For northern growers looking for the most cold-hardy blueberry out there, the Northsky Blueberry most certainly fits the bill. This super-cold hardy berry can withstand minus degree temperatures while remaining productive and has a delicious “wild blueberry” flavor. Plus, it’s very compact and is the perfect bush for containers.
Let’s learn a bit more about this super durable berry.
History of the Northsky Blueberry
The Northsky Blueberry is a dwarf half-high blueberry hybrid that the University of Minnesota first introduced in 1983 via its renowned breeding program. The plant’s scientific name is Vaccinium corymbosum x Vaccinium angustifolium ‘Northsky.’
Northsky Blueberry / Fruit Characteristics
The Northsky is a small and compact plant that’s very productive and can be grown in some of the coldest climates. It features a dense canopy allowing the berries to tolerate heavy snow loads. Incidentally, the winter snow also serves to help protect the buds during severe cold.
A Northsky Blueberry requires at least 800+ chilling hours.
The Northsky ripens midseason around mid to the end of July. These plants first start bearing fruit after 1-2 years post-planting.
Northsky berries have a sky blue color and firm texture.
The berries are typically small compared to other varieties.
The Northsky Blueberry grows in USDA Hardiness zones 2-8. This cold-hardy variety can withstand temperatures down to -45 degrees Fahrenheit!
Size and Spacing
The plant grows to a maximum mature height of 2 feet with a similar spread. Each plant requires at least 42-48 inches of space between bushes.
The Northsky Blueberry is partially self-fertile and does need other cultivators of the same species for maximum fruit production. Some good bushes to grow alongside Northsky include Northblue, Northcountry, and Polaris.
Northsky Blueberry Bush Care
A Northsky Blueberry can tolerate the widest range of temperatures even when compared with other cold-hardy varieties. However, these plants do have some very specific needs you should know about.
Soil is absolutely crucial for blueberries. Like all blueberries, Northsky needs acidic soil, and they can be very finicky if your pH levels are not within a specific range, 4.5-5.5. The fibrous, shallow roots need soil that’s loose, sandy, and loamy with good drainage.
It’s a good idea to conduct a soil test to discover your soil’s pH levels and what nutrients are present or lacking.
A good organic mulch such as peat moss, leaves, and pine bark will help protect your roots from harsh temperatures while helping the soil retain moisture, control weeds, improve acidity, and moderate soil temperature.
It’s wise to mulch a ring around your plant that’s 4-6 inches deep but leaves 2 inches of space between the mulch and the base of your plant. It’s best to mulch once in the spring and once more in the fall.
Fertilize your plants during early spring using liquid acid or granular fertilizer. Based on your soil test results, you should pick one that has high concentrations of nitrogen along with forms of ammonium like cottonseed meal, ammonium sulfate, urea, and sulfur-coated urea.
However, you don’t want to use nitrate fertilizers because this type of nitrogen is toxic to blueberry plants.
Blueberry bushes thrive in direct sunlight, needing between 4-8 hours per day. You want to avoid planting near trees as tree branches create shade, and their roots will compete with your blueberry’s shallower roots for vital nutrients.
Blueberry bushes need at least one to two inches of water per week. It’s best to water deeply every two or three days, being careful not to overwater. By watering once or twice a week, you force the roots to grow faster as they seek out moisture. If you water too often, well, they don’t have to work for it.
Since Northsky bushes are relatively small, you don’t have to worry too much about pruning. Just prune once before the new growth in the spring, removing twiggy growth while leaving your main stems. This helpful guide to pruning blueberries can provide more tips.
Diseases & Care
Blueberries are generally pretty disease and pest-resistant, but there are still lots of infections and pests that can damage your crop. One common problem is root rot, which can be caused by a variety of things, such as overwatered soil conditions. This handy guide to blueberry diseases will tell you about common diseases and how to prevent them.
It’s not just people who love blueberries and chances are you’ll end up dealing with a pest or two. 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 Northsky Blueberries
When it’s time to harvest your Northsky blueberries, you can expect small yields of one to three pounds per harvest. The most apparent indicator your blueberries are ready for harvest will be the color. However, that’s not always the best way to judge.
