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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Blueberries Iffy Here But Will Work With Extra Effort

Q. I planted three blueberry plants (Southmoon and Misty) last year and they haven’t grown. I used compost and peat moss in a raised bed and added soil acidifier. They are growing very little and the new growth is reddish. I suspect the problem is nutritional but I need advice.

A. Please realize that blueberries are “iffy” in our climate and soils. One of my precautions to people: “when plants are less suitable to our climate and soils, the more time, energy and money is required to keep them growing and in good health.” I agree with you, it is probably a soil nutritional problem. But it can be remedied.
            That being said, I have seen blueberries productive here. Very close attention must be paid to the variety and type of blueberry selected, planting location, amendments added to the soil at planting and every year thereafter, and irrigation.
Blueberry production is known in Western Oregon and Washington state and even here in Southern Europe in Kosovo.
            You picked blueberry varieties that work well here. We must use Southern, highbush blueberries in our climate. Southmoon and Misty are appropriate as well as some others like O’Neil, Sharpblue and Sunshine Blue.
            Blueberries do not like our climate very much and perform better when protected from late afternoon sun. But they need 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight for good fruit production. Eastern exposures or full sun with protection from direct sunlight during mid to late afternoons is best.
Avid gardeners in Las Vegas can get them to grow as well with some TLC.
            Plenty of compost should be mixed into the soil at the time of planting. Either use a good quality compost and mix it into your existing soil at a 50/50 ratio or use a good quality planting mix in the raised bed.
            Soils are where you must be careful. Compost and soil mixes are not all the same in quality. When using poor quality compost or soil mixes, these plants will fail. Guaranteed. As I already said, blueberries are “iffy” here in the first place and using inferior soils or amendments will guarantee failure.
            You are right. Soil acidifiers help but use the right kind of soil acidifier. Granular sulfur does not work. It does very little to increase soil acidity. Sulfur, yes but granular, no. A better choice is water dispersible (powdered) sulfur. If the soil is warm and moist, powdered or water dispersible sulfur adds acidity to the soil which blueberries need.
            There are other products which also add acidity to the soil. Contact me through email or my blog if you need to find them.
            Blueberries do quite well if fertilized with good quality compost in January or February, once a year. If there soil is good quality, well-balanced mineral fertilizers used for roses or tomatoes work okay. Whenever possible, select acidifying or acid forming fertilizers intended for flowering and fruit producing plants. It will state this on the label.
            Cover the surface of the soil in a layer of wood chips 3 to 4 inches deep. Wood chips from trees taken out of urban landscapes work well. Keep this surface mulch 6 inches from the plants but cover the soil where roots are growing.
            Water them as you would fruit trees and other non-desert landscape plants. Keep the soil moist but not wet. Use a water moisture meter for houseplants if you are unsure when to water. Make sure that 20% of the applied water drains away from the roots.

1 comment:

  1. My blueberries are east facing and shaded from afternoon sun. Doing well and producing in their 2nd year. I used bagged acidic potting soil mix at planting. Here's a photo of mine if links work in these comments. https://goo.gl/photos/JQhGQyHmkcemzYyQ6