Blueberry production limited to southeastern NC by soil conditions
“Bad” soil conditions of inner coastal plain good for North Carolina blueberries!
If you have had poor luck growing blueberries, you are not alone. Successful cultivation of blueberries demands specific soil, weather and water conditions. A “green thumb” may just not be enough! You also need acidic soil and a certain amount of winter chill to even think about growing the tasty super-berry that is native to North America.
The first clues are where native blueberries grown
This author grew up on Cape Cod picking wild blueberries that seemed to be everywhere. These blueberries were very accessible in the forest along old sandy wagon trails that ran into the woods beyond the rose thickets in the back yard. This sandy soil is one clue to what blueberries like. In North Carolina blueberries thrive in what is referred to as “salt and pepper soil”, a reference to the soils sandy, organic packed appearance. Highbush blueberries prefer a pH of 4.5, whereas wild (lowbush) blueberries varieties on Cape Cod up into Maine and Canada thrive at a lower pH of 4.0.)
Blueberries like water and winter
The inner coastal plain area of North Carolina also has a few other characteristics that favor blueberry production. In particular, blueberries like between 600 and 1200 hours of temperatures between 33 and 45. This is referred to as the “Chill”. North Carolina has it’s own “Chill Model” for blueberries that takes in account temperature fluctuations between Fall and February 28th. Different varieties and cultivars have different chill requirements. Blueberries also like a water table that is no further than 36 inches below the surface.
The Right Conditions Along SE North Carolina’s Inner Coast Plain
Although blueberries are planted throughout the state, over 90% of production happens in the southeastern end of North Carolina’s “inner coastal plain”. This is a region dominated by muck, peat and sand soils with a shallow water table. This region also has the right chill requirement (when Mother Nature cooperates). Most of North Carolina’s blueberry production is centered around Bladen and the adjacent counties.