Growing Blueberries in the Desert Garden

 

Did you know you can grow blueberries in the desert? You can if you follow these three non-negotiable rules.

1.) You must plant Southern Highbush varieties (there are many.) These are low enough chill and will be heat tolerant enough to survive. Even┬ásome “low chill” varieties may reqire more chill hours then you get. In Phoenix proper, you need to look for varieties that are under 350. The lower, the better.

2.) You can never plant them in the ground. They are a container plant only and even then they require an acidic soil mixture with lots of peat moss and soil sulfer. No native desert soil. They require an pH of 4.5-5.5. Native soil here is about an 8. No matter how much you ammend our soil, it will never be acidic enough for long enough to keep the berry bush healthy and thriving. Remember, berry bushes are a long term plant. You want many, many years of production out of them. You might get a bush to live in the native soil for a season, but it will die eventually. Alright, enough about that.

3.) They are very sensitive to nitrate based nitrogen fertilizer. It will kill them quick. Be very sure you know the origin of any nitrogen in fertilizer and be sure the soil mixture you use doesn’t have any added in.

Watch your plants for heat and sun stress. Move them where they will get plenty of shade in the hottest part of the summer. This is an advantage to container plants, you can move them whenever you need to. Dave Wilson Nursery has a very helpful page about raising blueberries in a desert environment. Follow thier advice to the letter and you should be sucessful. Enjoy your blueberries!