One and 7 yr blueberry growth with pictures

fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TXApril 19, 2011

I'm going to try to post pictures of my potted blueberries. The cardboard backer is 3ft by 4ft. Plants were grown in my greenhouse.

Here is the plants one year ago.

Scintilla is a tall rangy plant after one year.

Farthing is very vigorous and sets a huge crop.

Emerald is squat and has a big crop.

Jewel is and upright plant that needs some heading to spread it out.

This Jewel needed more heading.

Sweetcrisp is tall and gangly.

This is my 7 year Star in the same pot all that time without repotting. The top is larger than 5ft by 5ft.

Fruit on all varieties is about the same size, pretty large, about dime to nickel size. So far just started tasting fruit and I'm pleased with all but will report more on that later.

Star is about 4-500 hrs chilling the others are about 200 hrs and mature early.

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greendumb

Great pics fruitnut.I think your camera did your plants justice.The backdrop is a great highlighter for that shade of green too.I also think it is amazing that you already have to tie up limbs to support their first load of fruit.Congrats

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 3:41PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

That's a lot of blueberries! I haven't heard of most of those varieties. I have a few bluecrop plants that are around 5 years old that have trunks at this stage. I had to chop them back (from winter kill).

What size pots do you have those in? I put mine in 7 gallon pots, but they are too small. I may have to jump to a 15 gallon.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 3:42PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

The one yr plants are in 5 gal pots but there is no more than 3 gal media in there. The Star is 15 gallon.

The one year plants were grown using two different fertilization regimes: 1) Osmocote 9-6-6 slow release with 19% sulfur. About 2 tablespoons per pot. 2)ammonium sulfate 21-0-0 at one tablespoon per 2.5 gal water once a week April thru July. There was one plant of each variety for each fertilizer treatment. The 21-0-0 fertilized plants grew about 20% more than Osmocote. No fertilizer since last August, I was going for quality fruit.

I'll prune hard after harvest and possibly pot up to 10 or 15 gallon.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 4:31PM
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dgbeig(SanFran -z10)

oh my goodness fruit nut!
i am so impressed.
Are you for real that all those plants are one year old!?!
do you attribute it to the 21-0-0 fertilizer?

Are the plants in your greenhouse all from the same nursery?
How long did you leave them in your greenhouse?

I have 6 plants, all in pots.
My 6 year old ones are the only ones that look like yours above.
I have two others that are going on two years, and two that I bought this year.
The two year olds are only 2 feet high, very few blossoms.
I fertilize with a acid loving fert (made for azaleas)
I add peat once a year.
What can I do to get bluebs like you???

6 year old plants

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Wf8U1zHFeDs/TZDTEbPKERI/AAAAAAAAAUk/0uVwhmAa7zA/s1600/bluebs.jpg

new plants

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-4Q3fxFhLD1A/TZDS4SRyv6I/AAAAAAAAAUQ/kF0DQ4YgiVs/s1600/pinkbluebbabies.jpg

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 5:10PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

dg:

Yes, one yr. Three keys to growth like this: pH 4.5 to 5.5, regular small additions of nitrogen or controlled release, and water very day or two in pots. Blueberries grow great if everything is right. If not they die. I've killed plenty but learned along the way.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 5:29PM
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elmer97

Beautiful plants! Are all your blueberries container grown or do you have some in the ground?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 7:54PM
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elmer97

Beautiful plants! Are all your blueberries container grown or do you have some in the ground?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 8:26PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Elmer:

All mine are in pots. I've thought about trying inground, but it would just be too much water. I have 300 gallons rainwater storage but it's not enough even for potted when it doesn't rain for months. They are very productive in pots when you get the growth like these have.

Just ate a handful of Star. Either I'm fruit starved after a long winter or I have a winner this year. They are really sweet and very flavorful. Much better than I remember!!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 9:25PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I think this study shows that the growth rates reported last year by Dave in KY are indeed possible. Top growth rates were about 10-12 inches per month.

I should have pinched out the tips after about 8-12 inches growth to make the plants more sturdy and compact. Part of this is knowing what the growth habit is for each variety. I'll prune heavily after harvest and pinch regrowth to make next years plants more sturdy and compact.

The growout was not without adventure. One Sweetcrisp died from stem blight. I think this was from watering everyday. After cutting back to every other day there was no further stem issues. One Star died of unknown cause. But blueberries grow so fast and bear so young I consider the plants expendible. I buy small cheap plants and expect a few losses.

