Question on raised beds for blueberries

jennieboyer(8)February 12, 2013

Hi All,

I got five blueberry plants to use in my backyard. Unfortunately, my soil has a ph of 6.8. I was thinking about digging the soil out and planting the blueberries in holes with just peat moss and pine needles. This is still an option, but I'm thinking through another option now.

I'm considering doing them in a raised bed. I have found one that is fairly inexpensive as a kit, and might work well for me. Here are a few questions..

Is a 9" tall raised bed enough? The kit has two 9" tall squares, and I could stack them to get 18", but I'd rather do 9" and get more space if possible. If there is any question about 9" being deep enough, I'm going to go with 18".

What soil should I use for the raised bed? If I go with the 9" height, I will need 8 cubic feet total. It seems straight peat and pine needles at that point won't work for the whole bed? What should the "soil" be? What ratio?

I currently have these plants in posts and they seem to be doing well, but I want to get them in the ground by next weekend at the latest. I really am thinking raised bed may be my best bet.

Any thoughts appreciated.

Jennie

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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Jennie,

Nine inches isn't much I would do the 18". You didn't say how big the squares are. Blueberry roots extend quite a ways out past the mature canopy.

It would help to know what state you are in as some products available in the east are not readily available in the west.

I grow all my 130+ BB in the ground but a 3-1 mix of pine fines and wet peat seems to work well. If you have coffee grounds add that as well......if not a few shovel fulls of sand to tighten up the pore spaces is good.

You could also grow in pots......Those blue 55 gallon barrels are readily available and cheap ($10 or so) and cut in half makes 2 nice 30 gallon pots. Yes I know the math does not seem to add up but the barrels have head space so a 55 gallon barrel is actually 60 gallons. Drainage holes in the bottom and you are set. You could also bury the pots in the ground almost to the rim.

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Tue, Feb 12, 13 at 8:13

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:12AM
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jennieboyer(8)

Hi Bamboo_rabbit - thanks for the quick response! I am in zone 8 - south Georgia, about 10 miles from the Florida line.

The beds are 4' x 4'. I was planning on doing four of the bushes in the bed (near the corners) and the fifth a different way. Will this be big enough?

Do you do yours in the 3-1 mix in the ground? If so, sounds like that might work for me in the raised bed or barrel? How about if I did that in the ground with the surrounding soil being treated to bring ph down?

The blue barrels could also work for me. Any recommendations on sourcing? How do you cut them easily?

Sorry for all the questions - I really want to do this right!

Jennie

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:34AM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

On cutting the blue barrel its always works best if cut in half first take marker pin then use shill saw cuts that plastic fast. Then cut holes with hole saw in bottoms for drainage 5 or 6 holes like 1/2 to 2 inches.
I fill mind with composted pine bark has a little sand with fine pine bark it cost me 12.00 ton at bark mill. Ask local farm supply people about person may have some blue barrels for sale if live around Homerville that's good place look.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 9:08AM
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ericwi

You will have to figure out what the pH of your irrigation water is, unless you are using collected rainwater which should be slightly acidic. If you have alkaline irrigation water, from a well, then it will take some effort to get the pH right, and keep it in range. Blueberry shrubs will not survive dry roots, so periodic watering is important.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 9:44AM
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riverman1

Dig a hole about 15 inches deep and 30 inches wide. Back fill the hole with 2/3 peat and 1/3 native soil. Assuming the native soil isn't clay, if it is then use pitting soil instead. This is what I did with my 20 plants and they are thriving! I had plants that were maybe 10 inches tall last spring and are 4 feet tall by fall. They have a root ball that is probably 20 inches wide.

This time of year I put a few inches of the peat and soil mix or pine needles around the base. I generally fertilize with a handfull of ammonium
Sulfate scattered at the drip line a few times a year but my ph is getting on the low side so will probably do something else this year. I tried pots, they do work but my plants have been much healthier since moving them into the ground.

RM

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 10:09AM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

I have clay soil and grow mine in pots and raised beds. The raised beds are 3x3x10inches tall. The soil mix I used was 60-70% peatmoss, 30-40% pine bark mulch and a hand full of sulfer per box. Also mulch about 3inchs deep with pine bark mulch. This is the third year for them in the raised beds. If I did it over again I would add some sand or perilite to the mix. So far so good!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 12:25PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Jenny,

4x4 and 4 plants is way too tight. It would work great for one plant.....

Since you are in the east you can get the pine fines at Walmart. Purple bags just marked pine mulch. They are 2 CF bags for $2.65.

Yes when I plant mine I use the 3-1 pine fines and wet peat then some native soil which is just sand. After that I mulch with more pine fines a bag a bush and cover that with tree company wood chips 10 inches thick. I never apply pine again just wood chips but I acidify my water.

