Blueberries never last long in our household. You can never plant enough of them!
Blueberries in flower. Each flower will be a delicious berry! These bushes are about 4' tall now and getting close to full size.
Who doesn't love a good blueberry? No, seriously, does such a person even exist? Blueberries hardly need any introduction, but they are a berry rich in flavor and antioxidants and native to our region wherever naturally-occuring highly acidic soil is found. Although there are many species of blueberries out there (and blueberry relatives and look-alikes like huckleberries), the mainstay of blueberry production in our region is the Northern Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). Most cultivars get anywhre from 4 to 6 ft tall, but wild highbush blueberries can reach as tall as 15 ft.
Blueberries do best in full sun and pabsolutely love rich soil with loads of organic matter and moist but well-drained soil. But the one thing blueberries absolutely must have is a soil pH of 4.0 to 5.5, which means they need very acidic soil. Around our area, soils are more typically around 6.5 in pH, but the best way to know for sure is to do a soil test and send it into the Penn State Soil Lab or a similiar university soil testing service like Rutgers, Umass, etc. It's easy and cheap to do, and it will tell you exactly what your soil pH is. If your soil is above 5.5 like the vast majority of us, you will need to amend the soil with elemental sulfur in order to get the soil pH where it needs to be. Elemental sulfur is just pure, naturally-occuring sulfur, so it's safe and approved for organic use. Application rates will be found on the back of most bags, but you can also use a soil acidifier calculator to figure out how much you need to add. I can pretty much guarantee that if your soil is not below 5.5 pH and you DON'T add sulfur, your blueberries will never thrive and never produce large amounts of berries, so don't skip this step!
One other thing you will want to watch out for is the dreaded spotted wing drosophila (SWD), a fruit fly that lays eggs in soft berries like blueberries. The only way to deal with this pest organically is to only plant early or early-mid season cultivars that produce their fruit before the SWD populations are extremely high later in the season. For this reason, we only carry early blueberry cultivars in our nursery and we don't recommend any late season blueberries for our area. Blueberries are not self-fertile, so make sure you get at least two cultivars for pollination.
'Chanticleer' Blueberry - Vaccinium corymbosum 'Chanticleer'
Chanticleer is a vigorous, large-fruited cultivar with consistently sweet fruit. Yields average 10-12 lbs per year when mature. Mature height is 6 ft tall with upright growth habit, spreading only slightly. Ripens very early, 3-4 days earlier than Duke, usually in early June. Originally selected from a seedling in Maryland in 1978.
'Duke' Blueberry - Vaccinium corymbosum 'Duke'
Duke is perhaps the best early season blueberry available, and as such it is a very popular cultivar, especially here in the mid-Atlantic. Duke produces high yields of uniform-sized, medium-sized excellent quality fruit with yields on average of 10-15 lbs per plant. Grows to a height of 4-6 ft and ripens in early to mid-June. Self-fruitful.
'Hannah's Choice' Blueberry - Vaccinium corymbosum 'Hannah's Choice'
A vigorous cultivar that yields about 8-15 lbs per plant with medium-sized fruits, excellent firmness, and fine flavor, sweeter than most early cultivars. Ripens 3 days earlier than Duke in early June, around the same time as Chanticleer. Grows to 5 ft in height.
'Patriot' Blueberry - Vaccinium corymbosum 'Patriot'
Patriot produces the largest fruit of any early-season blueberry with yields of 10-20 lbs at maturity. The bush is upright and spreads when the fruit is ripe; it reaches a height of 4-6 ft and is adaptable to many different soil types. Berries are firm and flavorful. Ripens 4 days after Duke in mid-June. Introduced in 1976.
'Sweetheart' Blueberry - Vaccinium corymbosum x formosum 'Sweetheart'
Sweetheart is a cross of northern and southern highbush blueberries and produces a heavy crop of sweet, juicy berries very early in the season, usually a couple days before Duke. What makes this cultivar quite special is it tends to produce a second crop of blueberries in late summer around August (although these late berries are likely to have a lot of damage from SWD). Grows to a height of 5-6 ft, and spreads to 3 ft wide. Developed in 1999 at Duke University and introduced in 2010. Self-fruitful.
'Toro' Blueberry - Vaccinium corymbosum 'Toro'
Toro is a self-fruitful cultivar which doesn't need other cultivars to set berries, but will produce more berries if planted with another cultivar. Toro produces large, sweet berries of excellent quality and consistent, high yields. Bushes reach a height of 5-6 ft and grow vigorously with a strong, upright, stocky, stature. Ripens about two weeks after Duke, towards the end of June or beginning of July. Developed as a cross of Earliblue and Ivanhoe, it was released in 1987.