Most of my damage in the past have been from fertilizer burn. Haven't had that with controlled release or by dissolving 21-0-0 before application. I've burned plants several times by applying dry fertilizer to the pot and watering it in. Also there must be frequent leach water to remove excess salt.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 11:38PM
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foolishpleasure

That is beautiful. I have 8 Blueberry planted in ground last fall but still babies. I wonder if they will produce this year, one or two blueberry from each tree makes me happy and compensate me for my aching back from pulling weeds.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 1:47AM
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greenhousekendra

Fruitnut, Great plants! Your posting is perfect - I just bought 2 blueberries plants in 4" pots. I am a beginner with blueberries and was wondering what to do with them. Do I re pot in a larger one? What size pot? Do I cut off the stems or let them grow? Should I pick off the little flowers?

I have a little greenhouse, so I think I'll keep them outdoors and bring them in in the winter. How often do you water during winter and can I keep them my garage?

How do you check your pH? Our water is pretty alkaline, do I add vinegar to it?

Any other advice? Thank you!
Kendra

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 10:38AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Kendra:

First of all realize I've killed more than a dozen bb plants getting to where I am. Of the first 12 I bought, one each of 12 varieties, half were dead the first year. But the big Star I showed is one of the survivors. Once mine have gotten some size and well established, they have all done well. It's getting them started that is hard. So don't give up if things go badly at first.

A good pH meter or some way to measure pH is essential. Otherwise if things go of course, and they will, you are left guessing. I love my new Accurate 8 pH meter, ~$70.

Rainwater is your best option. Alkaline well water must be acidified. I use sulfuric acid and lower pH to about 5.5 as measured by indicator strips. I don't know if vinagar will work long term.

You might want to pot up to about an 8 inch pot. Spaghnum peat moss and fine bark or just peat moss.

Wait until the plant is growing to start fertilizer.

Outdoors in summer and a greenhouse in winter is ideal. But they do need some chilling in winter or before you bring them inside.

If the plant has long bare stems cut them back and everytime you get 8-12 inches growth pinch out the tip. This will keep the plant compact and sturdy. Most of the fruit will be at the ends of what growth you get this year. If that is long and floppy the fruit will need support like mine.

I'd pick off the flowers or at least most of them and try for growth.

Here is a link that might be useful: 4-7 pH strips

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 11:51AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

On the link above, click on the pH range options to find 4-7 strips. These work good in water and somewhat in soil. The Accurate 8 meter works great in soil but is not for water.

It gets expensive for a couple plants. But it's hard to have success with blueberries in the long run if one is guessing on pH.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 12:05PM
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dgbeig(SanFran -z10)

My plants are healthy but just have nowhere near your growth.
Both in size and in terms of fruit.
I wonder how much of the weather plays a part.
I'm in Northern California so all of my varieties are different as well.
Even so, across the board, all varieties, yours are so huge and plentiful.

I also don't trellis. Do you think that would make a difference?

you mention pinching off the flowers, but your one year olds look so prolific-full of flowers- When do you pinch?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 12:30PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

dg:

I didn't pinch any flowers off the one year plants shown. When they have that much growth it's not necessary. I'd only remove flowers from newly planted bushes or if for some reason there are too many fruit compared to the amount of leaves. It's the fruit to leaf ratio that counts.

I do prune heavily after harvest and then regrow new shoots to fruit the next year. Mine are early bearing so by June I've pruned and am back growing new wood.

I also thin out the small fruiting shoots before or during bloom if needed. This is much easier than pinching flowers to balance crop load with canopy/leaf volume.

Trellis would work great to support a heavy crop. Pinching and nipping also works without a trellis to make the plant sturdier and more compact.

Getting a big crop is all about getting growth the prior year. Fertilizer, water, and pH are key to abundant growth.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 1:25PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I'm going to get some cottonseed meal as a nitrogen sources for my blueberries and potted fruit trees. It should eliminate any plant damage from fertilizer application. I've tried bloodmeal in the past and found it expensive and smelly. I'll report back in a year or two if it pans out.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 7:52PM
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marc5(6aOH)

Fruitnut, thanks for your excellent posts. I'm wondering if your fertilizer regimen might be applied to young pawpaws still in pots. I used some Osmocote last year, but abandoned it because since the plants are outside and subject to rain, I felt the release was too random. I like the fertigation approach with the ammonium sulfate, although I don't need the low ph.

