After seven years in Alaska, I’ve yet to eat a native blueberry that compares with either the common lowbush blueberry of Maine (Vaccinium augustifolium), or cultivars of the highbush blueberry. I am therefore interested in hearing from any club members about their experiences with blueberry growing in Alaska.
Although most of the popular highbush cultivars are only hardy to Zone 5, some of the new highbush-lowbush crosses are worth trying, at least in the Anchorage area. Five of the nine varieties offered by St. Lawrence Nurseries are apparently hardy enough to be worth a try here. These are Northblue, Northcountry, St. Cloud, Northsky, and Putte. (The Com Hill Nursery catalog, New Brunswick, Canada, rates the first three as hardy to Zone 3, and Putte has survived -40°F., according to the St. Lawrence catalog). Another factor is height: low-growing varieties will be completely buried during a normal snow year, thereby protected from the extreme cold. When I was back in New Hampshire this August, I learned from one grower that some of his bushes died as a result of a severe ice storm followed by a couple of months of sub-freezing weather. Bushes that were completely encased in ice for that whole time suffered badly.
The lowbush blueberry, V. augustifolium, thrives throughout northern New England and Maritime Canada, and would appear to be fully hardy in Zone 3 (and probably Zone 2). The University of Maine Cooperative Extension has put together an excellent guide to growing lowbush blueberries. It is a collection of perhaps two dozen pamphlets and fact sheets in a loose-leaf binder. Topics include planting methods, mulches, burning versus mowing, weed control, and insects and diseases. It can be obtained for $5.00 from Prof. Dave Yarborough, Rm. 414 Deering Hall, Univ. of Maine, Orono, ME 04469 (Phone 207-581-2923; E-Mail Davey@umce.umext.maine.edu).
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