Delicious, nutritious, and high in bioflavanoids. Music to our ears! Too bad chocolate doesn’t rate these accolades.
Gardeners in Southern California can grow blueberries. I didn’t know this until last year when I saw the last of the bare root selection at a local nursery. It took every ounce of will power not to buy on the spot, but not knowing anything about these plants, I resisted so I could learn more. The trick is to choose one of the Southern Highbush varieties. These require fewer chill hours than the Northern Highbush which require over 1000 hours. You have to grow at least two different varieties for cross—pollination and fruiting (any two varieties will do, regardless of ripening time). Grow in acidic, well—drained soil. Cottonseed meal is an excellent fertilizer for blueberries, peat moss is good for drainage, and of course, good compost.
According to the folks at Walter Andersen Nursery, blueberries are:
***Not a bog plant, need GOOD drainage
***Need acidic conditions (cottonseed meal) , plant with peat and even orchid bark for good drainage.
***Nitrogen – must be dispensed in sulfate form (organic) NOT in nitrate form (non-organic and FATAL)
***If you really like blueberries, 2 plants are a tease, 6 plants will yield a good crop.
***Do well in pots.
Here are some (but not all) varieties you’ll want to look for:
Misty - Southern highbush, early season
Zones 5-10 One of the most popular varieties in California because of fast growth, high yields, consistent quality. Medium to large fruit with mild, sweet flavor. Vigorous, recommended for areas of hot summers and mild winters; tolerates as little as 150 chill hours. (No.1 size bare-root)
Sharpblue - Southern highbush, early season. Zones 7-10. Most adaptable and popular variety for low chill areas throughout the world. Stalky, vigorous bush grows to over 6ï¿½. In milder zones, it will bloom and fruit almost year-round and bush will remain evergreen. Berries are dark blue, about the size of a dime, with excellent flavor and textre. Recommended in areas with mild winters where hard frosts are uncommon. 300-500 chill hours.
O’Neal - Southern highbush, very early season.
Zones 5-9 One of the very best flavored berries with consistent quality throughout harvest. In most climates, it is the first variety to ripen. Medium blue fruit, medium size, very sweet on erect bush that is slightly spreading. Can be a little slower to establish but easy to manage to maturity. 400 chill hours. (No.1 size bare-root)
Jubilee – Southern highbush, midseason.
Zones 5-9 Developed in Mississippi, a tough, consistent producer of very high quality fruit even in heavy soils and very hot summers. Very light blue, medium sized berries with good flavor. Excellent color and good shelf life. Upright, vigorous and consistently productive bush. Condensed, 2-week harvest; fruit borne on outer periphery so easy to pick. 500-700 chill hours. (No.1 size bare-root)
Bare-root plants will ship in January. Buying bare-root is advantageous because the plants cost less, are less expensive to ship, and they arrive at the best time to plant – during their dormant season.
Unfortunately, I’m impatient and want results now! It will be at least 2 years, and probably three, to see any kind of substantial crop from bare-root so spending more up front for a 5-gallon plantmight make sense just to move the process along. You get more mature bushes and harvesting will be in months rather than years. Now we’re talking!