Thanks

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 10:37PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Marc5:

Any nitrogen fertilizer that is water soluble such as urea would spur growth of pawpaw. But I see no reason Osmocote shouldn't work as well. Uneven release won't concern me. The plant often takes up nutrients and stores them until needed.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 11:33PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Wow, fruitnut! VERY nice blueberries, your Start looks downright nuclear :-) So, obviously Osmocote with some nitrate-based nitrogen is not killing off your blueberries :-) I am just adding aluminum sulfate as needed to keep my soil in my outdoor pots acidic enough. Too lazy to use acidified water, but I may end up having to do that. Where are you getting your sulfuric acid? That stuff can be pretty dangerous stuff. Wondering if maybe pickling vinegar (10% acetic acid) is safer. I always fear knocking over something like sulfuric acid. Well done!!

Patty s.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 11:46PM
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creekweb(6,7)

Fruitnut, do I have this right, are you growing some of these in pure peat moss? Are you finding that a blend of peat moss with fine bark is any better? Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 11:32AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Patty:

I use battery acid from the auto parts store. It is 33% sulfuric. I dilute that to 3.3% as a stock solution. Then about 300 ml of that will acidify 50 gallons of my well water from about 7.5 to 5.5 pH. I much prefer to use rain water but like you we can go 6 months or longer without rain. Guess I need more rainwater storage.

creekweb:

I'm growing mine in a mix of compost and spaghnum peat moss. But pure peat moss is as good as anything. My mix is very fast draining. I don't really remember what the mix is for the Star that has been in the same pot 7 years. But it is largely organic and still drains very well. The root mass is so dense it's hard to check pH. When I pour water in the top it's gone and draining out the bottom in 10 seconds. The plant is so vigorous I prune it a lot each year. I did have another plant of the same vintage that became more difficult to wet after about 6 years. The Santa Fe, also 7 yrs old, still grows like the Star.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 12:15PM
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Tonton101(CA 8B, 17)

Fruitnut, you sure have amazing growth on your bb plants! I was so inspired by you I am going to do a side by side comparison between fertilizing vs fertilizing + weekly blood meal watering.

Where did you buy your bb plants from by the way? I have been buying my plants from Lowes but they do not have a lot of varieties that I am looking for (star, sweetcrisp, sharpblue, etc).

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 1:53AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Mostly I've gotten plants from True Blue or Miller plant nursery.

I really like Sweetcrisp for quality and am trying Bluecrisp which is supposed to be similar. Santa Fe is the sweetest of the varieties I've grown a long time. Compared to Sweetcrisp the berries of Santa Fe are much softer but one customer prefers the softer berry.

Emerald, after one years testing, is my new choice for berry size and yield.

Here is a link that might be useful: True Blue Plants: Sweetcrisp and others

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 8:18AM
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tc88

Fruitnut, that's a superb job. Congratulations. Now you set a benchmark that will be very difficult to surpass.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 1:26PM
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Tonton101(CA 8B, 17)

Fruitnut, you mentioned you stopped fertilizing BB bushes after August because you want to go for quality fruit. Will applying bone meal to the plants help with the fruit since its P content is pretty high and its N content is pretty low?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 3:28PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Tonton:

I'm not sure cutting off the fertilizer as much as I did is a good idea. I'm thinking that once a month when not wanting rapid growth is probably a good fertilizer schedule. So the bone meal is probably good during that period.

My blueberry growing system is still a work in progress. Keeping pH in the right range isn't easy when it doesn't rain and we haven't had rain in nearly nine months. So I'm using treated well water.

Dinner will include Sweetcrisp blueberries. A worthy reward for months of care.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 4:06PM
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dgbeig(SanFran -z10)

Hi Fruitnut, Another question for you.
I see hear aluminum sulfate and ammonium sulfate, and when I went to my nursery, they had neither. I assume it is ammonium sulfate and the aluminum reference was made by mistake.

They did have a product that was for making Hydrangeas blue that had that same breakdown of numbers. (from what I remember).

I'm going back there today and just wondering if I am missing something.....

I've been upping my watering and know I won't see much change for this year's crop, but hoping to get a headstart on next year's.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 6:08PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

dg:

Ammonium sulfate is 21-0-0. If you see those numbers it is ammonium sulfate but will say that on the bag as well.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 6:14PM
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Tonton101(CA 8B, 17)

dg,
I was in your shoes last weekend when looking for ammonium sulfate, blood meal/dried blood, and garden sulfur.

