Among the many varieties of blueberries available, one stands out, if only for its name: the Ochlockonee blueberry. This is not an exotic variety but was first bred in southern Georgia.
It is a hardy bush and usually beats the late winter freezes because it produces berries relatively late in the season. The berries are large and sweet — you’re unlikely to forget this blueberry!
History of the Ochlockonee Blueberry
The Ochlockonee is a rabbiteye blueberry that is named after the Ochlockonee River in Southern Georgia. The variety was developed by D. Scott NeSmith in 2002. It was released jointly by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the US Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Services.
Characteristics of the Ochlockonee Blueberry
The Ochlockonee blueberry bush has a moderate yield every year. The berries are large and firm and have a rich, sweet flavor.
The Ochlockonee blueberry has a slightly longer ripening season than other blueberries. The fruit is not easily affected by cold.
Growing Ochlockonee Blueberries
Establishing blueberry bushes can take a little time. Once established, though, they can live up to 25 years and produce fruit every year. Our complete guide, How To Grow Blueberries, will give you more details about growing any type of blueberry.
The Ochlockonee is a rabbiteye blueberry and needs a mild chill level to begin fruiting: it must chill for 650-700 hours at 45°F.
The best place in Minnesota to grow these berries is in the North. They do better in higher-lying areas.
The Ochlockonee blueberry bush has quite an upright growth and a narrow crown, but should still be planted 6-8 ft apart, which may be relatively closer together than other blueberry bushes. They do grow vigorously, though, so the space between plants must allow for this.
Blueberries prefer to grow in well-drained, sandy soil that is aerated. For optimum growth, the soil should be slightly acidic, with a pH of 4.5-5.5. The plants will not grow well in soil that does not have the right pH, so it is important to make sure it is correct.
The pH of alkaline soil can be changed by adding sulfur, but this should be done about 6 months before planting season.
Because the roots of a blueberry are a thread-like mass, they are very sensitive to different levels of water in the soil, which must be kept moist, but not soggy, or the roots will be damaged.
Water the blueberries during the day, keeping the soil moist to about one inch. Make sure that you water all around the plant. You can put mulch on the soil around the stem of the bush, but make sure that the soil does not get too water-bound.
Blueberries can be grown in raised beds in areas with slightly higher rainfall, although this is generally not the ideal situation for growing blueberries.
Blueberry bushes need a lot of full sun, so make sure you choose a location that will guarantee at least 6-8 hours of sun every day. They can be in semi-shade for part of the day, preferably in the late afternoon. The bushes need to be planted where they will get morning and afternoon sun, if they cannot be in full sun the whole day.
Ochlockonee blueberry bushes are quite fussy, especially in their first year of growth. When they are established, though, they will be easier to maintain. Do not fertilize the bushes during the first year, but after their first year they should be fed annually during the spring.
Apply fertilizer as recommended in a circle around the whole bush, about six inches from the stem. For more information about feeding blueberry bushes, check out our post on blueberry nutrition.
Ochlockonee blueberries cannot self-pollinate, so they need to be cross-pollinated from another rabbiteye bush. The variety that is most compatible is the Powderblue. Make sure you plant at least one of this variety near to any Ochlockonee bushes you plant in your garden.
After the first year of growth of a new Ochlockonee blueberry bush, you should remove all the flower buds, which will promote growth in the roots. For more details about pruning, check out our blog article, How To Prune Blueberries.
Diseases & Care
The Ochlockonee blueberry is susceptible to some diseases, although it is more resistant to bacterial canker than some other varieties of blueberry. For information about the diseases that can affect your blueberry shrubs, read our blog post on common blueberry bush diseases.
The bushes are also affected by insects, such as aphids, Japanese beetles, leafhoppers, and borers. For information about how to identify, eliminate, and deter pests, read our blog post on the 9 common pests you’ll encounter with blueberries.
Ochlockonee blueberries can be picked mechanically if they are grown commercially. You will not be doing this in your garden, so take care when you pick them to keep the berries from being bruised or damaged.
Picking blueberries at the right time is important, so check out our article, When Is the Right Time To Pick Blueberries?
Common Uses of the Ochlockonee Blueberry
The fruit from the Ochlockonee bushes are large, firm and have a sweet taste, so they are mostly eaten fresh, but are also used in other ways.
Ochlockonee blueberries can be preserved by freezing, canning and drying.
To freeze blueberries, do so as soon after picking as possible. Place the blueberries into a plastic container or a Ziploc bag and put them straight into the freezer. When you are ready to use them, take the berries out of the freezer, wash them briefly with water and then use them as you wish.
If you do want to eat them raw, then you should allow the berries to thaw naturally. Just take note that berries that have been frozen are not as firm as when they are fresh.
Quite simply, canning fruit involves boiling it in some water and sugar and sealing it in a sealed glass jar.
Place 1 lb (500g) of berries into a saucepan with 1 ½ C (400 ml) water and 0.4 lb (200 g) sugar. Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer on low heat for 30 mins.
Allow the fruit to cool mostly, then put it into glass jars you have warmed. Seal the jars so that they form a vacuum.
Blueberries are very well suited to cooking, particularly baking and are a familiar ingredient in pies and muffins. Blueberry jams and jellies are also very popular and make a tasty addition to scones, flapjacks and pancakes.
If you`ve never baked with blueberries (or even if you have), then why not try the blueberry coffee cake recipe on our website?
Health Benefits of the Ochlockonee Blueberry
Blueberries are a natural antioxidant, which helps to boost the immune system. They are also a source of fiber, which is good for the digestive system, and are also full of vitamin C.
For more health benefits of Ochlockonee blueberries, check out The Health Benefits of Blueberries.
Where To Buy Ochlockonee Blueberry Shrubs
To purchase an Ochlockonee blueberry bush for your home, you can visit your local nursery or garden center. They are also available online from Amazon.com.
Wrapping Up the Ochlockonee Blueberry
Named after a river, the Ochlockonee is a special blueberry that produces a large, firm, sweet fruit. What more could you ask for in a blueberry? Eat it fresh, or use it for cooking or baking. You will not easily forget the Ochlockonee blueberry!
Do you have a tip to share about the Ochlockonee blueberry? Leave it in the comment 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!