|I live in northern Illinois where the soil is alkaline and clay-like. I would like to grow blueberries. I've seen some varieties that grow well in containers. Would it be better to grow bluberries in containers or struggle to amend our garden soil? What varieties would you suggest? If I use containers, how would I handle the winter? Any tips or information you could give would be appreciated!|
|You're correct - blueberries require highly acidic soil, and providing this might be easier if you plant in a container. (Use regular potting soil amended with peatmoss and fertilize with an acid-based fertilizer.) Blueberries are shallow-rooted, so if you plant directly in the garden you only need to provide about a half-bushel of amendments for each plant. Use peat, sawdust, composted leaves, pine or hemlock needles (or a combination of them all). The spread the material over a 2'-3' diameter circle and dig it into the soil to a depth of about 8". The resulting mix should be about two-thirds amendments and one-third native soil. The amended soil will be mounded, which will help to provide excellent drainage. A 4"-5" think annual mulch of acidic materials will help keep the pH low enough to suit your blueberries.
If you plant in containers, use whiskey barrels or something of similar size and plan to haul your plants into a protected place during the winter months. An unheated garage will serve the purpose.
In your zone 5 garden you can grow the taller Berkeley, Bluecrop and Blueray cultivars, or the more compact Jersey, Patriot and Sierra. Plant more than one cultivar to ensure a larger, tastier crop.