Huckleberries, Gaylussacia baccata

ClareBroommaker's picture

Having spent a few years in Ohio during the Great Depression, my mother came to think huckleberries were a pretty good fruit and she encouraged me to try them in my garden. I think Gaylussacia baccata is the plant she meant. Reading about them, they sound tasty. But they don't grow around here naturally, and I do not have the acid soil they need.

Is anyone familiar with this kind of huckleberry? Are they productive enough to be worth some extra effort to acidify a growing area for them? I would like to grow one plant (is that enough?) in her memory, but not if it is both a lot of fuss to yearly fight the moderate alkalinity and a fight to get a satisfying number of berries.

Do you have any thoughts?

I have not tried to raise anything like this in my garden since I garden in very alkali soils of the desert west. However, in western Montana, there grows a very famous huckleberry that seems to be a very different plant from the one you linked to.

I don't know if they would grow any better for you where you are at, but I found this site that sells the same plant.

Good luck

If your huckleberries need soil radically different from what you've got, use containers or raised beds and modify only that soil.

I tried blueberries and I could never get the soil acidic enough to what the blueberries wanted. They died a slow, agonizing death.
I should have set them up in a dedicated raised bed and only modified the soil right there. Or replaced it wholesale.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I have no experience with growing huckleberries. Adjusting soil pH in a small area for a few bushes should not be a problem. Elemental sulfur would be the best choice. Your county extension agent can provide guidance on amount necessary for soils typical of your area. You mention your soil having moderate alkalinity. Soil attributes can vary locally but the map linked below suggests that overall soils in your area tend to be slightly acid.
Your link in your OP gives a optimum pH range of 4.3-5.2. A beef I have with specified optimum pH ranges is that they often do not specify the method of measurement. The two commonly used protocols, water extraction and CaCl2 extraction can produce up to a full pH unit difference in result. For my soil the difference is typically 0.6 unit of pH. When you consider that the pH scale is logarithmic, one unit is a factor of 10 difference in acidity, this is nontrivial. Link below gives a good explanation of topic:
All that said, many plants will do OK fairly far outside of their optimum pH range but I have no specific knowledge regarding huckleberries.

lathechuck's picture

Tatorman - Thanks for linking in that great survey of pH issues. I wish I'd found that years ago! It's interesting that many plants will tolerate 2-3 points of pH variation, which (as you say) is a 100x - 1000x range in acidity.