aqh88
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My blueberries need help

Yay I can finally post. Now for all those questions I've come up with while reading the forum over the past 3days. First up my poor blueberry plants. :(

I absolutely love blueberries so last year I bought some locally which I can't remember their variety. I'm in Iowa zone 5. It was late in the year and they were the last ones left. Really small and kinda sad looking so I put them each in an individual large pot with whatever potting soil was in there from when my mom used it the year before for flowers. I planned to plant them the next spring and set them on the tile in front of 3 full length west facing windows but my blueberries never made it. They started to look so happy with new growth and then they turned red. 1 turned brown and died. Then another lost all it's leaves and they never grew back this year so I pronounced it dead. The last was lost due to the cat deciding to use the large pot as a litterbox.

Attempt 2: I ordered a blueberry package off parkseed.com with 1 blueberry spartan, 1 blueberry rubel, and 1 blueberry sunshine blue. They were quite happy in front of the windows with new green leaves everywhere and the sunshine blue started flowering. I decided they weren't going to last long in the tiny shipping containers so again I put them in some large pots with some cheap potting soil and set them outside this time to wait until I had their planting area ready. They all turned red again. :(

I'm guessing they are unhappy and I need to learn more about blueberries. I have a spot picked out to plant them on top of a mound of topsoil we had to move when we built our house and my stepdad burnt a small tree there so there's a bit of ash mixed in. I have all the composted horse manure you could want at your disposal since I have my own horse stable. How do I make it a happy growing spot for my blueberries before they die in their pots?

opabinia51
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Blueberries like acidic soil so, the ashes will make the soil basic. What you want to get is some sulphate to add to the soil (just a tiny bit to make it a bit acidic). I would just plant the plants directly into the soil and not have the plants inside at all.

If you do this, they should be fine.

Growing them in pots wouldn't work that well because blueberries grow best when there are at least two varieties in the same soil.


Furthermore, I suspect that moving the plants from an indoor location to an outdoor location may have stressed them a little if you didn't harden them off first and that may have lead to their demise.

grandpasrose
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Blueberries MUST have acidic soil to thrive and are very picky about their soil. Their ideal PH level should be between 4.5 and 5.2. Having ashes in your soil will actually raise your PH which is not what you want. You can lower the PH by mixing some peat moss into your soil. Adding sulfate will make you blueberries bitter. I mulch my blueberries every year with 3 to 4 inches of pine needles, and as they decompose, they keep the soil acidic.

Blueberries also have very shallow root system, so you need to ensure that all the nutrients are near the top of the soil. The soil needs to be quite loose, and well drained.

Once you have planted your blueberries, give them a drink of manure tea or fish emulsion every week for about a month. This will help give them a boost to get established.

The reason you need two different types of blueberries is for pollination.
Also, blueberries are very slow growing. They take up to 6 years to reach full production (from the time they are started - the ones you bought are probably a couple of years old already).

Opa is right, moving them back and forth between pots and garden, and indoors and out, probably isn't making them too happy either.

Hope this all helps and you are successful on this round! :wink:
VAL (Grandpa's Rose)

aqh88
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Do I mix peat moss in the whole area or just dig really big holes and mix it all in around the blueberry plants? Then I was thinking of putting a layer of the well composted horse manure across the whole mound. The whole thing is probably around 8' in diameter and 3' high from the surrounding ground. We scraped the top flat when we used some of it for the garden so it's perfect for planting on top of. I'm not sure how old the plants are but the Sunshine Blue already had flowers when I got it and now is forming little blueberries.

grandpasrose
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If you have not already planted the bushes, I would put peat in the whole area that you are planting them in, as their roots will spread into that soil as well.
If you have already planted, then spread the peat on top of the soil and around the bushes, and then carefully mix it in with the top 6 inches or so of soil. You can get one of those PH testers that you just stick into the soil, sort of like a thermometer, to check for the PH level.
You will see a few blueberries for sure, but they won't bear a heavy crop for you right away.
Enjoy!! :wink:

Val
VAL (Grandpa's Rose)

opabinia51
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I am going to recommend against using peat moss because the harvesting of peat from peat bogs is very detrimental to the environment. Furthermore, it is really hard to get peat wet all the way through, even if you totally soak the top, the middle may still be bone dry. Finally, peat moss has very few nutrients in it. If you use some sulphar compound this will decrease the pH of the soil just fine.

grandpasrose
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I agree Opa, that peat is usually not the way to go, but in this case, for some reason, it is proven that sulphur/sulphates make the blueberries very bitter - so what would be the point in growing them?
Normally, the sulpher/sulphates solution is perfect, but in this case, in order not to ruin the crop, peat is a better way to lower the PH. :wink:

Val
VAL (Grandpa's Rose)

opabinia51
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Probably to much sulphate material has been added to the soil in such cases. A very small amount (like a tablespoon) should be added to the soil. Another way to acidify the soil that is 100% organic and is also not detrimental to the environment is to use pine needles.

I would personally take some pine limbs and just run over them with the lawn mower (obviously you don't want to use limbs with a diameter of more than say half a centimeter.....1/5 of an inch.

aqh88
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We don't have any pine trees around. I don't think my aunt has any at her house across town either. All we have are some black locust, oak, a walnut, and the maple my mom is trying to get to grow and I think it died over the winter. I also can't find much peat moss anyway. The stores where I've seen it before don't have any. Maybe shipments didn't come in or something. There are only tiny bags for $6 each that will take me about 5 to cover the whole area. I guess I can go pine hunting now. Otherwise I'm not sure what to do for the blueberries.

grandpasrose
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Hi aqh88! We usually suggest pine because it is usually the most accessible. You can also use shredded oak leaves, or compost made from pine, oak or hemlock bark. Hopefully this gives you some choices.

