Blueberries,etc...

Raw_Nature(5 OH)March 12, 2013

A have a 5x80 ft east/west strip of grass on the south side of my yard.. It would get all day sunlight, but unfortunately the neighbors fence is just south of it, which shades the strip most of the day... I would like to plant blueberries, gooseberries, and other fruiting shrubs.. My thought is once they reach 4-6 feet they would reach the point where they would get all day sun.. I planned on spacing the blueberries,etc three feet apart. I understand they need acidic soil.... Does this look like a good idea? What do you guys think? Any recommendations?

Thanks,
Joe

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ericwi

Highbush blueberries might do well in this location, but they should be spaced at least 4 feet apart. Commercial blueberry growers typically space shrubs at 8 foot intervals. Much of Ohio has alkaline clay soil, so you will have to become adept at soil pH management to be successful with blueberries. Do you have hard water?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 9:35AM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

Dimiofarms in jersey spaces their blueberries 2.5 feet... You can go to YouTube and search "dimeo blueberry spacing".. I understand they are in jersey but... I am going to filter the water and possibly add sulfur/ peat to amend the clay soil.. It drives me nuts how much conflicting information is out there nowadays.. That being said,i understand different climates,situations call for different measure... What you think?

Thanks,
Joe

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 9:47AM
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ericwi

I don't think spacing is critical. If you have alkaline clay soil, and hard water to boot, you are going to become expert at pH control, or the bb shrubs will slowly wither.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 12:13PM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

I understand how critical it is to have the correct pH for the blueberries. I was hoping to get advice more on my layout, sunlight,spacing,etc. That being said, how would you go about lowering pH. I plain on adding peat moss, and possibly some sulfur, etc... Any ideas?

Appreciate it,
Joe

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 12:25PM
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ericwi

If the soil is heavy clay, it will have to be amended with peat moss, or compost made from tree leaves, or something similar. Some people with heavy clay soil dig a hole, and fill the hole with pure peat moss, or a mix of peat moss and pine bark fines. Here in Madison, Wisconsin, I am growing blueberries successfully in a mix of native soil and compost, 50/50 by volume. There is some manual labor involved in getting the two components thoroughly mixed together. I am using agricultural sulfur to lower soil pH, and bromocresol green indicator solution to periodically take soil pH readings. Usually, I check pH in the spring, and sometimes, again in the fall. My experience has been that 6 ounces by volume of agricultural sulfur is about right to apply when planting a new shrub, here in Madison. It takes two years for the soil bacteria to metabolize all the sulfur, and turn it into acid. Any additional sulfur put down would be based on a soil pH test. Optimum pH is thought to be 4.5, for blueberry shrubs.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 3:17PM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

Ericwi:

Right on, that is what I was looking for. I planned on amending it with lots if peat moss/ leaf humus... What are your spacing on your bluesberries, got a picture? What light do they get? How quick do they grow roughly?

Thanks
Joe

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 3:55PM
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blueberryhillsfarm

we space bushes 3 ft apart in row, rows 10 ft apart. This results in a hedge. For u-pick I prefer that so people aren't tempted to walk on the beds. Commercial growers plant close to increase yield/acre but wider spacing increased yield/bush. I would recommend adding sand if you have clay soil. It will permanently lighten the soil unlike composte. Peat also lightens the soil and doesn't break down as fast as compost.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 4:06PM
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ericwi

Most of our blueberry shrubs are 4 feet apart. The shrubs with full-sun, all day, grow the fastest, and produce the most fruit. A new transplant shrub, set out in the early spring, will double in size the first year. It might produce 1/2 cup of fruit the second year. The third year it might yield a pound of fruit. It could be three feet high at four years, and might yield two or three pounds of fruit. By the fifth year, it might get 4 feet high.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 5:41PM
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Lori615(5b (GR, MI))

Eric - how old would that new transplant shrub be that you used as an example? I have seven one-gallon 3 or 4 year old blueberries that I will put in large pots shortly. With proper pH soil and rain water (or acidified tap water), can I expect to get any blueberries this season? Or even with 3 or 4 year old transplants, they're still too young for fruit?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 5:50PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Raw Nature,

Some of the advice given so far is quite good and some pretty bad:)

First the only commercial growers I know of that space plants 8 feet apart are those growing rabbiteye and that isn't you. Space 3 feet apart and you will be fine.

If you draw a line North to South through the middle of Ohio you pretty much have acidic clay to the east of the line and alkaline to the west of the line so hopefully you are to the east.

Any chance you can cheat those blueberries a bit further out from that fence?

Digging a hole in clay soil and filling it with a peat is a recipe for disaster. Your roots will simply rot. Follow Blueberry Hills advice and till in as much sand as you can as well as compost. Another thought is a partially raised bed as that will give you a bit of height to get them in the sun sooner.

Due to your shade you will greatly benefit from larger starting plants.

Fertilize those plants and get them growing quickly though use very diluted fertilizer at first.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 7:57PM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

I thought 3 foot spacing was about right.. If you do searching for "amending clay with sand" you find that you need tons of sand, least 50% or more of original soil.. And others say that it can be useless... Bamboo, from my understanding you basically saying if you use the clay soil is a pot and add peat it will rot? Well I can see why! But isn't it another story if you dig a decent size whole and mix in a little compost pear and possibly sulfur?? I am against digging... I would rather not buy tons of sand... Frankly i could see organic mater just as effective as sand, no? I plan on mulching with a thick layer of wood chips/leaves, when it breaks down it would be very
nice... I would make a raised bed, but beggers can't be choosers.. I'm already getting a ton of compost for the vegetable beds... Plus I don't want to rot the fence from the soil in the raised bed... Any more advice?
Joe

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 9:26PM
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ericwi

The Blueberry Patch is a commercial blueberry operation located near Mansfield, Ohio. They sell fresh fruit, in season, but they also sell potted shrubs for transplant, and other supplies that backyard growers would need. You might consider a visit, and find out exactly how they are successful with this shrub.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 10:13PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Raw Nature,

I grew up in NW PA you still have not said what part of Ohio you are in but be assured of clay I know:) We had a large market garden on the farm and probably close to an acres in blueberries. Now retired here in Florida I have a lot less but still have somewhere between 130-150 BB plants or so.......I really need to count them lol.

The sulfur is a different issue........think of it this way. You need 3 basic things to start growing the blueberries.

1. Tilth......soil texture.

2. Soil PH

3. Water

1. Tilth...You need to amend that clay. You need a mix that is water retentive high in organic matter but that drains. There are a bunch of ways to achieve that. If you mound up the row center it will make it easier and it does not have to touch the fence. Back on the farm we tilled in pine needles and leaves but grew the plants mostly on top of the clay. If you don't want to use the sand I would suggest the mounded row center. If you keep adding the organics the plants will basically just grow above the clay and it will avoid a lot of problems.

2. Soil PH....... sulfur works.....it is a pain but works. I don't use it...found with it I was always chasing my tail. A lot depends on what your native soil PH is. If your PH is high it is going to be a real challenge especially if you try to grow down in the clay. If you can use acidic organics that will help but it will not counteract alkaline soil......the native soil PH and water PH will win.

3. Water. The water PH and how many bicarbonates it contains is the real wild card. If your water is soft you are good....if your water is high in bicarbonates it simply makes things much more difficult as the water will counteract the acid soil.

Do yourself a favor and get a soil PH test and a water PH and bicarbonate test. It would really help.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 10:45PM
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