Are my blueberries dead/dying?

vickima(z5 MA)May 26, 2009

I planted 6 blueberry plants 3 years ago. One day last week I noticed all the leaves had shriveled up and died on one plant, along with most of the flowers. Since we had a couple early 90 degree days, I thought it may have been lack of water. But now two others look very bad too. I didn't get any warning about this--no brown tips on leaves--so I'm wondering if I overfertilized? I added about 1/4 - 1/3 cup ammonium sulfate around each plant on May 9. The pics below show one healthy plant and the stems from one sickly one. They aren't great photos but hopefully someone can tell me what might be going on, and if there's anything I can do to save them. FYI the last soil test was done Oct 07 and ph was 4.9.

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Vickima: That is a lot of ammonium sulfate at one time for such a small plant. If you applied enough water after application, it would be OK. If there was a light rain, just enough to move it down a couple inches, there could be problems as in your picture. Blueberries are very sensitive to heavy applications of many kinds of fertilizer. I've burned the leaves more than once.

If it hasn't rained heavily, then apply lots of water, say 2-4 inches. Your plants will probably recover. But remove any fruit from those that are defoliated.

Apply smaller amounts and water after application.

The Fruitnut

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 2:56PM
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vickima(z5 MA)

Thanks, I'll water deeply now but it's been more than 2 weeks since application. You say you've done this before? What happens to the plant? Does new foliage emerge this season? Will it be permanently stunted? I'm not one to overfertilize; I thought I was going by the book!

Boo hoo. This is their third year and the first I was going to look forward to some fruit. Wondering whether I should replace the damaged ones.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 4:42PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I've burned them but never nearly as bad as yours look. I don't know if they will come back but I'd wait at least a month to find out. Mine was leaf tips and margins turning brown. They recover rapidly from minor leaf damage.

The Fruitnut

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 9:42PM
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ericwi

I have used Miracle Grow, acidic formula, on our blueberry shrubs. I wait until the shrub needs to be watered, and then I mix up one tablespoon of fertilizer per 4 gallons of water. With that much dilution, there is less chance of harming the roots. So far, I have never put down fertilizer more than two times per season, once in April, and a second application in May. We have some shrubs that are really heavy with fruit this year, so I might apply fertilizer three times.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 11:14PM
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vickima(z5 MA)

Everything I read said 2 oz of ammonium sulfate per plant at bloom time and again a month later (for plants in their 3rd year - I only fertilized once and won't do it again). The only thing I can figure is that I didn't water the fertilizer in enough - or perhaps my plants are not as big as most 3 year old plants. I think 2 or 3 of them are goners. I can't imagine how they could recover if they've been completely defoliated. I guess everyone thinks it has to be the fertilizer eh?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 9:36AM
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beginner_va(z7 VA)

Did the bushes come back? I ask because I also had 1 young blueberry bush do the same thing: it suddenly turned brown and died. Even more strange: it was the only one out of a patch of about 16 bushes. Since then, I planted another bush in the same spot, early in the spring, and it never leafed out. It just eventually shrivelled up and died. If it's the same cause, then it's not just the fertillizer.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 9:28PM
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melvinn

Call me crazy, but I sprinkle Miracle Grow (acidic) around each plant. Probably a 1/2 teaspoon each. I then water them thoroughly. I do this several times over the spring and summer and my plants are really doing well.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 10:18PM
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vickima(z5 MA)

beginner_va, no mine never came back. I ended up replacing them with new potted blueberries that have done fine. I'm pretty sure it was overfertilizing. I looked at photos last year and I had some brown edges to the leaves around the same time of year. At the time, I thought it was drought stress, but looking back I think it was fertilizer (ammonium sulfate) burn. This year I added even more (following instructions for age of the plant) and the whole thing went brown at once. It's also possible I didn't water it in well enough. Did you fertilize yours before the loss?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 9:40AM
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