Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Challenge of Growing Blueberries in Colorado by Carol King

Photo Carol King

Who doesn't love a blueberry?  They are one of the super foods, filled with antioxidents.  These tiny, round blue-purple berries have long been attributed to the longevity and wellness of indigenous natives.  Blueberries are very low in calories. A cup of fresh berries provide only 57 calories.  Some research studies suggest that these berries help lower blood sugar levels and control blood-glucose levels in type-II diabetes.  Super food indeed. Why not grow them in the Colorado Front Range home garden?

Blueberries will not grow in Colorado soil. Blueberries need acidic soil (and a lot of it).  Our native soils are alkaline; the opposite of what a blueberry needs! Every year at this time, I see the blueberry plants lined up in the big box stores just waiting for some unsuspecting gardener to purchase and take home to complete failure.

All is not lost however.  Joel Reich, former CSU Extension horticulturist for the Boulder County Extension office experimented with growing blueberries. He discovered that by planting these directly into a bale of spagnum moss, one can have some success with blueberries in Colorado.
Spagnum Moss block

He recommends:

- Dig a hole that is 20” deep, 30”long and 20” wide.
- Get a plastic-wrapped bale of sphagnum peat moss (3 cubic feet).
- Punch about a dozen holes in the bottom of the plastic wrap.
- Drop the bale, holes down, into your pre-dug hole. You can grow more plants in a row by dropping multiple bales in a trench. Different plants are necessary for cross-pollination as noted above.
- Cut an 8”x 8” “X” in the plastic on top of the bale and fold back flaps.
- Plant a bare-root blueberry plant directly into the peat moss (Do this in early-mid April).
- Re-close the “X” using tape, leaving about a 3” hole in the middle to accommodate the trunk of the bush.
- (optional) Install drip irrigation line by cutting a small hole at either end of the bale and feeding the line through the holes, resulting in an irrigation line that runs on top of the peat but under the plastic.
- Fertilize in early May and early July with a balanced fertilizer for acid-loving plants (i.e. Miracle Grow for Acid Loving Plants).
- Water and provide winter protection as discussed in keys to success above.- Provide protection from “critters” as animals love blueberries too.
- Enjoy blueberries year after year!

Complete information can be found at Front Range Food Gardener.

Here's a video explaining the specifics.

If you are up for a challenge, go for it!