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Old 07-05-2009, 10:45 PM
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I am a true northern girl at heart and grew up eating wild and old farmhouse berries. My favorite? Blueberries!

However, it looks like I will be in Arizona longterm. I'm moving to the east-central part of Arizona, at a elevation of 5,200 feet. It is a shallow valley in the mountains just below the rim. (Juniper grassland habitat, cooler winters with some snow, plenty of ground water but has the same AZ dry air and monsoon seasons.)

Has anyone here grown berries in the SW, if so, what kind and what special treatment did you have to give them? Most importantly, do you think I can grow blueberries??? I will have to do a soil test on our new property, but I'm pretty sure the soil will not be acidic enough for blueberries. I can work with that, but I'm not sure if there is anything else I have to worry about. Would huckleberries do better? I have no experience with huckleberries.
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Old 07-05-2009, 11:36 PM
Location: somewhere close to Tampa, but closer to the beach
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Excellent question..

Though i myself do not live in this region, i might be able to share some advise on this subject..

Arizona "technically" wouldn't be the best place to grow most Blueberry varieties..but, there are several things you can do if you are determined to grow them..

First off, because of your location, you may already have some advantages compared to your neighbors further down in the lower deserts..

Because of your elevation, your overall climate should be a little cooler, especially in the winter which will provide "chill hours" which is a measured reflection of the necessary amount of cold temps. many of the most common fruiting plants/trees need in order to initiate blossom and fruit development..

Another factor in your favor is that you (from your description) are located in an area where the chances of having more favorable soil conditions may exist..valleys at any elevation tend to have deeper and/or richer soil conditions...And while most of Arizona soil is considered moderately to highly Alkaline..you may live in a pocket of better soil to start from..

I can remember visiting Tuscon years ago and seeing how different both the soil conditions and vegetation which grew in these areas were higher up in the nearby mountains...I was a little surprised to see Ponderosa pines flurishing along side lush mountain meadows...a great indicator of better soil itself..

While i can't speak for your area's conditions, all the pines i saw only grew above 5,00 feet or so..

In any event, the first thing id look into if i were considering this endevor myself would be locating "low chill" blueberry cultivars..these are varieties developed from wild stock which originates in the southern states..and further developed for places like Florida, Southern and central California and other places where the older types, which came from the northern states struggled..

As for soil, consider raised beds, if your native soil is too difficult to work the good stuff blueberries love into..

For dealing with the Arizona heat, Place the blueberry patch beneath a couple larger trees on your property..just be sure they will receve the proper amount of filtered sun.. If you have Pines/Pinyon/Juniper trees, you can place the bed near them so that the fallen and decomposing needles can provide a constant source of acid to the soil..This exposure should help keep the soil a little cooler and also keep a little more humidity around the plants as well..even beneath a large scraggly Pinyon..

If you have trees like oaks to plant beneath..even better..

As for providing moisture, if it's feesable, consider a drip system..

Really, it will all come down to experimenting with them and seeing how they respond..Id bet you will succeed if you provide the necessary adjustments growing them there might require..

Other berry-type plants you might also consider include the Hucks..give them the same general treatment as the blues.. Blackberries might also be good to attempt..though they might do best placed somewhere where they can have moister soil conditions...

Remember that even here in California many of us succeed with Guava, Cherrimoya, and mango trees which like blueberries in the desert..are just a little out of the range most people would expect to see them growing so don't give up on your quest..Pushing the boundries is what makes those fruits of your labor that much sweeter...
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:12 AM
2,542 posts, read 6,913,045 times
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Thank you so much for your response! I have a lot to think about. Our yard is pretty much a blank slate, and your suggestion of planting under the evergreens or oaks is particularly intriguing. I was thinking about soil, water, heat, and placement in regards to the sun, but not companion planting. Thanks! And thank you for the tip on the southern varieties.

I just picked up a load of soaker hose for free...I'm imagining on needing every last inch of it!
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:26 AM
Location: somewhere close to Tampa, but closer to the beach
2,035 posts, read 5,034,055 times
Reputation: 1099
You're welcome..

As for the tip concerning placing them below evergreens or oaks..this is a natural habitat for blues or hucks..

With sparser trees like the Junipers or Pinyons you may have around,.. if necessary, you can trim them a little to encourage a denser canopy to get more shade..just remember that the full direct sun there will be your worst enemy..especially at this time of year.
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