Best way to buy blueberry and strawberry plants
I already have some of each and want to buy a few more bushes and plants for my small yard. Should I do mail order? Local nursery? Recommendations re varieties? I live in Narberth. Thanks, Georgette
Montgomery County Pennsylvania
Blueberries may be purchased as one-year-old cuttings, as two- or three-year-old bare-root plants, or as potted plants. Generally, two-year-old plants are the best buy. One-year-old cuttings require very close management or mortality will be high, and the larger size of the three-year-old plants is often not worth the extra cost. Potted plants are also more expensive and can establish well if the plants are not already pot-bound. Often, however, the plants have been maintained in a pot that is too small, for too long, and they fail to thrive after planting.
Depending on the garden centers in your area, you may only find two-year old plants from a specialty grower.
Appropriate cultivar selection is a crucial decision for any perennial crop. Blueberry cultivars can be selected so that they can be harvested from late June through September. Given current issues with spotted wing drosophila, however, it may be wise to plant relatively early cultivars so the fruit can largely be harvested before spotted wing drosophila populations rise.
A description of some of the available cultivars follows. Cultivar names followed by an asterisk (*) are relatively new.
Bluetta: Bushes are short, compact, and of medium vigor; fruit is medium-sized, blue-black and has fair flavor. Fruit can hang on the bush for a long time. Consistency of production may be a problem. This is an old variety that is now difficult to source, but had been widely planted.
Chanticleer: Very early so blossoms may be susceptible to frost damage. Needs a well-drained soil. Tends to enter into biennial bearing. Fruit has very good flavor.
Earliblue: Vigorous bushes with upright-spreading growth habit. Fruit is large, firm, and light blue with fair flavor. Fruit set can be problematic. Susceptible to phomopsis twig blight and anthracnose.
Hannah’s Choice: Bushes are upright and vigorous. Fruit is firm and sweet with peach overtones. First berries are large but size decreases as harvest progresses. Productivity is variable with location.
Huron*: This is a very new variety which is untested in PA as of this writing. In other regions, plants have had good winter hardiness and productivity. Berries have very good flavor if fully ripe, but are slow to sweeten and thus will be tart if picked too early.
Weymouth: Very early; bees are needed for best pollination; fruit is dark, soft, and mildly-flavored but sweet. Fruit size is average. Resistant to a number of diseases except for phomopsis. This is a very old variety that is no longer sold by nurseries, but had been widely planted.