The label on the garden sulfur I purchased have a big banner saying "Make Hydrangea Blue" but I don't think it had a NPK value on it.

I opted for dried blood/blood meal over ammonium sulfate. Dried blood/blood meal have only 12-0-0 value on it though.

I bought both garden sulfur and blood meal at Homedepot. Homedepot also carries ammonium sulfate as well.

Happy hunting

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 10:26PM
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jolj(7b/8a)

WOW! fruitking...er...Fruitnut, that is a nice container garden you have there.
Do you agree with True Blue plants- ripen chart. My in ground (small then yours) plant ripen about the first of June here in S.C.
I need some that will ripen a different time, I hate to freeze blue berries. The only thing worse then frozen blue berries are NO blue berries.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 11:07PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

jolj:

The ripening chart I found at True Blue wasn't very helpful. I think the one at Fall Creek is better. But relative maturity will vary some with region, chilling, etc. If you want something later you probably need to consider rabbiteye varieties.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fall Creek southern highbush ripening chart

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 9:38AM
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jolj(7b/8a)

Thank you for the link where do you get rabbiteye varieties?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 10:41PM
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payday2222(8b)

My iron chlorosis leaves are burning(scorching). Anyone have any experience with the "Dr.Iron" product? My Blues are surviving the hot San Antonio sun with no rain, but I am having a hard time getting the leaves the dark green color that is posted on the pics. Will adding the diluted ammonium sulfate work along with Dr.Iron work a miracle?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 8:02PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Miracles with blueberries take a while. I won't expect rapid improvement in this heat. But together they might have your plants looking better by fall. Ammonium sulfate is a pretty good acidifier. Over time it will address your real issue, high pH.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 8:10PM
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capoman(5a)

I had a blueberry miracle this year. I have native sandy soil, and had my blueberries at the end of my vegetable garden. They did not do well there in spite of putting sulphur in the soil. They were chlorotic, and I could never seem to get the ph down.

I decided to move them into an existing raised bed framed by cement blocks. I put lots of compost, sulphur and peat moss into the raised bed, and later on moved the plants in. I then mulched the plants with a combination of pine bark and peat moss. This year I have incredible growth, and the couple blueberries that had some growth in the previous year are completed loaded with berries. I expect the same from the others next year with all that new growth. It's not like they are even the same plants. All this in less then one year in total.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 9:19PM
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nooba

Congratulations Fruitnut, i never saw anything like it before. Iôm impressed!

You use 5 gal pots, with a mix of compost and spaghnum peat moss ( I guess 50/50). You planted the Blueberries, about one year ago (from the photos date), and you fertilize it with ammonium sulfate 21-0-0 at one tablespoon per 2.5 gal water with a ph 5.5 it once a week from April thru July.
You also water it every day or two with Rainwater or water with a PH 5.5

Just that and you had that growth? That is just fantastic!

Iôm really struggling to get a fertilization program for my blueberry experiment in 5 different containers, and i think i found the one! Thanks very much for sharing your achivement!

But i do have some questions (iôm a newbie):

1. If you only feed them with AS ( thats N and i believe S) where do they get the other stuff? K, P Calcium, Magnesium + micronutrients?
2. Does the Peat and compost have everything else needed.
3. What kind of compost did you used ( can you give us some example of things that could work, i only know horse compost, i have to check).
4. Did you add something, when preparing the soil, like epson salts or gypsum, like recomended in many threads in GW. Could you explain a bit the poting soil process?

Many thanks and again congratulations for you expertise.

Note: I would be glad if you could give an opinion on my threat fruitnut: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/fruit/msg0412310231833.html

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:43AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

The compost is from rat litter. So it has rat poo. That will contain everything. Also there was another treatment a complete slow release fertilizer with micros. Those grew well but a little less.

The peat and composted rat litter were mixed about 50:50. The rat litter is very well drained, more like pine bark fines and doesn't hold enough water by itself.

Nothing else was added.

I'll have to find your thread.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 3:13PM
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pharmachad

Can u post a current pic of your Star blueberry plant?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 11:02PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

This morning showing 10 yr old Star repotted once at 7 yrs. It's about 6ft tall and wide. It produced 18 lbs the year before repotting. And might have been close to that this year but I removed about half the fruit to improve size and quality.

