance of fruiting. In the dormant period, remove lower, weak branches and those less than 6" long. Also remove old, mature heavy branches in the center of the bush to all air and sun to enter. Twelve canes of different ages are recommended. New wood produces fruit.
Propagation: In a 1'x1'x1' hole, mix soil and peat moss together in a ratio of 30-40% peat moss to 60-70% soil. Do not plant deeply – they have a shallow, fibrous root system. Be sure peat is saturated and covered with soil so that it does not wick away moisture. Planting more than one variety usually results in better pollination although the new dwarf plants are self-pollinating.
Common Problems: Practically none. If leaves yellow, check the pH – it may be too high. Use netting to prevent bird pilfering.
Submitted by Master Gardener Sandy Riegler, 2007.