How to Grow Duke Blueberry Bushes in Northeast Michigan

Overview

Michigan is the top state in highbush blueberry production, according to Michigan State University Extension. Duke blueberries grow well in northeast Michigan because they bloom later but ripen earlier than many other varieties. The fruit bushes are resistant to top frost damage and are cold hardy, making them a good choice for northeast Michigan's cold climate. With winter temperatures dropping well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and summer rarely reaching 90 degrees, the growing season is short and mild, ideal for the Duke variety.

Step 1

Choose a planting site that gets at least six hours of full sun. Avoid low-lying areas with frost pockets, such as land surrounded by woods or hills. Even in the summer, cold air can collect in northeast Michigan in low-lying areas. Keeping your blueberries on higher ground with good air movement also will help suppress fungal diseases.

Step 2

Take a soil sample to your local cooperative extension service to have it tested for nutrients and pH. Blueberries need soil high in organic matter and an acidic (less than 5.5) pH. The ideal pH is between 4.5 and 5.0. MSU Extension recommends incorporating dolomitic limestone for soils with a pH below 4.0. For soil with a pH 5.1 and above, incorporate elemental sulfur. Michigan blueberry soils are rarely deficient in potassium or phosphorous, but you may need to boost your soil's nutrients with a fertilizer that has extra nitrogen and magnesium.

Step 3

Aerate your soil if it is heavy and slow draining. Blueberries' fibrous, shallow roots won't grow well in compacted, soggy areas. Dig in peat, sand, compost or bark mulch to lighten your soil. Another option is to grow the shrubs in raised beds.

Step 4

Protect your blueberry bushes from northeast Michigan's freezing winters. A heavy snow cover will insulate the shrubs, but adding acidic mulches (such as pine needles) and floating row covers will give your blueberries an extra layer of protection.

Step 5

Fertilize in the spring after the final frost date. Use a nitrogen-based fertilizer (20-0-10) and follow the label directions.

Things You'll Need

  • Dolomitic limestone or elemental sulfur
  • Peat, sand, compost or bark mulch
  • Acidic mulch (such as pine needles)
  • Floating row covers
  • 20-0-10 fertilizer

References

  • Fast Growing Trees: Duke Blueberries
  • Practically Edible: Duke Blueberries
  • Michigan State University Extension: Blueberry Varieties for Michigan
  • Michigan State University Extension: Hints on Growing Blueberries
Keywords: Duke blueberries, northeast Michigan gardening, cold climate blueberries

About this Author

Aileen Clarkson has been an award-winning editor and reporter for more than 20 years, earning three awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. She has worked for several newspapers, including "The Washington Post" and "The Charlotte Observer." Clarkson earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Florida.