I see no need to repot if vigor is adequate. The vigor of this thing is excessive if fertilized and watered regularly. I cut off fertilizer a couple weeks ago to slow it down.

I remove about one big cane each year. It would be at least 8ft by 8ft if I fertilized enough and watered twice a day. All done with little more than rainwater and 21-0-0 in 15 gallon pot. It has had some complete fertilizer with micros at times but I can't tell that it needs any or that it makes any difference. pH was recently measured at 4.8. It weights about 120 lbs when wet. Right now I'm watering ~3 quarts once a day.

Note pruning tools lower left for scale. Door behind is 3ft wide. It's in front of those so makes it look bigger like those fish photos.....;-)

This post was edited by fruitnut on Fri, Apr 11, 14 at 11:34

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 11:05AM
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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)

FN,

Beatiful bush!! How is the taste?

Tony

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 12:00PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Star has a distinctive taste. I think I could pick it out of anything else. But I don't find it any better than most. I much prefer the taste of Springhigh. And Sweetcrisp is much better on all fruit attributes.

This post was edited by fruitnut on Fri, Apr 11, 14 at 12:18

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 12:10PM
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nooba

Just a question fruitnut (or anyone):

For the 1:1 mix (Peat:rat litter compost) i just coudnôt find the rat litter compost. Like i told you before iôm able to get horse compost, and i also found a mix of horse and sheep compost. Do you think this will work the same?
Iôve also bought (my mistake) some worm "humus" that i though it was compost. As i read, there are a lot of things being sold as humus, but they are actually compost.

what do you think this is?

N 200 - 250-250 mg/l
P2O5 - 300-500 mg/l
K2O - 1000 - 1500 mg/l
O.M. >70%
PH : 6,5 - 7,5

This is a really silly question but is compost, decomposed manure?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 5:02PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

nooba:

What I'm talking about is a home made, one of a kind material. And it's more like pine bark used in a 5:1:1 mix. It drains very well and doesn't breakdown easily. Walmart supposedly sells pine bark fines in a purple bag.

Compost will be too fine and poorly drained. It will likely breakdown and waterlog. You'd be better off using 100% spaghnum peat moss if you can't find pine bark of the right size.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 5:26PM
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nooba

Thanks Fruitnut

Yes i can get the pine bark fines. Iôll try it 50:50 spaghnum: pine bark fines.
Please let me now if i need something else using this Mix.

I plan to fertilize with AS (even less then your recomendation of 2,5 teaspsoons/week) just as a complemment to this fertilizer:

N 12,5% (11 ammo + 1,5 organic) P 5% K 15%
MgO 2,5%
S 25%
B 0,005%
Fe 0,010%
Mn 0,010%
Zn 0,010%
PH 4-5

Will humus or any OM be added here? Does it make sense since the your compost will be substituted for pine bark?

Thanks
Nooba

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 6:55PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Nooba:

The AS isn't 2.5 teaspoons per week per plant if that's what you're thinking. Put that on a plant and it will be dead. You mix 1 teaspoon per gallon of water and apply enough each week to wet the media. Then in between apply plain water. You could instead use an organic fertilizer if your media pH is low enough. The AS lowers pH and it can go too low if you aren't careful.

I've also used a complete fertilizer both water soluable and controlled release. That includes all the other elements. All work but don't use all at once at full strength.

If you use only pine bark and peat then a complete fertilizer might help. Probably not essential. Make sure the fertilizer is flushed out at least once a week so salts don't build up and burn the plant.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 7:10PM
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MrClint

fruitnut, that thing is a monster! A number of my BB get up over 3' and they become unwieldy for me at that size. It is interesting to see what they can do when you really push them though. :)

Rat litter in the mix is something most folks won't be able to replicate, I assume.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 7:46PM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

Agreed, that is beautiful blueberry bush. Ive got one Emerald that can compair ands its a 5 year old but was grown in a raised bed and I had to rip it out this winter and put it in a 30 gallon pot. The bad thing is losing all that root mass I had to cut the top way back! No fruit from this plant this year but its growing back like a monster right now and will right back to its old habits next season.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 10:13PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

"Walmart supposedly sells pine bark fines in a purple bag".

Yep picked this load of fines up on Friday, 30 bags. Some Walmarts have is especially east of the Mississippi some don't. Blueboy said his has a lot of white wood in it..mine never does or very very rarely, just depends on the mill it is coming from I guess.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 7:37AM
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