There’s something romantic about picking wild berries, especially northcountry blueberries that sound like they came straight out of Narnia. If you’d like to experience picking your own berries, but don’t live near the woods or have enough room for your own bushes, the Northcountry Blueberry may be just the answer you need. It’s smaller and more compact than most other types of blueberries, but it produces nearly as much as a significantly bigger plant. And if you live up north, don’t worry. This is one of the most cold-resistant blueberry varieties in this world or any other.
Curious about growing blueberries in your cold-climate garden? Keep reading to see if the Northcountry Blueberry is one that you should plant this spring.
History of the Northcountry Blueberry
This hybrid was first introduced by the University of Minnesota in 1983 and was praised for its low stature — which makes it easy to keep in containers for those with limited space — and for its resistance to winter damage.
Characteristics of the Northcountry Blueberry
Northcountry Blueberries are “half-high” blueberry bushes, meaning that they are a cross between a highbush variety and a lowbush variety. Because they are half-high, they bring the compact size of the lowbush and the abundance of the highbush together in one spectacular package.
All blueberries require a winter season of some kind in order for their growth cycle to keep going. This season is measured in hours for our purposes here. Some blueberries better suited to warm climates need very few chill hours. Since the northcountry blueberry is well-suited to wintry climates, it requires 800-1000 chill hours (hours during which the temperature is below 45F) to realize the seasons have changed and it’s time to produce again in spring.
These blueberries tend to ripen later in the year than many others. You can expect to harvest your northcountry blueberries in late June to early July.
The Northcountry Blueberry tastes just like a wild blueberry. The texture of the fruit is tender and fine.
Northcountry Blueberry bushes produce small to medium-sized fruit that is a standard dark blue color.
This is a cold-tolerant blueberry variety that flourishes in zones 3-7.
Size and Spacing
Full-grown northcountry blueberry bushes will reach 2-3 feet in height and width. Plants should be spaced at least 3-4 feet apart to ensure an appropriate amount of room for growth over time.
The Northcountry Blueberry is self-pollinating, but it will yield larger crops if pollinated with the Northblue blueberry.
Blueberry Shrub Care
Below are the basics of how to care for a Northcountry Blueberry shrub. For more detailed information about blueberry bush care, please see our guide.
Northcountry Blueberries thrive best with access to full sunlight.
Soil for Northcountry Blueberries should be well-drained and loamy with a slightly acidic pH of 4.5-5.5.
Northcountry Blueberries need to be watered regularly, but should not be allowed to remain sopping wet. Use a high-quality organic mulch for planting your blueberry bushes so that their soil will retain some of the moisture without keeping the plant soaked.
A high-quality acidic fertilizer such as one for azaleas is ideal for blueberries. It is best not to plant the bush directly into the fertilizer, but to bury a ring of fertilizer a couple of inches around the bush so that the roots will gain access slowly as they grow and spread.
A Northcountry Blueberry bush requires very little pruning. For more details on how to prune a blueberry bush, please check out our guide.
Because the Northcountry Blueberry is not a rabbiteye blueberry variety, it is more susceptible to diseases and pests.
Algal Stem Blotch
An unfortunate blight, algal stem blotch is both ugly and difficult to get rid of. Algae creep in through wounds on berries, stems, leaves, and branches, and slowly spread throughout the whole shrub. As it spreads and replicates, each alga sucks nutrients from the plant until it slowly begins to die of starvation.
As the blueberry bush begins declining, orange spots will appear all over it, particularly on the branches. This is a sure sign of algal stem blotch.
To help prevent your northcountry blueberries from becoming infected with algal stem blotch or other diseases, quarantine new bushes before planting them with your healthy ones. Allow several weeks, if possible, for new bushes to show whether they contain any infections before planting. During this time, be careful not to transfer any germs between these plants and established, healthy plants by cleaning pruning tools, etc.
For more information about blueberry diseases and how to prevent them, take a look at our guide.
If you see your blueberry leaves disappearing over night, it’s probably these little suckers. They love to hide in groups on the underside of leaves and eat away. Unfortunately, without leaves, your blueberry bush is unable to soak up the sunlight it needs for photosynthesis. Additionally, the blossoms and berries won’t have any protection from the sun, which can cause them to rot on the stem in very hot conditions.
The best way to get rid of aphids is to welcome some of their natural predators, ladybugs, to your garden. Ladybugs will feast away on your unfortunate aphid population and soon the problem will be under control.
Blueberry Gall Midge
This nasty little flying insect resembles a mosquito in its adult form. Adult females lay approximately twenty eggs each. When these eggs hatch, the larvae burrow inside of the blueberry fruits themselves and begin eating them from the inside out.
Because each larva lives inside a blueberry, it is protected from pesticides. This makes the blueberry midge very difficult to get rid of. The best way to eradicate these pests from your blueberry bushes is to get the timing right and spray pesticide after most of the larvae have changed into adults and before the adults have had time to breed and lay eggs.
For information about how to identify, eliminate, and deter pests, read our blog post on the 9 common pests you’ll encounter with blueberries.
When to Harvest Northcountry Blueberries
Late June through early July is when Northcountry blueberries are ready to harvest. For more information about knowing just when to pick blueberries, check out our blueberry harvesting guide.
Common Uses For Northcountry Blueberries
What Does This Blueberry Taste Like?
Northcountry blueberries are mildly sweet, like wild blueberries that grow on their own and haven’t been selectively pollinated to produce a certain look or taste.
These berries are great for cooking, especially for pancakes and mini muffins since they are on the smaller side for blueberry size.
Northcountry blueberries taste like wild blueberries–which is delicious–when raw. It is safe to eat them raw, and if you want to treat your kids to a wild berry picking party, these would be great berries to use.
Canning / Freezing / Drying
All of these preservation methods are suitable for the Northcountry blueberry.
Health Benefits of Northcountry Blueberries
Blueberries are some of the most nutritious fruits in the world. Bursting with antioxidants, they help reduce the effects of oxidative stress in your brain and your muscles. This may help increase your memory capacity and help reduce muscle soreness after exercising.
Blueberries are also one of the lowest sugar fruits, making them more likely to be a safe choice for those with diabetes. Ask your doctor if blueberries would be a good choice for a sweet snack.
For more about the health benefits of blueberries, check out our blueberry health benefits guide.
We also have a blueberry nutrition guide if you’d like to learn more.
Where to Buy Northcountry Blueberry Plants or Seeds
You can buy Northcountry Blueberry plants online at Nature Hills Nursery. You should also be able to find Northcountry Blueberry plants and seeds at your local garden center or farmers’ market.
Where to Buy Northcountry Blueberries
Your local grocery stores may carry Northcountry blueberries, but it can be tricky to find this exact kind available depending on where you live. If your local grocery store doesn’t carry these, check with your farmer’s market, especially if you live in the cooler parts of the US where these plants thrive and others in your area may already be raising them.
Wrapping Up the Northcountry Blueberry
Compact and cold-resistant, the little Northcountry Blueberry bush really packs a punch. With its sweet, wild-berry taste and Narnia-esque name, it’s the best of both worlds.
Do you have a Northcountry Blueberry growing in your garden? If so, tell us about your experience with it in the comments section below!
Excited for more blueberry content? Then check out our blueberry page to learn all about how to grow, care for, and harvest this delicious fruit!