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4010 Mt Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, CA, 94549

Located in the Bay Area, CA, we're a family-owned garden center offering unusual and hard-to-find plants & gifts. Established 1946.

Blueberries 101

Life is Beautiful Blog

Blueberries 101

Lauren Brookhart

A plant native to North America, the Blueberry is almost the perfect fruit: beautiful, ornamental, easy to grow and contains a high concentration of antioxidants. 

Soil

The trick to growing blueberries is good soil. With a little bit of attention to proper soil conditions, blueberries will thrive in the landscape and especially in containers - where you can really control the soil conditions. Blueberries like well drained acidic soils. They prefer a low pH of 4.5 to 6.0 with 5.5 being optimal. They also like to grow in actively decomposing organic matter. To help ensure these optimal soil traits in your garden we recommend planting with Master Nursery Acid Planting Mix.

Exposure

In hotter climates, such as Lafayette and the rest of Contra Costa County, blueberries prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. While in cooler climates, such as Alameda County, blueberries prefer sun all day. 

 Delicious berries just about ready for picking! 

Delicious berries just about ready for picking! 

Chill Hours

Many varieties of fruiting plants need a specific length of time in dormancy - essentially, in temperatures below 45 degrees - in order to set fruit. Highbush varieties are categorized into 2 groups based on their chill requirements:

  • Northern Highbush, "High Chill" varieties require 800-1000 chill hours
  • Southern Highbush, "Low Chill" varieties require 150-800 chill hours

 

  • Contra Costa County averages 700-1000 chill hours
  • Alameda County averages 400-700 chill hours

 

This means that Northern Highbush varieties should only be grown in Contra Costa or similar counties. Southern Highbush, on the other hand, can be grown in Alameda or Contra Costa - it is perfectly fine for plants to receive more chill hours than needed to set fruit. 

Fertilizer

In spring, apply either E.B. Stone Organics Azalea, Camellia & Gardenia Food 5-5-3 or Master Nursery Camellia, Azalea, Gardenia & Rhododendron 4-8-5. Typically you will want to fertilize once at the beginning of spring and again later in the season. 

Pruning

Pruning is important for a blueberry's overall health, appearance and fruit production. When pruning, keep in mind the following:

  • Minimize or restrict fruiting in years 1-3 to encourage vegetative development. 
  • Maintain a balance between vegetative growth, root development and flowering/fruit set.
  • Develop the overall plant shape; encourage upright growth, strong canes and an open central canopy.
  • Thin out excess flowering and fruiting to improve fruit size and quality.

After your blueberry plant fruits in 1-3 years, it is still important to prune 1-2 times a year. This is will open the canopy of the plant to allow light and ventilation to reach the inside of the plant. This will encourage fruiting in the inner part of the plant and reduce occurrences of foliar diseases. 

It is also important to eliminate smaller, horizontal branches which produce few fruit and are more difficult to pick. 

Early, Mid and Late Fruiting

Different blueberry varieties ripen at different times throughout the fruiting season - for our area, anywhere between May and early July. You will typically find varieties labeled as early-season, mid-season or late-season. We always recommend that home gardeners choose varieties with different fruit times to ensure a longer harvest. Blueberries produce more fruit when planted near different varieties so why not take the opportunity to also extend the harvest?

Plant Characteristics

It can be tough trying to pick out "the best" blueberry variety. Just remember they all make beautiful shrubs and produce delicious berries; you really can't go wrong! Here's a few of our favorite varieties that might work well in your garden...

BLUECROP

A "berry-of-all-trades", known for its adaptability, long bearing season, high fruit yield and disease resistance. So consistent that it is the leading commercial variety in North America. If you want a proven strong performer look no further than Bluecrop. 

  • Nothern Highbush / 800 chill hours
  • mid season harvest
  • large berries
  • classic & sweet flavor
  • 4-6 feet, compact and mounding shape
  • red fall color
  • heavy fruit yield
 Pink Icing

Pink Icing

PINK ICING

This variety is great for both patio pots or in the landscape. Pink Icing flaunts colorful foliage with shades of pink, blue and green in spring, leaves then turn an iridescent turquoise come winter.

  • Southern Highbush / 500 chill hours
  • mid-season harvest
  • 3-4' tall, mounded shape
  • pink, blue green spring color then turquoise in winter
  • great for containers and landscape

NORTHLAND

Bred and developed over 50 years ago at Michigan State University to be the most cold-hardy blueberry variety. Northland is easy to grow and adaptable to many different soil types. The berries are excellent for jams and baking because of their high sugar content and are known for their amazing flavor with characteristics that are more akin to the wild lowbush species than the other highbushes. 

  • Northern Highbush / 800 chill hours
  • early-mid season harvest
  • medium-sized berries
  • fresh & sweet flavor
  • 4-7 feet, upright shape
  • yellow and orange fall color
  • perfect for baking
 Patriot

Patriot

PATRIOT

A great cold-hardy variety that bears consistent crops even in wetter soils. Has one of the most low and spreading forms of any Northern Highbush. Patriot has excellent ornamental qualities with its showy white blooms in spring, dark-green summer foliage and fiery orange-red fall colors, making it great in the landscape and in containers. 

  • Northern Highbush / 950 chill hours
  • early season harvest
  • large berries
  • delicate & sweet flavor
  • 3-5 feet, open and spreading shape
  • red, orange and yellow fall color
  • great for containers

 

Our berries are fruiting now, come in and make your selection today!