Frankly if you don't mind the look the barrels work great. You can find them on craigs list. There are commercial growers here that use the barrels and have thousands of plants in them.

Eric mentioned the PH of your irrigation water but it is more complex than that. If your water PH is acidic you are golden. If it is alkaline is where it gets tricky. You could have PH 7 water and it is terrible for your BB and I could have PH 7 water that is fine for my BB. It all depends on the bicarbonate load your water carries. For just a few bushes I think the best advice is mulch the heck out of them and just use collected rain water. The thick layer of mulch will help to keep them moist so you won't have to water as much.

We cut the barrels on a table saw:) Just line the fence up so the blade is in the middle and turn the barrel. I am sure it is breaking all the wood working rules but does make an even cut. A safer way would be just a measuring tape and a sharpie. Make a mark every few inches then connect the dots. Use a hand held jigsaw or a reciprocating saw to cut on the line.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 12:42PM
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riverman1

Awesome looking plant blue!

RM

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 4:25PM
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melikeeatplants

Ask around your neighborhood. If people are growing them in ground successfully you are set. Maybe just toss some sulfur in. I have relatives north of Atlanta, they planted in ground, no amendments, and the bushes are huge with loads of berries every year.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 5:29PM
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jennieboyer(8)

Thanks for all the replies. Now, where can I find ammonium sulfate? Been to Lowes, Home Depot, Agri Supply, Tractor Supply, local feed store. No one has any. Any ideas?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 8:17PM
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Bradybb(wa8)

What's your state and city jennie?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 9:43PM
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prestons_garden(9B SZ 22 HZ 6 SoCal)

jennieboyer,
Check your local nursery for ammonium of sulfate. Be careful with it when using in containers.

blueboy1977,
Your blueberry looks good. I like the way you pruned it.

Ron

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 11:22PM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

Thanks, that is a 3 year old Emerald. Ive had to prune it hard to keep it in bounds. I'm hoping I didn't leave to many flower buds on it this year. I think it's big enough now to push it a little bit though???

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 3:54AM
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jennieboyer(8)

Hi Brady,

I'm located in Valdosta, Georgia.

Jennie

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 7:41AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Jennie,

The best place to find the ammonium sulfate is whoever in your area supplies farmers with fertilizer. It can be a bit harder to find as it's most common use isn't as a fertilizer but as an additive to herbicide to make the herbicide work better. It is used in conjunction with Glyphosate (round up) and in so doing you can use almost half the round up and get the same killing effect. Bagged for that purpose it will not have any fertilizer number on it like 0-0-0. Just know it is 21-0-0. Google Helena chemical and see if they have a branch in your area. Odds are whoever that is will be who supplies the farmers. Here a 50# bag is $9.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 7:57AM
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riverman1

Ammonium sulf is commonly used as lawn fertilizer. In my state of Washington I can buy it anywhere, Home Depot, farm supply stores, ace, etc.

Just sprinkle a handfull at the drip line and water it in. You will want to do this at bud break and then again in June or July. Just don't overdo it, if the plants growing then let them be. Most important is the soil mix, if the soil isn't correct your plants will struggle.

RM

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 12:49PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Think it is probably a lot safer to just use a tsp in a gallon of water. That ammonium sulfate will burn.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 8:00PM
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riverman1

Really? Guess i assumed many here using ammonium sulf in this manner.
I have used it for years with both potted and in the ground plants without ever seeing the slightest burn. I tried it in water a few times but found getting it to dissolve a hassle and inconvenience. Commercial farms in this area apply it in essentially the same way and there are many documents recommending it be applied in a granular form at a rate that increases with the plant age and size. This is a document I often use. http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/em/em8918.pdf

Seriously, I have never experienced the slightest problem with ammonium sulf sprinkled at the drip line. I will have to check my notes but I think I apply about an ounce per plant, about a tablespoon, two or three times per year.

RM

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 11:50PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Riverman,

You have to understand that she is new to blueberries. If she applies a handful to the tiny dripline of a newly planted BB it is toast. Handful is a very inexact term your hand may hold 1 oz mine will hold 4 ounces. Using an exact measurement is just easier to quantify.

Not sure why you have trouble dissolving ammonium sulfate. The stuff I use dissolves as easily as miracle grow......you hit it with water and it is in solution immediately. For mature plants I can see sprinkling it at the dripline.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 8:28AM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

If ask for Blueberry Fertilizer this what you get around here Alma, Homerville and Baxley the label in link below.
I like this label because its for fast growth on acid loving plants sulfur 12% iron 3%.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blueberry Fertilizer

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 10:44AM
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riverman1

Point well taken although I do use granular ammonium sulf on new plants too with spectacular results.

RM

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 7:41PM
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