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Kitchen Gardening

Baskets of Blueberries in Colorado?

Colorado's highly alkaline soil makes growing bunches of blueberries impossible, but help is on the way.

It is possible to grow blueberries in Colorado, if gardeners follow the lead of CSU researchers.  
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

Gardeners along Colorado’s Front Range have a lot of challenges when it comes to growing vegetable crops and growing fruit presents problems, too.

Wild weather is one reason tree fruit harvests can be hit or miss. Trees are often hit with a late spring frost that guarantees we’ll miss our fresh peaches, apricots, and other stone fruits.

Small fruit presents challenges, too. While we can grow red and yellow raspberries, other bramble fruits—like black raspberries and blackberries—don’t fare as well over our cold Colorado winters.

And forget about growing blueberries. Colorado’s alkaline soils prevent gardeners from planting blueberries in the ground.

However, thanks to the efforts of Colorado State University researchers, growing Colorado blueberries is becoming a possibility.

At a recent green industry seminar on “Small Fruits for the Front Range,” I heard a report on some interesting research being conducted by Joel Reich, a CSU Extension horticulturist, in trial gardens in northern Colorado. He’s successfully growing blueberries by planting them directly in sphagnum peat moss bales that are buried in the ground. This provides the perfect acidic soil that blueberries need to grow.

For the trials, he punched drainage holes into the bottom of each plastic-wrapped bale and planted one bare-root blueberry plant in each bale. During the growing season, the plant roots are kept consistently moist with regular irrigation. The root zones are also kept moist during warm, dry winter weather.

Another key to unlocking the blueberry-growing secret is keeping the plants covered with burlap through the winter to protect them from drying winds.

Once Colorado gardeners get the hang of growing blueberries, they might want to try growing June-bearing strawberries—something else nearly impossible to grow around here.

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