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RE: Blueberry lovers (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: bamboo_rabbit on 10.10.2010 at 10:45 am in Florida Gardening Forum

Therealdeal,

Blueberries are one of my favorite things in this world, I have 70 bushes or so and in many varieties. Some of the advice in that handout you got is good but very shallow and some IMHO is just wrong. Let me lay out a few easy steps that if followed will guarantee success. 3 golden rules........

1.

Buy a bale of peat moss and find some pine bark fines. If you can't find the fines you can use regular pinebark and run it over in your driveway until it is fine......or some stores like Walmart and Lowes sell soil conditioner and if you read the ingredients you will find it is mostly finely ground pine bark.

2.

Don't ignore #1 it is the most important thing you can do to ensure success.......mix it 75% pine fines and 25% peat, even a 50-50 mix is fine. If you want to you can mix some of your native soil in to the peat pine mix but there is no need to.

Dig a big hole, not deep just wide. If the plant is in say a 1 gallon pot try to aim for a hole as wide as a normal computer monitor and fill that hole with the mix. The hole only needs to be 6-10 inches deep as we are going to plant the BB above the level of the native soil. Make sure the peat is saturated with water. Fill the planting hole with the mix and place the plant so that 1/4 to 1/2 of the root ball is above the level of the native soil and pour the mix around the plant until the mix is mounded up and even with the top of the BB root ball. The peat/bark mound you planted in to is basically a BB plant nursery and it will baby the plant as it gets use to it's new home and grows stronger. So now you have your BB plant in the "ground" and it is a few inches above the rest of the soil. Now use the pine needles and oak leaves to bring the surrounding soil up to the height of the mound you created. What you are doing is making future soil for the BB plant to expand it's roots in to. The oak leaves are not acidic enough so buy some Tiger 90 sulphur ($10 for a 50 lb bag) and apply say a cup or 2 evenly applied around the plant where the leaves/mulch start, no need to place it near the plant as the peat/pine bark is the right PH. Apply another cup or 2 of that sulphur in 6 months and 6 months later take a soil sample of that surrounding area and get it tested by your county extension agent. You can of course fill the bed with the peat / pine mix which is even better just much much more expensive.

The hand outs fertilizer recommendation is a bit screwy IMHO........also do not listen to the articles that say not to fertilize the first year. If the plant is planted in the growing season wait a month then use Mir acid...they changed the name, think now it is called Miracle grow camelia formula??? Don't follow the application rate which is 1 TBL per gallon instead after the first month use 1/2 tsp per gallon and after that monthly use 1 tsp per gallon for the first year. After the first year you can use the 1 Tbl per gallon monthly. I prefer the Miracle grow acid for young plants, when the plants mature I use 12-4-8 granular as it is much cheaper at $12 per 50lb bag. I fertilize monthly mid Feb through mid October.

3.

The water here in Florida you will use for the bushes is most likely alkaline from the tap and probably quite alkaline.....for young plants I mix battery acid which is sulfuric acid with the water to make the PH lower, I aim for a PH of 6 which is low enough combined with the peat pine mix and I keep the young plants very very moist the first few weeks but mixing fresh battery acid with water can be dangerous so not recommending anyone do so. Since the water you will be using is a higher PH you do not want to keep the new plants wet....just lightly moist. The reason is that when you add that high PH water to the plant the peat pine mix will lower the waters PH to an acceptable level but it can only buffer/lower the PH of so much water so if you water that bush daily you will be harming it. Don't water it just because.....check the soil and make sure it needs water but the soil most remain at all times at least moist. The higher your native waters PH is the more important this is. There is more to PH control than just the soil. That is why the often repeated use oak leaves is misleading. If you live in a area with neutral water or acidic water the oak leaves would be perfect......or if you lived in a area with acidic native soil. We are in Florida where we have neutral to just slightly acid soil and a high PH water so you HAVE TO follow all 3 golden rules. I sure hope all that made sense as it is very very important.

No need to prune the plants the first couple years after that follow the if it does not grow up chop it off rule. Because we have such a long growing season in Florida the producing age bushes greatly benefit from a pruning in the summer immediately after they are done fruiting. This pruning coupled with your monthly fertilizing will cause the plants to make an extra flush of growth. I know it seems odd that pruning will make the plant bigger but it will. When you prune off say 6 inches off the cane tips they will flush and grow say 12 inches and at the same time create side shoots and those will be producing fruit for you the following spring.

I have no idea why they recommend the fungicide, I never use it. Also have no idea why they recommend the pesticide...my guess is they are trying to sell pesticide and fungicide lol. The plants are pretty bug proof, the bugs seem to prefer other plants. The tussock caterpillars are about all that give me trouble and that is just for a couple weeks in the spring and I just dust with BT for them and most years that is not even needed.

