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Gardening advice on growing blueberries in the Valley

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: December, 2013, Page 119



ASK THE EXPERTS

Q - Will blueberries grow in Phoenix?

A - Blueberries have long been considered poorly adapted to our desert climate because their winter chilling requirement is typically 800 hours, explains University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Emeritus Olin Miller. Areas around Maricopa County typically receive only 300 to 400 chilling hours. In comparison, Michigan’s cold winters allow the state to produce more than 100 million tons of blueberries annually.

In recent years, some low-chill varieties (150-300 hours) developed for Florida also are being sold “out West.” However, these are southern highbush varieties that need acidic soil. Our desert soil is alkaline. Blueberries are deciduous, need several plants of different varieties for cross pollination, and the blazing hot summer sun is problematic. If you still wish to try, grow the plants in containers so that it is easier to control soil pH and to move them around for sun exposure. If you are not a gardener who enjoys experimenting, blueberries are a poor choice.

After bloom, cut off the flower stalk but leave the strappy leaves to die back naturally, as they are storing energy for the bulb. When no green growth is showing, cease feeding and water only sparingly, to keep soil barely moist and prevent rot. A light blanket of compost mulch over the bulb helps maintain consistent soil moisture and moderate temperatures.
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