harvestman - chlorotic blueberry question

birdgardner(NJ/ 6b)May 30, 2012

Harvestman - saw your post in the 'making acid water' thread.

I haven't done a soil analysis, but all the soils around here are acid, and mine is a reddish brown clay loam - I'm assuming a decent amount of iron.

The blueberry bed has been mulched with pine needles for twelve years - I rake them in every fall. In the last few years I've been fertilizing with Holly-tone, which seems to have increased production on the mature bushes at least.

I lime the lawn around the bed but never the bed itself. The lawn is still acid enough that there's some moss in it.

Still the bushes are chlorotic -pale leaved with deeper veining - the new ones grow very slowly - I planted some highbush plants ten years ago and some five years ago that are only a couple feet tall - the only full size bushes are around thirty years old. Lowbush plants died out completely.

Any ideas?

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sulfer and no more lime

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 12:34PM
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Have you actually checked the pH? It might be low, but not low enough. The symptoms you describe definitely points to high pH. I use a pH tester pen, put soil in rainwater or distilled water, stir, wait a bit, then measure. It comes out pretty accurate.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 1:00PM
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Yes, Test the pH. Even if your soil has iron it won't be available at higher pH. A pen works or pH test paper often available at pool supply places. Best is send a soil sample to the lab.

Yes, add sulphur and no more lime. Stay at least 8 - 10 feet away. If your plants are chlorotic, you shouldn't wait for sulphur to work. Get some Iron Sulfate. Iron Sulfate is less effective than sulphur in reducing the soil pH, but it works quickly and supplies iron that the plants can use. I've seen plants that were severely chlorotic green up nicely in a week or two after applying iron sulfate.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 1:26PM
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alan haigh

Blueberries tend to suck for me in clay. If the soil doesn't drain beautifully you will get chlorosis and feeble growing plants which don't bare much.

Peat moss is inadequate to turn clay around quickly- I use forest compost- spongy and airy- mixed 50-50 with soil. You can find it in the woods under oak trees and white pines where litter can build up. Then plant on raised beds.

Meanwhile, I agree that you should be aware of your soils pH.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 7:39PM
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birdgardner(NJ/ 6b)

Thanks for the suggestions. I have tried two different pH probes and found the soil in the blueberry patch to be somewhere between 6 and 7, less acid than my lawn even though the blueberries have had pine straw mulch and Holly-Tone and the lawn has had lime.

Either the previous owners dumped a whole lot of lime in the blueberry patch, or the pH meters are totally unreliable. Probably the latter. I put up a thread about them on the Soil Forum.

Here is a link that might be useful: pH meter on Soil Forum

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 4:53PM
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alan haigh

Try spraying the plants with some soluble iron and if they green up right away your problem is pH. I bet they don't.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 5:28PM
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