Nothing tastes as good as freshly picked fruit and blueberries are no exception. High in anti-oxidants and necessary vitamins, blueberry bushes are relatively low maintenance and delicious but can they be grown in Fresno?
Yes. Although it takes a little effort. Most blueberries don’t like our mild winters and they need acidic soil. Like many types of fruit, blueberries require a certain amount of chill hours or time where the temperature is below 40 degree F for fruit to set. Most blueberries need at least 800 chill hours before they flower.
Northern and Southern Highbush blueberries were created to blossom and bear fruit with only 150 to 300 chill hours. These are the blueberries that will grow in the Central Valley.
Blueberries grow in moist but not wet soil and full sun, although they will need protection from Fresno’s afternoon heat. They produce white flowers in the spring and most blueberries have brilliant fall color.
If you plan to grow blueberries in the garden soil, loosen the soil to at least 18 inches and amend heavily with compost and a pine needle mulch to increase the soil’s acidity.
Bluecrop, Bluetta and Duke are all blueberries that were tested in the Santa Clara County and judged suitable for California's climate.
Bluecrop grows to 6 feet tall and produces a good quality blueberry in late may. The leaves turn a brilliant red in the autumn.
Bluetta grows only to 4 feet tall, also with a brilliant fall color and a medium-sized blueberry. The foliage is dense and compact.
Duke produces berries in late April or early May. These berries are sweet and abundant. The foliage of this blueberry turns yellow in the fall.
When growing blueberries in Fresno, a container can be the way to go. In a container you can control the soil composition, pH and moisture levels.
Sunshine Blue is an example of a good container blueberry. This dwarf blueberry only grows to 3 feet tall and wide. The fruit is small and tangy, ripening in May or June.
Top Hat is a popular dwarf blueberry bush with medium sized fruit with a mild flavor. The foliage turns a brilliant scarlet in the autumn. The fruit ripens in early summer.
For more information on the nutritional qualities of blueberries, visit the Blueberry council on-line.
Blueberries are available for sale at many gardening catalogs on-line.