Blueberry lovers in zone 3 used to have to settle for canned or, in later years, frozen berries; but with the advent of half-high berries, growing blueberries in zone 3 is a more realistic proposition. The following article discusses how to grow cold-hardy blueberry bushes and cultivars suitable as zone 3 blueberry plants.
About Growing Blueberries in Zone 3
USDA zone 3 means that the range for minimum average temperatures is between -30 and -40 degrees F. (-34 to -40 C.). This zone has a fairly short growing season, meaning that planting cold hardy blueberry bushes is a necessity.
Blueberries for zone 3 are half-high blueberries, which are crosses between high-bush varieties and low-bush, creating blueberries suitable for cold climates. Keep in mind that even if you are in USDA zone 3, climate change and microclimate may push you into a slightly different zone. Even if you select only zone 3 blueberry plants, you may need to provide extra protection in winter.
Before planting blueberries for cold climates, consider the following helpful hints.
- Blueberries need full sun. Sure, they will grow in partial shade, but they probably won’t produce much fruit. Plant at least two cultivars to ensure pollination, hence fruit set. Space these plants at least 3 feet (1 m.) apart.
- Blueberries need acidic soil, which for some folks can be off-putting. To remedy the situation, build raised beds and fill them with an acidic mix or amend the soil in the garden.
- Once the soil has been conditioned, there is very little maintenance other than pruning out old, weak, or dead wood.
Don’t get too excited about a bountiful harvest for a bit. Although the plants will bear a few berries in the first 2-3 years, they won’t get a sizable harvest for at least 5 years. It usually takes about 10 years before the plants are fully mature.
Blueberries for Zone 3
Zone 3 blueberry plants will be half-high varieties. Some of the best types include:
- Brunswick Maine
- Pink Popcorn
- St. Cloud
Other varieties that will do fairly well in zone 3 are Bluecrop, Northcountry, Northsky, and Patriot.
Chippewa is the largest of all the half-high and matures in late June. Brunswick Maine only gets to a foot (0.5 m.) in height and spreads about 5 feet (1.5 m.) across. Northblue has nice, large, dark blue berries. St. Cloud ripens five days earlier than Northblue and requires a second cultivar for pollination. Polaris has medium to large berries that store beautifully and ripen a week earlier than Northblue.
Northcountry bears sky blue berries with a sweet flavor reminiscent of wild lowbush berries and ripen five days earlier than Northblue. Northsky ripens at the same time as Northblue. Patriot has very large, tart berries and ripens five days earlier than Northblue.