purduevet
Newly Registered
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2008 8:59 pm
Location: Bartlett, Il

Blueberries in Illinois?

My family likes blueberries, so even though I've had a lot of negative comments about being able to grow blueberries in Illinois, I have decided to try it myself. I bought six plants (two varieties-Northblue and Northcountry), and prepared the soil, and have them planted and they seem to be ok so far. I want to know if anyone out there has had success with blueberries in Chicago suburbs or anywhere close? If so, or if not, if anyone has tips for me I'd love to hear from you :lol:

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

In 1997, Sunset published the National Garden Book, meant to be a companion to its Western Garden Book, now in its 8th edition. There was never even a 2nd ed. of the National. :(

The entire US and Canada were divided into rather fine climate zones. Chicago and immediate environs are Sunset Zone 39, and then it transitions to Zone 41.

"Highbush blueberries" are recommended for your local growing conditions.

According to Sunset, "Selections of Vaccinium corymbosum, these are the blueberries found in grocery stores. Most varieties grow upright to 6 feet or more; a few are rather sprawling and under 5 feet. The majority are northern varieties (Zones 4-65, 17, 32, 34-43), requiring definite winter cold and ripening their berries between June and late August. The relatively new [remember, this was 1997] southern highbush varieties were developed for areas of steamy summers and mild winters (Zones 25, 26, 28, 31, 33); they ripen their fruit in April or May, even before rabbiteye blueberries."

And then follows a list of 18 cultivars! So there have got to be successful blueberry gardeners/growers near you. :)

Happy gardening!

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

MaineDesigner
Green Thumb
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:17 pm
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

I think your only potential issues with blueberries are soil related:
1) You need to get the pH down to about 5 and keep in there. Large swaths of the Upper Midwest have limestone as their parent rock. This tends to give the soil a neutral (7.0) to slightly base pH and enormous buffering capacity. I don't know your soils but you'll definitely need an accurate pH test.
2) Blueberries generally don't like heavy, high clay content soils. They like organic material but the soil needs to be free draining. They are also intolerant of root competition - keep grass and weeds at least two to three feet away from them.

purduevet
Newly Registered
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2008 8:59 pm
Location: Bartlett, Il

Thanks

Thanks for your replies. I checked the soil pH myself with a kit I bought from Home Depot or somewhere. It said I was at about 5.5 or so, but I found it difficult to read, so I am not 100% confident with that. I did add sulfur (elemental/organic ?) which was unfortunately only about 3 mo. before planting. I prepared beds similar to landscaping at the rear of my house (south side), by removing the sod, loosening the soil, adding rich garden soil, then digging the holes, adding a little sand for drainage, and peat, all prior to planting the berry bushes I ordered online. I read that it is best to pinch off all blooms the first year, so the plants can develop more heartily, so I did that. The plants themselves look ok, one or two have some brown spots on the leaves that I'm not so sure about, but all the rest seem fine-leaves look the right color, etc. I have been using Miracid on them every so often, but I don't know if I should be testing the soil pH more, and what to do if I get a higher pH- is it ok to put sulfur directly on the plants, do I just put it around them, etc... :? I also got "pine fines" that I put around the base of the plants, and mulched with a pine mulch that claims to lower the pH. The "pine fines" were difficult to find, and I expectedit to be more pine needles, but seemed to be more soil-ish and small bits of bark and such. The bags themselves were unmarked, but the stack was labelled, so I think I have what was intended to be "pine fines" anyway. :roll: I like to be able to prove people wrong when they say you can't do something, so I am hoping I get berries! Any more suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks everyone!

MaineDesigner
Green Thumb
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:17 pm
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

I don't like Miracid but blueberries don't need or like a ton of fertilizer anyway. You can fertilize in the spring with cottonseed meal or something like Espoma Holly-Tone but they shouldn't need regular fertilizer applications.

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