Monday, August 8, 2011

Growing Blueberries

Blueberries growing thickly on a bush at the Chicago Botanical Gardens (CBG).
After strawberries, blueberries are probably one of the most popular fruits people would like to grow here in central Wisconsin. Unlike strawberries, blueberries have very exacting growing conditions and fall prey to a large group of animal pests. Two of my neighbors are very good at growing blueberries. Both have actual cages built to house their blueberries and both have bird netting on the top of these cages. Even here in town rabbits, deer, and finally birds would like to share in our bounty.

Our soils tend to the alkaline pH here and soil amendments is a must. A couple of inch mulch of spaghum peat moss (available in compressed bales wrapped in a plastic bagging)is a must a couple times a year. Mulching heavily, ideally with pine needles is also a good idea.

Blue berries are also heavy feeders and a good supply of water is a must as well.

Once you have tackled all the growing condition issues, it helps to choose the right cultivars. At the CBG, the hands down winner was 'Duke'. I had never heard of that cultivar, and it is possible it would not grow here just 180 miles north. Here, I recommend 'Blue Ray', 'Northblue', 'Northcountry', 'Northsky', and 'Friendship' (a native selection).

Although the foliage turns a nice color in fall and would make an excellent addition to a shrub border or great hedge, I feel you would sacrifice fruit to pests.

Tag on the CBG's most prolific blueberry bushes.

Growing blueberries as a hedge at the CBG. I am sure no rabbits bother these blueberries, nor are they ravaged by roving deer. Note the heavy (at least 4" layer of pine needles (also called pins straw).

The CBG were really good with plant identification tags and tips for the home gardener.

Close-up of blueberry 'Duke'.

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