Some things to watch for.......branches where all the leaves suddenly turn brown and die but stay on the plant, it is stem blight.

If you get tiny red spots, looks like the leaves were sprinkled with paprika......it is not a disease but a sign the plant is unhappy and needs more nitrogen.

I know this is probably more than any of you wanted to know lol but I love BB plants.....and they are so easy to grow but tend to give people such a fit growing them. If you follow the 3 rules I stated I promise you they will flourish. For those that have tried BB and failed and want to try again the newish cultivar Sunshine blue is the way to go......those plants are TOUGH, fast growing and very forgiving of PH and mistreatment. They have a couple drawbacks as well but overall they are quite hard to kill.


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clipped on: 10.20.2010 at 07:44 pm    last updated on: 10.20.2010 at 07:51 pm

Blueberry lovers

posted by: therealdeal on 10.09.2010 at 07:56 pm in Florida Gardening Forum

Hello all. I just picked up a few Blueberry bushes. Gulf Ccoast, Emerald and one other one I cant think of right now.

I was given this info for care. What do you think? Seems pretty striaght forward and good advice. I am particuallry interested in your thoughts on the fert section and spraying sections.

Thanks.

Care of Blueberry Vaccinium spp.

Habit of growth: Mostly upright, some varieties spreading. A shrub or small tree 4-6 feet if pruned properly.

Location: Full sun for best flowering and fruiting.

Soil: Ideally, likes strongly acidic soil.

pH of 4.0 - 5.5. Mulch with oak leaves or pine needles. Needs rich, organic soil with peat.

Water: Plenty of water; moist soil, but do not allow to stand in water.

Salt Tolerance: Not tolerant.

Freezes: Leaves freeze at 29�F. Hardy when dormant in winter.

Cultivation: Blueberries have shallow roots, so do not till land around them. Weed control is essential because if their shallow roots.

Fertilizer: 7-5-8 Azalea granular fertilizer on March 1st, June 1st and August 1st; 2-10-10 granular bloom booster fertilizer on November 1st and February 1st. Citrus nutritional spray at a rate of 1 tbs. per gallon water 1-2 times per year in spring and early summer when new growth is 3/4 grown.

Spraying: Occasionally in warmer and more humid months for mealy bugs and other insects, 4tbs. per gallon water with Conserve Naturalite insecticide. Blueberries must be sprayed during the warm and humid months of summer about 1 times per month starting in Mid-May, through September with Liquid Copper Fungicide at a rate of 4 tsp. per gallon water sprayed on the entire tree.

Pruning: Prune to shape. Keep bushes from growing more than 5 - 6 feet tall for most prolific fruiting.

Flower Season: White, pink to dark purple flowers to 3/8 inch long. Blueberries flower in February and March.

Fruit: Ripen May to June.

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clipped on: 10.20.2010 at 07:44 pm    last updated on: 10.20.2010 at 07:49 pm

RE: Blueberry lovers (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: bamboo_rabbit on 10.10.2010 at 10:39 pm in Florida Gardening Forum

As Lou said a rain barrel is a great idea, rain is pretty much neutral but that is much better than our tap water.

I should have said you do not have to use the oak leaves and pine needles. Any rotted organics will work and as long as you use the sulphur to reduce the PH to an aceptable level. Also save your coffee grounds for the plants as the grounds are PH 5 and the plants will love them.

Christine,

As long as you are careful with the battery acid it is easy to work with. Just remember always add acid to water, never water to acid. Honestly even if the acid gets on the skin..it burns and you will be motivated to very quickly wash it off but will cause almost no damage if it is removed quickly. Battery acid is only a 30% concentration of Sulfuric acid and I would not try to get the higher concentration acid as they are bad news and can seriously hurt a person. If you get the battery acid in your eyes though it is very bad.....I always wear googles when adding it and measuring it.

You could certainly use the sulfuric acid to lower the PH.......just know I have never used it on the veggies but I doubt it would cause any problems. Just do not use Hydrochloric acid (Muriatic acid) as it turns to salt in the soil. You can get the battery acid at any auto parts store and is very very cheap.....like $4 a pint which will last a long time. You will need PH test strips to work out how much acid is needed to lower the PH to the level you desire. You will have a hard time using buckets for this as it will take very little acid to drop the PH of 5 gallons of water. I use the bucket of my front end loader and I am not sure how many gallons it holds. I would suggest a 35 gallon plastic trash can. Fill the can half full and add 1/2 tsp of the battery acid and then fill the can up and test the PH..as you can see it takes very little acid to dramatically lower the PH as the battery acid is PH 0. It is simple to work out how much you need just with trial and error and once you have the amount down you are set.


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clipped on: 10.20.2010 at 07:47 pm    last updated on: 10.20.2010 at 07:48 pm