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Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

Posted by scottokla (My Page) on
Tue, May 15, 12 at 23:22

I have not been very good about providing blueberry information lately even, but here is a summary of my latest experiences:

For those that are new or haven't paid any attention to my posts in the past but may be interested now, I have Duke, Berkeley, Bluecrop, Blueray, Elliot, and Draper blueberry plants.

In 2006 I started with about 10 each of Duke, Bluecrop, Blueray, and Elliot along with 3 Berkeley. I put 3 Berkeley, 3 Bluecrop, and 3 Blueray in a 50/50 mix of soil/peatmoss and of these I still have 1 Blueray, 1 Bluecrop, and all 3 Berkeley alive and producing well. All of the others I put in 100% peatmoss and of those, all Dukes are still good, half of the Bluerays are good, and none of the Elliots or Bluecrops will survive this season.

During the last five years (including this one) I have gotten about 50 total quarts from each Duke and about 40 quarts from each Berkeley, and all of these will put out 3 to 12 quarts per plant in this their 7th year in the ground. Duke is not my favorite flavor, and it is hard to harvest, but it has been the best for me as far as return on investment goes. Berkeley is one that has an interesting flavor, is beautiful, and has become my favorite but I have not seen it for sale anywhere since my first year buying them in 2005.

I will get about 1 quart from each of my remaining Elliots this year and only one looks like it will survive the season. Don't buy this variety (my opinion). It matures late when you can find good blueberries at stores, it doesn't taste as good as others, and it has not survived as well as others although there may be a reason for this in my case. Each of my original plants gave me about 15 quarts each during their life.

Bluecrop was the first big producer for me and I had a ton of berries in about years 3 and 4, but they over-produced and then suffered. They taste great, and are great for about 5 years and maybe longer if you cut off a lot of the berry buds each winter. I got about 30 quarts per plant before death, but some of these were small because of over-production.

Blueray is hard to judge, because of difference in how I planted them and when I planted them. I have 4 plants that will give moderate crops this year (in year 6 or 7) and these plants look good. Others have died just after a large crop or after extreme heat and dry Augusts. For some reason I still love this variety. the taste is great and the plants have done well for the most part. Each of my original plants gave me about 40 quarts per plant so far and the ones still going will do better, although they only have moderate crops this year.

Draper is one I planted in the fall in about 2009. I have 6 of them. I used my experience with other ones to plant and care for these differently. They have been amazingly healthy until this year. This spring they have absolutely huge numbers of blooms so I tried to remove about half from each plant in March. The plants have managed to leaf out well, maybe as a result of the berry/bloom removal. I will get about 5 quarts each from these this year.

In summary, I would prefer to not plant Bluecrop again, but will still plant Blueray. These are similar. I am done with Elliot. I keep trying to find a reason to not like Duke, but each year Duke comes through again. Berkeley was originally an afterthough in my posts, but it has risen to the top of what I recommend for gardeners. It is by far the most beautiful plant and the most consistent and healthy. Draper is still too new to form a strong opinion on. All that said, I still have to keep in mind the differences in how I planted them, so it is possible that Elliot looks worse and Berkeley better because of those differences.

As of right now, 50% of my Dukes are ripe for this year, 20% of Berkeleyes are ripe, about 15% of Bluecrops are ripe, and 10% of Blueray. Drapers are just starting to turn blue and Elliots are barely hanging on just trying to survive.

I will post a follow-up later to talk about my latest opinion on planting and care that are needed in my part of the state. The heat and dry summers the last two years have changed some things for me.

As a disclaimer, I am really just a hobby guy and I would not claim to be an expert in blueberries at all, but I have learned a lot of things NOT to do and am happy to share so you guys don't waste a lot of money like I have.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

My one Berkeley is also about 20% ripe. It hasn't produced as well as last year, unfortunately, but the few berries on it are huge. It's not growing in the best conditions at the moment, so it has never gotten very big. If I ever get around to planting blueberries on a larger scale I will definitely make some changes, and Berkeley will be one of my top choices. Thanks for your thoughts on the other varieties, Scott.


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RE: Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

I have planted two bluecrop last spring, both plants produced good amount of the fruits to their size. But one died and one is still live. The one survived bluecrop not produced any fruits this year. I replaced the dead plant with Duke this year, as it was already blooming when I brought from WM. So we have some duke berry and I am second to you its taste, it is not tasked good as compared bluecrop. I am sure they will produce any next spring as out soil is not acidic, but enriched it with some peat moss and also top dressed with sulfer. -Chandra


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RE: Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

Where did you guys buy your berkeley plants. I have never seen them locally and the only place i have seen them on the net is Smith nursery in California and they are thru shipping til fall.


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RE: Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

Good to see your post, Scott. I appreciate you sharing your experience with us. Blueberries are my favorite fruit (I grew up in Canada where they grow wild) and when I bought my house (in northwest OKC) I was determined to grow blueberries, but it has been tough going.

Last spring I planted two BlueCrop and one Duke in the front of my house which faces south. I got them at Lowes at the end of the season when they were 50% off. I removed some of the native soil and replaced with peat moss and pine bark and a bit of sand (about 6"-8" deep), then planted the three bushes here. I removed most of the blossoms, mulched them with more pine bark and watered them well, but last summer was very hard on them. The Duke died, and I thought the BlueCrop at the end of the bed that got the most sun had also died, leaving only the other BlueCrop, which got afternoon shade, alive. However, this spring I was surprised that it came to life, and both bushes put on some new growth. However, there were no blossoms on either of them that I saw. The books all say to plant in full sun for best berry production, but I'm thinking partial or at least afternoon shade might be better in our climate. Do you think I should dig them up this fall and move them to a location that gets less sun?

