When it comes to growing fruit, blueberries are one of the easiest to successfully grow in Eastern North Carolina. Blueberries have few pest problems and the main annual chore would be pruning them in late winter. If you are interested in trying to grow some fruit at home, these would be one recommend for a beginner gardener to start with.
Late winter to early spring (February to March in Eastern North Carolina) is the time to plan for planting blueberry plants. However, if you have tried to shop around for what cultivars or types to plant the number of choices can quickly become overwhelming. There are some important points to consider when selecting blueberry cultivars. One is that not all cultivars are recommended or suited for Eastern North Carolina climate. Avoid falling for common pitfalls such as ordering blueberry plants online or from catalogs before doing your research. Often these businesses are located in colder climates and are selling cultivars that grow best in these climates.
There is nothing wrong ordering from online or catalog type businesses, however, check to see if the cultivar is suited for our warm climate. Also, don’t forget we have local garden centers and nurseries that sell cultivars recommended for our area.
Another point to consider is to not rely on one cultivar. Having more than one cultivar increases cross pollination and often will maximize your yield. Depending on yearly weather conditions, date of last spring frost and temperatures will cause cultivars to perform better (or worse) in one year verses another year. Planting more than one cultivar of blueberries will help you avoid “putting all your eggs in one basket” or depending one cultivar for your entire yearly harvest.
When it comes to blueberries recommended for Wayne County and Eastern North Carolina, the rabbiteye group is often recommended for home gardeners. Rabbiteye blueberries are harvested June through July. Rabbiteyes are recommended for home gardeners because they are tougher plants and more drought tolerant. Cultivars of rabbiteye blueberries recommended for our area include early-season ones such as Climax and Premier; early- to mid-season ones like Tifblue, Ira and Yadkin. Powderblue is a mid- to late-season cultivar that performs well in our climate.
As you make plans for your gardens in 2020, consider planting a few blueberries. Give the plants a couple of years to grow and mature and you will soon be enjoying fresh fruit grown in your backyard.
Jessica Strickland is an agriculture extension agent specializing in horticulture for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.
Upcoming Wayne County Extension Gardening Programs