You want to feel your berries as well. Since Northsky blueberries are small when ripe, you can test to see if they are ready for harvest by gently pulling a few. When they are ripe, they should fall right into your hand. No pulling or tugging is needed.
And if you taste your berry and it has no flavor or a very tart flavor, that’s an indication that they may need a bit more time to ripen on the bush.
Common Uses For the Northsky Blueberry
Northsky Blueberries make for amazing movable landscaping plants. They produce white bell-shaped blossoms with pink fringe in the spring, and in the fall, their leaves turn a beautiful deep reddish-orange.
And, of course, the berries are incredibly delicious and are perfect for all kinds of recipes.
What Do Northsky Blueberries Taste Like?
Northsky blueberries have a very sweet and wild blueberry flavor. It’s a bit difficult to describe how much wild berries can differ in taste from more common store-bought varieties. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of tasting wild natural blueberries off the bush knows they taste a bit different.
You probably know how incredible blueberries are in baked goods such as pies, tarts, and cakes. But did you know you can also cook meals using blueberries? Blueberries can give dishes with meats such as poultry, fish, pork, and beef a sweet and delicious flavor like nothing else!
These small berries are great in salads, smoothies, yogurts, and oatmeal. And they make a fantastic healthy snack when you’re craving those Twinkies stashed away in your secret hiding place (I’m totally projecting).
You won’t get the best results trying to can blueberries. However, if you’re interested in preserves and jams, there are some very tasty blueberry recipes out there.
The best way you can preserve whole blueberries is by freezing them. You’ll first need to wash your berries before gently drying them. Once they are nice and dry, put them on a cookie tray, being careful not to crowd them too close together. If they freeze all bunched together, it can alter the fruit’s structure and create a big frozen blueberry glob.
Freeze in a single layer for a few hours. Then you can transfer them to a bag or container for longer-term storage without worrying about sticking issues.
If you have a food dehydrator, this will be the best way to dry blueberries. However, you can also accomplish this goal by placing your blueberries in the oven. Bake for 10 hours at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or for seven hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but you want to keep a close eye on them, so you don’t burn your blueberries. After that, just let them cool before bagging them in ziplock bags or containers for long-term storage.
Recipes for Northsky Blueberries
Here are just a few insatiable recipes you can make with Northsky blueberries.
- Blueberry-Dijon Chicken
- Lemon-Blueberry Biscuits
- Lemon Blueberry Muffins
- Blueberry French Toast
- Blueberry Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
- Blueberry Balsamic Glazed Salmon
Health Benefits of the Northsky Blueberry
Blueberries contain incredible nutrients such as vitamin C and K, potassium, fiber, and manganese. But, they also contain a number of incredibly potent antioxidants. Here’s a sample of just some of the health benefits you could enjoy from eating blueberries.
- Lower blood pressure
- Heart disease prevention
- Reduced muscle inflammation after a hard workout
- Reduce the risk of cancer thanks to the antioxidants
Where To Buy Northsky Blueberry Bushes
You may be able to find Northsky blueberry bushes at a local nursery if you live in a zone where they can be grown. However, your best bet will likely be online. You can purchase Northsky Blueberries from Nature Hills Nursery.
Where To Buy Northsky Blueberries
Blueberries are difficult to source in grocery stores. The best way to purchase Northsky blueberry fruit is to check with your local farmer’s market or contact one in a zone that grows them.
The Last Word On the Northsky Blueberry
The Northsky Blueberry is a small, flavorful fruit with a wild blueberry taste and the best cold hardiness you’ll find in any blueberry variety. Its small size makes it ideal for small gardens or container planting, and it’s a beautiful plant for landscaping. If you live in a colder climate, this blueberry won’t disappoint.
Are there Northsky Blueberries growing in your garden? If so, let us know about your experiences in the comments section below! If you’re curious about other varieties of blueberries, click here for our other blueberry blog posts.