Fertilizing Raspberries and Blueberries

KerenR(7)February 1, 2013

I am going to plant Heritage (I know Carolines are better, but I couldn't get them) and Anne raspberries next week. I have a few questions about fertilizing them.

First, should I start fertilizing right away? I was told to wait a year to start fertilizing my blueberries that I planted this winter. Was that correct info?

What should I fertilize my raspberries with? I usually use organic Epsoma products, but I didn't see any for berries.

Would this same fertilizer work for blueberries?

I know I have a lot of questions, and really appreciate your help.

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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


For the raspberries I just use 10-10-10 just when they start pushing new growth...maybe somebody else will have more suggestions.

For the blueberries the advice to wait a year is wrong. What you want to do is fertilize them monthly or even weekly but with very very small amounts. Find some ammonium sulfate and use 1/2 tsp per gallon weekly and after a month or so switch to 1 tsp per gallon of water weekly. Just make sure when you fertilize them they are not dry. Do it after a rain or water them one day and fertilize the next. They will take off and grow a lot in that first season. If you use a dry fertilizer on the blueberries make sure it does not contain muriate of potash.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 4:18PM
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The advantage to waiting a year before fertilizing blueberry transplants is that the shrub has more time to establish a root system, before developing new leaves that demand additional water. If the shrub is transplanted in the early spring, before April 15, it will have a better chance to put down new roots. Shrubs that are transplanted in May or June are more likely to green up and then die back in July or August, when the roots may not be able to keep up with the leaves. My methods for fertilizer application have been developed using the soil that we have here in Madison, and what works here might not work elsewhere.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 6:17PM
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Ericwi, is that the same for raspberries? Should I wait a year to fertilize? I waited a year (besides soil prep) for my apple trees too. I was thinking of using Holly Tone for both the raspberries and blueberries. Is it okay to mix that in the soil before planting and then wait a year to actually fertilize with it? Or should I just fertilize in the fall, or go ahead with spring and fall?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 8:01PM
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Hollytone is fairly mild,but using fertilizer too late in the year can cause growth to happen,which can be hurt by oncoming cold weather.Usually,most fertilizing is done before September,even August. Brady

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 10:25PM
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I am finding that it is easier to grow raspberries than it is to grow blueberries. Our raspberry plants, everbearing red, seem to grow like weeds, and they tend to spread, so there are always volunteers that can be dug up and transplanted in the spring, if I want to expand the bed. I rarely apply fertilizer to the raspberries, but I do mulch them in the fall with shredded maple tree leaves. I water them during the summer drought. I'm not against applying fertilizer to raspberries, but it does not seem to be really necessary. Our blueberry shrubs are given one tablespoon of either MiracleGro-acidic, or Schultz's plant food-acidic, dissolved in 4 gallons of tap water, three times per year, in March, April, and May. The blueberry shrubs do seem to respond well to application of fertilizer, provided the soil pH is within range, and provided that there is always sufficient moisture in the soil. Blueberry shrubs do not tolerate dry roots.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 11:11PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


With all due respect that is bad advice. Fertilizer simply gives plants an abundance of the elements they need to grow. If the plant top is growing the roots are growing.

The reason why the old out dated advice about not fertilizing the first year is people tended to burn the young plants as their root zone is very compact.

If you feed very diluted amounts of fertilizer weekly to plants in moist soil they will respond and be twice as big in a year as opposed if you don't fertilize them at all.

Just go to one of the university sites like the University of Florida or any of the land grant schools and follow their advice.

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Sat, Feb 2, 13 at 9:14

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 9:13AM
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The native soil we have here in Madison is high in clay content, and the heavy clay slows down root development. With transplant blueberry shrubs, especially bare-root stock, the plant can develop more tissue above ground than the roots can support, as the days lengthen and the temperatures rise. The result is brown leaves, and eventually a dead shrub, even when the shrub is kept watered. This has actually happened to me, I don't need to consult with anyone about it. There are several solutions. One solution is to partially shade the plant, which lowers the demand for water. Another solution is to not apply fertilizer the first year, which gives the roots more time to penetrate the clay. A third solution is to transplant early, as soon as the soil can be dug, typically around March 15. Early planting gives the roots about three months to develop before the summer sun is in full force. This issue goes away after the shrub has been in the ground for a year. Our blueberries do fine in the hottest summer weather, as long as they are kept watered. I don't consider this information to be advice, but rather, a detailed description of problems I have encountered getting blueberry shrubs established in our local soil. I suspect that other people who garden in heavy clay have similar problems, and have found similar solutions.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 12:14PM
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Ericwi, I agree with you. I planted these blueberry bushes late winter two years ago when we had an unseasonably warm winter and early spring. I planted them in February, and they started leafing out with a few weeks. They hung on for a while, but the plant couldn't handle the growth with no root system. My local gardening store told me I just got unlucky with the warm weather coming to quickly, and my plants couldn't handle it. They both died. I planted new bushes this past winter in the beginning of December. However, I am going to plant my raspberry bushes next week. They are the ones I am most concerned about fertilizing. I don't want to repeat my last mistake and cause too much growth that the plant can't handle yet. That's where my whole original question came in. To fertilize now or wait?

It sounds like maybe I could mix some of the Holly Tone in with the compost, manure, and sand for the raspberries, and then not fertilize until late summer or next spring. Does that sound like a good plan? Would you even fertilize late summer, or just wait until next spring? Mixing in the Holly Tone in the soil should be good, right?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 3:40PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


I am from PA and we had heavy clay soils. Are you saying you don't amend the soil just plop them straight in to your clay? If so I think we have found why your plants are not doing well. Brown leaves are a pretty clear indication of too much water as well as not enough. I guess sitting in a bowl of clay would do a good job of rotting the roots off. If you amend the soil correctly and fertilize the plants they are strong and robust.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 6:34PM
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DWD2(10a, Sunset 17)

KerenR, There are a bunch of good resources out there about blueberry nutrition. I can not help you with raspberries. Take at look at these which should help answer your blueberry questions.