Opa, again I quote Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening - "Avoid using commonly prescribed sulfate because it is toxic to many soil organisms and changes the flavour of the fruit."

So I think I would just stick with the leaves, bark, needles, compost, etc. to make the soil more acidic. :wink:

Val
VAL (Grandpa's Rose)

opabinia51
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:wink:

Hey Val,

Intuitively it makes sense that the addition of either Sodium or aluminium sulphate (in large amounts) would make the fruit taste bitter. It sort of struck a chord with me because we want to add this stuff to make the soil more acidic but, "bitter" doesn't mean acid it means base.

Usually what is used to quote unquote acidify your soil is either Iron sulphate and Aluminium sulphate what these chemicals are is bases with a pH somewhere above 7.

So, pine or Oak as you have said would work fine. With Oak it is very important to mulch the leaves up before adding them to the soil as alone without some added "greens" for nitrogen they are very slow to breakdown on their own.

As far as the toxicity of sulphates to soil; I have done a little research and the sulphates in small amounts are not harmful to soil or soil inhabitants. The problem there inlies when sulphates (which actually raise the pH of the soil) are continually added to the soil as they can accumulate.

aqh88
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Why do you add something with a ph above neutral to acidify soil? :? My horse manure compost pile has a ph lower than that. Around 6.8-7.0 when I tested it last year but I lost my ph tester somehow. The manure pile also has bits of pine and spruce shavings, alfalfa hay, and possibly oat straw. Depends whether the stuff dumped on that part of the compost pile came from the normal stalls, stalls for pregnant mares, or stalls for injured horses on what the exact composition is. I mixed in about 4-6"(3 tractor bucket loads) of this compost into the blueberry growing spot before it started raining today. I might go ahead and plant the bluberries tomorrow if it isn't still raining. I do wish I could find my ph tester first.

grandpasrose
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If you aren't going to have it ph tested, then to be on the safe side, I would add some oak leaves, or peat, just to be sure. Blueberries need it quite a bit more acidic than 6.8. You still need to lower it a couple of more points, which may not sound like much, but is actually quite a lot to plants. Adding all that organic material from your pile will sure make your garden happy. Ensure that the manure is well rotted before you put it on. Let me know how it turns out!! :wink:

Val
VAL (Grandpa's Rose)

opabinia51
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Hi Aq, my little essay up there was a discussion to dispell the myth of sulphates and soil pH (that I myself fell for). You wouldn't want to add them in this instance because you wouldn't want to raise the pH of so but, rather; lower the pH.

Oak leaves work well for that. Vals advice is totally sound.

grandpasrose
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Thanks Opa!! :wink:

Val
VAL (Grandpa's Rose)

aqh88
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Ok got a new soil test kit with the little powder capsules you mix in with a set amount of soil and water. The ph tested 6.5 and everything else was beyond the surplus or good level except nitrogen. Oddly enough it came up zero. I'm thinking I did something wrong unless someone can explain why composted horse manure would have zero nitrogen. The blueberry sunshine is perfectly happy in it's new soil but the other blueberries aren't so happy. One had all red leaves that started to curl but now looks to have a bit of new green growth and the other has spotty leaves with some turning red. Hopefully they can recover again.

opabinia51
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Horse manure shouldn't have a nitrogen percentage of zero. There is a general NPK value for Horse Manure in the organic forum under NPK values.

grandpasrose
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Opa is right, if you have manure in your soil, it shouldn't read zero for nitrogen. Even so, it is probably low, which might explain the red leaves. To get some more nitrogen into your soil, you could try doing an alfalfa tea. To make this, add 4 cups of alfalfa pellets or meal to 5 gallons of water. Let it sit for about a week, stirring every once in a while. Then water your blueberries with it. You could also mix some alfalfa in around your bushes and let that do the job, although it will be slower to get the nitrogen through to your bush that way. The tea is faster because it breaks it down for you.
As far as PH goes, 6.5 is just a little below neutral (slightly acidic). Ideally it should be one or two points lower. I would add more amendments to bring your PH down to between 4.5 and 5.2.
I think you've done alot to make your blueberries happy, and the sight of a little green on the one shows that you've made some progress.
Just keep tweaking things till you've got it right and they will perform beautifully for you!
Keep us informed - and let us know what you do with all the blueberries! :wink:

Val
VAL (Grandpa's Rose)

Denny
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Blueberrys and starbucks

I see a lot of conflicting information. Let me add to it or make it simpler with one word "Starbucks" I have seen blueberries grown in Coffee grounds and nothing else. They do great with mulch each year and a few more grounds. Starbucks has lots and most are happy to have you take them away. Two places said let us know when you will be by and we will have it packaged up for you. Great people at those coffee shops. I have used Sulfur and peatmoss and they both work as long as you mulch and use little or no fertilizer.

Arlene
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My Blueberries need help

Save all your coffee grounds and dig them in around the bushes. This is what the nursery told me to do. My blueberries were sweet and nice. I plan to keep dumping the grounds unless we get deep snow.

Denny
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Don't cut the feeder roots

Use the coffee grounds as a mulch. If you dig them into the soil you must remember Blueberrys have shallow roots.

Arlene
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Location: N. Idaho

Don't cut the feeder roots

Denny, thank you for telling me this. I did not know this. I always use a teaspoon, lol, to spread them around the plant and dig them in a little. I won't dig anymore. Thanks again.



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