This year Lowes had southern highbush as well so I bought a Misty and a SharpBlue. I removed the blossoms and planted them in the same bed but closer to the side that is most shaded in the late afternoon. I was curious what your thoughts are on southern highbush for my area. They are supposed to be more heat and drought tolerant. I think you are up in the northeast part of the state though, aren't you?

Did you plant yours in spring or fall? I am wondering if fall might be a better option for my area, giving them more time to get established before the heat/drought sets in.

I was also curious about yield. You mention 3-12 quarts per bush - would that work out to about the same number of pounds? I read OSU's publication on blueberries and it said up to 15 lb. per bush for BlueCrop, BlueRay, etc. Your bushes are probably at peak production now, it sounds like.

Thanks again for sharing your experiences with us - it is appreciated!


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RE: Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

Mine are just now beginning to ripen. I have 2 BlueCrop and 1 Elliott.

Mine are grown in containers of straight peat moss. I water them daily or every other day at a minimum and fertilize with an acid fertilizer twice a year - once when they begin blooming, and once after fruit has been picked. Once I fed with John's Lady Bug, water soluble organic fert with micronutrients. I have pruned very, very little.

Last year I had one Blue Crop that did not produce many berries at all, but none of my 3 shrubs produced heavily. I babied them thru the drought last year, and I guess it paid off. I have a ton of fruit set on all 3. Elliott is a later maturing berry.

I have had mine since 2007. I picked a few Blue Crop berries today and so delish!

Susan


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RE: Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

I got my Berkeley at Lowes in a 3-gallon container about four years ago. Unfortunately I haven't seen them there since then. If I ever see more of them anywhere I'll let you guys know.


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RE: Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

I think I saw Berkeley at a nursery in Arkansas in a web search last fall. You guys should see my Berkeley plants. They are soooooo dark and healthy compared to all others. I fertilize inhalf doses about 6 times per year now. I am thinking about a trip to Arkansas this fall for Berkeleys and If I decide to do it I will check to see if anyone else wants some at that time.

I know nothing about southern highbush varieties so I can't help there.

My best few Duke plants will give me 12 quarts this year which is about 16lbs. They have done it for 4 years straight and all are still alive. Mine are almost done for this year.


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RE: Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

I spent 5 hours picking blueberries today. Pretty much every available minute I had. That was enough time to get about 25 quarts with the help of a couple of kids for an hour. When the berries are large (smaller, healthy plants) I can get about 6 qts per hour. Late in the year or when they are overloaded and the berries small, I can sometimes only get 3 qts per hour. This is the time of year when I realize I already have enough blueberry plants.

Duke and Berkeley are now done for the year except for the few final handfuls per plant. Blueray is 75% done. Bluecrop is 50% done (would be more except overloaded and unhealthy so slow to ripen), and Draper is also around 50% or maybe a little more. About 70 qts total so far and about 20-30 more to go.

Anyone near Tulsa can pick your own (Thunderbird) in east Broken Arrow for $3 per lb, and there is a new place in Pryor that is open this year also.


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RE: Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

Wow, that's a lot of blueberries! I am sooo jealous! :) It is encouraging to read that you are seeing such good yields down here.

How much sun do your blueberries need to produce well? I am wondering if full sun is too much for blueberries in our climate? If I moved mine to the back yard where they would get more shade, maybe 6 hours of sun per day in the summer, do you think that would be enough?

Please share more about what you recommend for growing blueberries in our climate. You mentioned that the last couple of years have changed how you grow blueberries, and I'd love to hear more about that.


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RE: Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

My berries are in full sun with the exception of the last 2 or 3 hours of the day when the tall trees 50 ft away to the west give some shade to a row of two. I don't think this little shade matters much for mine.

My first few years we had a lot of rain spread throughout the growing season, especially June when berries are expanding. Tilling in some sand and planting just above grade worked fine those years. The last two years I have gone to planting right at grade. If only planting a small number of plants and cost is not the main concern, I make a trench 2' wide and 10' deep and put the plants 4' apart. The trench is filled with sphangam peat moss and wetted thoroughly first. That gets expensive though so most of mine are planted into less amounts of peat moss.


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RE: Blueberries are ripe; some better than others.

a 10 foot deep trench is pretty deep for berries. Lots of Sphagnum too I would guess. i am betting that is a typo and you meant 10 inches??
I am planting some in my front yard this year. Ill be planting in the fall. I already built raised beds. they are about 8 inches tall and I tilled about 6 inches deep. I mixed 1/3 sphagnum, 1/3 existing soil (clays based), and 1/3 compost. I have room to add more Spagnum, but I ma waiting for my soil test results to come back from Mizzou to see just what I need to add. I am also considering adding some sand. I can get sand for $30 a yard (2700 lbs). My beds are 58 feet long so I assume a yard of sand will make a nice loam soil out of my current mix.

Does anyone have the anme of the nursery in AR with the Berkleys? I am planning on buying some berry bushes form Pense, but they do not have the Berkleys. THey are about 2 hours from here, so I'll probably just drive down and get them in person.


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