Good luck with your berries!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 3:48AM
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In part they are talking about winter burn, exaserbated by fertilizer.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 8:04AM
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KerenR, it got up to 18 degrees F, today, and we have about 6 inches of snow on the ground, here in Madison. Clearly I am living in a different climate than you. With regard to your blueberry shrubs that failed to survive, my best guess is that you had too much fertilizer in the soil around the roots. It is a common mistake, we all have made it at one time or other. If the amount of fertilizer is too high, the salts go into solution, and pull water out of the roots, which kills the plant. This is basic fundamental osmosis, the same osmosis that you learned in high school. I can't say for sure that this is what happened, but if you used Hollytone, and also added manure to the soil, at time of planting, you likely had too much fertilizer down around the roots. Ordinarily, plants absorb water from the soil, across the cell membrane. If the concentration of dissolved solids is higher inside the plant, than in the soil moisture, then water passes from the soil into the plant, and the plant will grow and thrive. If the concentration of dissolved solids is higher in the soil, than in the plant tissue, then water goes the other way, from the plant, into the soil. Not good for the plant. As a general rule, manure is put down on the surface of the soil, after the plant has been dug in. I suspect that your raspberries will do fine with Hollytone, just don't add any extra fertilizer. Around here, we have to measure the soil pH to grow blueberries successfully. I can't say if that is true for your soil, I don't have enough information to make that statement.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 6:30PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

It's often helpful to know which city & state you live in.

In any event, here's info re growing blueberries, also raspberries, in Oregon:
-- Growing blueberries in your home garden

-- Growing raspberries in your home garden

Here is a link that might be useful: grow blueberries

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 7:53PM
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Sorry. I guess I assumed that my zone 7 was what people needed. I am in Monroe, North Carolina just south of Charlotte.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 9:37PM
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ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)

speaking of adding small amounts of fertilizer: I use an all-organic 4-4-4 with bacterial and fungal inoculates. Am I correct in my understanding that organic fertilizers break down slowly over time and therefore feed for a longer duration? I have fed all my 15 gallon container blueberries (+ soil sulfur) and ground-planted fruit trees this way. Hoping for good results this spring!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:45AM
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From what I've read,Blueberries need an Ericoid mycorrhizal type of fungi to benefit them and the more common ectomycorrhizas and endomycorrhizas are not of much use.
Ahajmano,what was the fertilizer and does it have the Ericaceous fungi?I've seen the fungi being sold online,but at $50 a shot,it is a little expensive for me to want to get. Brady

This post was edited by Bradybb on Mon, Feb 4, 13 at 4:50

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 3:35AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Below is from the University of North Carolina......you will see the experts recommend fertilizer the first year. You will find no university in this nation that recommends no fertilizer the first year. You have to amend the soil if you want quick growth.



Use Caution - Blueberries are easily damaged by excess fertilizer. Apply the recommended amount from a soil test report and allow 4 inches of rain or an equivalent amount of irrigation between applications.


First Year - Do not fertilize immediately after planting. Wait until the first leaves have reached full size, then apply 1 Tbs of a special azalea fertilizer, 12-12-12 or 10-10-10 within a circle 1 foot from the plants. Repeat application of fertilizer at 6 week intervals depending upon rainfall or irrigation until mid-August in the Coastal Plain and mid-July in the Mountains. Use 1/2 Tbs of ammonium nitrate instead of the complete fertilizer for the second and subsequent applications if phosphorus was above 60 on the soil test.


Second Year - Double the first year's rates, but increase the circle around plants to 1 1/2 ft . Apply the first application when new growth begins in spring.


Bearing Plants - When growth begins in the spring, apply 1 cup of complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 within a circle 3 ft from the plant. If more vigorous growth is desired, sidedress with 1/4 cup of ammonium nitrate at 6 week intervals. On mature bushes 6 to 12 inches of new growth is adequate for optimal balance of plant size and yield. Additional growth must be pruned away. This may result in a loss in production, but it is necessary to keep the plants from becoming excessively large. Determine sidedressing requirement based on the amount of shoot growth.


Lowering pH - If the soil pH is slightly high in an established planting based on a soil test; then sidedress with ammonium sulfate rather than ammonium nitrate. If the pH is 0.5 units or more above the acceptable range, apply wettable sulfur in a narrow band under the drip line of the bush at the rate of 0.1 lb per bush to lower pH 1 unit.

Here is a link that might be useful: University of North Carolina

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 7:38AM
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ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)


I use the 25lb bag of this stuff:


Just says "Soil microbes and micorrihzae". Not specific to strain.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:56PM
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I have one blueberry bush. I knew nothing about them. It wasn't until last summer someone finally came to my invite to get fruit. She told me she never heard of gallons of berries on just one bush. I've never fertilized it. I have an inspirational spot & I call it Gods spot that's where it's planted. I didn't make but about 6 gallons last year on it ( more previous year) Does others do this? I have pictures .

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 9:21PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Old canes become unproductive, after about 5 years. Pruning them out will stimulate newer more productive canes.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 10:42PM
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Do I use aluminum sulfate for blueberries in SC? It's very hot and I use aluminum sulfate for my hydrangeas to keep them blue. It looks like some of these posts say use aluminum sulfate and some say ammonium sulfate..

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 7:33PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Some fear the aluminum. It is often suggested by experts to use on blueberries.
. It is the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust.
I myself avoid it. But a few doses until you get something else cannot possibly hurt.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 8:15PM
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