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Friday, March 13, 2009

Blueberries in Colorado?

People who want to grow blueberries in Colorado really want to grow blueberries in Colorado. Just ask Nancy, the supervisor of Tagawa's Tree and Shrub Department and a certified arborist.

Colorado gardens are generally not seen as a blueberry-friendly place. Our soil here is simply too alkaline to accommodate these acid-loving plants. But there may be a way around that.

Nancy tells me that she and her nursery staff are especially excited about some information out of Colorado State University. CSU's been experimenting with growing blueberries in large pots that have been sunken into the ground up to the pot's rim. The results are looking good!

The soil used in the pots is one of several specially-formulated mixes that keeps the blueberry plants' roots isolated from the native (less-than hospitable) soil. With the CSU guidelines in mind, Tagawa's nursery staff is gearing up to help Colorado gardeners follow their passion for growing blueberries.

Tagawa's will be carrying five different varieties of blueberries this spring. We'll have handouts with the soil "recipe" that seems to work best for the "blueberries in a pot." We'll also have other growing tips to help blueberry fans succeed.... tips like wrapping the plants in burlap to help protect them over the winter.

Bumper crops from these pot-grown plants probably aren't in the cards. But based on the initial results out of CSU, a decent harvest of home-grown Colorado blueberries may not be such a long shot.

And there's more! The nursery crew at Tagawa's will be offering other potted-fruit possibilities this year. Even early in the season, the plants look great growing back in our greenhouses.

Picture semi-dwarf fruit trees in large, fat pots.... pots big enough to accommodate a healthy root system. And around the pots: other small edibles and flowers. Jack of our nursery staff is growing a four-in-one apple tree (four varieties grafted onto one trunk,) and around the base, he's planted radishes, red cabbage, royal purple bush beans, ruby lettuce and rainbow Swiss chard. Another large pot is home to a semi-dwarf four-in-one pear tree with basil, poppies, petunias and chives.

Nancy says any small trees or shrubs grown in containers should be approached as an adventure, not a long-term sure thing. Growing shrubs and small trees in pots rather than directly in the ground will almost certainly mean a shorter-lived plant.

But the results can still be beautiful, with sweet fragrant blossoms early in the season, and bragging rights as spring turns into summer.

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