Planting blueberies in the ground in southern california question

silent88March 27, 2012

I just planted some blueberries... sharpblue, misty, sunshine, rebel (which I may switch out) and am thinking of getting another sunshine. I also planted some raspberries and blackberries.

For the blueberries I dug out about a foot and a half deep by a foot and a half wide in my solid gray clay soil, and filled it completely with azalea acid mix. I now am beginning to wonder if this is good enough... will the roots hit the clay or will they stay in the hole like a pot? Is it big enough?

I also did a similar thing with the raspberries and blackberries, digging about a 5 foot long by 1 foot wide, by about 1 foot deep hole and filled it with azalea acid mix (the people said it would be okay... our hard water would make it less acidic anyways).

I had the sharpblue and misty for a year already. The sharpblue did okay, the misty did not the best but not bad. Had to move them to get landscaping in.

I just dug the holes so changing it may not be a huge issue if it's worth it...

Thank you!

I'm in orange county, california near the ocean.

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Wider is more important than deep, but it sounds like you'll be OK. I've found that the blueberries like the morning or afternoon shade on the east and west sides of the house and are more productive there for me than in full sun.

You will still have to feed acid fertilizer to keep the pH down, as it will leach out. If you can still get to it you can incorporate soil sulphur which won't leach out as easily.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 11:17PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Long term - probably will not survive. Eventually your native soil's pH will do them in. Or, you're going to have drainage issues and they may succumb to root rot. Can they be grown directly in the ground in S. California? A very qualified yes, but it takes a fair amount of pH control and some pretty extensive soil amendment/replacement. You're much, much better off growing blueberries in containers here. If you prefer, you can sink the pots into the ground. I have my blueberries in containers above the ground because I don't have to bend over so far to take care of them :-) Being closer to the beach may help you out, as our soil pH tends to be more acidic the closer you are to the beach, but still think you're going to have a higher percentage of long-term success in pots. Here's a great article by Dave Wilson Nursery about how to grow blueberries in containers.

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dave Wilson Nursery: Blueberries in Containers

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 12:41AM
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Another option is raised beds on clay soil. I have the same problem in Houston Tx with clay. Ive got raised beds and pots. Either way you will have much more success as Patty stated above. Well said Patty.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 12:57AM
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Hi thanks so much for the replies.

How would one put containers in the ground? Wouldn't this stop virtually all drainage? (small holes up against the clay soil won't allow much to exit...)

How long term are we talking?

I don't quite understand how a pot in the ground is different than a hole dug out into the ground with the soil completely replaced. Will the minerals from the clay leach in from the sides or what? Or will the roots start growing into the clay and rot or starve for nutrients? In which case its better to have them forced to stay in the good soil?

Sorry for so many questions. This is in my parent's backyard (I live at home) so I am not free to do whatever I want. I have a raised bed that is being built into the landscaping, and it actually is kind of going into a 3-4 foot hill. The blueberry plants were going in the hill behind the raised vegetable beds. Pots/a raised bed would look funny on a hill and my mom is very picky.

Each plant+soil was about 25$ so I don't want to waste 125$ and have them die. Plus I want good berries so I want to do it right... Any ideas? Should I dig them out and make the holes wider and fill them in with more soil?

I intend to fertilize with acidifying azalea mix to undo the leaching.

Also I'm about 1 mile from the ocean so not extremely close and the plants are by a wall facing west.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 1:49AM
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CreatedToCook(CA 10a/SunsetZn. 22)

Silent88: How are your blueberry plants doing? What did you end up deciding to do with them? Did you keep them in the ground or did you put them in pots in the ground? Do the get all day sun?

I'm wondering because, I'm live in a similar area to you, and I'm trying to figure out the best place for my blueberry plants. Planting them in pots is not really the best option for me. I am really leaning towards planting them in a large pot in the ground, in a spot that faces South and gets all day sun. But I'm just not sure if they will do well with the hot southern California sun.

I would love to hear how your plants have done for you.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 9:37PM
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The advantage to using sulfur to lower soil pH is that you are not applying fertilizer, and driving the growth of the plant, you are just lowering pH. This allows the plant to grow more slowly, and slow growth of leaves allows the plant to build a root system that is capable of supporting the metabolism that is taking place in the leaves when the sun is shining. When fertilizer that contains N, P, and K is put down, the plant will tend to add growth above ground, and it may get too big for the root system to keep up, leading to wilting and ultimately dead leaves. It is possible to set up a partial sun-shade, to protect the plant from intense sunlight that falls between 11 am and 3 pm. This will help the plant survive the first summer. To control soil pH around blueberry shrubs, it will eventually become necessary to do your own pH testing. I am using indicator dye, bromocresol green, for this test, because this method is less expensive than using a pH meter. However, pH meters have come down in price, and you might be able to find one for 25 dollars or so.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 3:18PM
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