First experience with Blueberries, need some help

prairiewayJune 14, 2013

On a bit of a whim I got 4 blueberry plants. My nursery told me they do well here in our sandy, salty soils. They are all different varieties and all pollinators of one another; apparently.

I dug holes 2-3x as big as I needed. I added aged compost with the native sandy soil and some fruit bush/tree organic fertilizer (it's basically dehydrated chicken manure with a few other additives) meant to increase acidity. I've been watering each plant daily for the past week and a half since planting.

So, here's what's up - all 4 plants have leaves curling and turning brown. Some are loosing leaves. Is this just stress from transplanting or? Not enough water? Too much? Not enough acidity or too much? Anything I should be doing differently?

I know, I know, a little more research BEFORE bringing them home would have been a good idea...:)

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More pictures!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 11:03AM
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    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 11:05AM
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Last one...the leaves up close.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 11:07AM
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Mulching them with several inches of pine straw or pine bark would help. Also they need lots of water.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 11:20AM
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Is the ground as dry as it looks? Dig your hand into the soil next to the plant and check the moisture. It's probably not possible to water too much in your sand and heat. Is that a drip line? Water from the drip will travel mostly straight down in sand and may not even travel that 12-18" horizontally that you have the line away. Try a drip ring or another drip on the other side of the bush and move them in closer. Compost is mostly neutral in pH. I would suggest using spaghnum peat. That virtually gaurantees proper starting pH for your plants.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 11:36AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Salty soil good for blueberries, I don't think so. And you are fighting an uphill battle using well water. You had better acidify the well water with sulfuric acid or the plants will die within the first year. And I agree that drip isn't going to work at least not now while they aren't established. Rainwater is best but it doesn't rain much in NV.

Nevada doesn't have many, if any, climates or soils suitable for blueberries. Maybe you are in that one good spot. I hope so.

This post was edited by fruitnut on Fri, Jun 14, 13 at 12:09

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 12:00PM
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I will believe that blueberry shrubs "do well in salty, sandy soil" when I see some blueberry shrubs growing in that environment. To my knowledge, they grow easily in acidic soil, that is consistently damp, and high in decomposing evergreen tree leaves. Hybrid blueberry shrubs that have been developed and selected for heavy fruit yield respond well to fertilizer, but wild blueberry shrubs are adapted to nutrient poor soil. I'm not saying you can't grow blueberries where you are, but I think it will take some persistence to be successful. Is there anyone else in your area with blueberry shrubs?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 4:09PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Hi prairieway,
If it were my first time growing them in your location,I'd do it in containers.It is so much easier to get and keep the conditions favorable for Blueberries.
If they stay in ground,then what BlueberryHillsFarm wrote about adding Peat and fruitnut added about acidifying the water will help a lot.
It will be a good idea at this point to check the water and soil pH and try to get them between 4 and 5.Possibly buy even an inexpensive soil pH meter.At least it can give a ballpark indication.There are ways to measure the water's pH.I use a pond water kit that using a color indicator and there are also test strips.The pH adjustment is probably the biggest thing to get right when growing these. Brady

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 9:00PM
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Avocado101(9A Southern California)

Check moisture in the dirt by digging into it about an inch or two. If you grab the dirt and can be clumped, it's got moisture. If you grab and open your palm and the dirt falls apart, it's too dry.

I second about needing mulch. Mulching really helps young plants and in dry areas.

Start putting in small amount of Rhododendron and Azalea fertilizer. These are for acid loving plants. Use small amounts because you've recently planted them. Do not move them to a pot. Doing this will shock them more.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 12:14AM
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Your poor plants look like they are drying out, also I wonder about your soil mix. With your sandy soil, I think I would try a mix of 1/4 native soil, 1/4 potting soil, 1/2 peat moss. Then mulch the top of the hole with pine bark or pine needles if you can find them. Keep it moist, might have to water every day. If you don't want to change out the soil, then get a good ph test done on the soil to see where you are at, you need to be between 4.5 and 5.5 ideally. Also, not all well water is bad, I water my plants every day from well water and they are thriving.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 12:47AM
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Also, by the looks of it, your holes should have been bigger. Blueberry roots are relatively shallow so you don't have to go real deep, 18 inches probably enough but the diameter of the hole should be at least 2 feet, even more wouldn't hurt. Then mix all your soil up in a wheel barrow or on a tarp and then put it all back in. You can't beat peat moss, blueberries will grow fine in 100% peat but if you mix it with some of your native soil it will help provide some of the micronutrients your plants need and make the peat go further. Compost the plants and the soil around the plants so that the entire environment stays more moist and cool. The way it looks now, the roots are going to get very hot and the super dry sandy soil around the plants will wick water away from the roots........not a good thing. Even grass clippings would be very helpful.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 1:17AM
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I think everyone is giving you great ideas. Dave Wilson has a good youtube video on the ideal mixture of soil for blueberries. My suggestion would be to build a simple raised bed with this mix. Your plants look just strong enough to transplant, and once they get the right soil mix, they should thrive.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dave Wilson video

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 4:05AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

You got some really bad advice from your nursery. The plants are getting dry. I live on a sandbar:) That sand just pulls the moisture away from the rootball. In your area I think I would grow in pots.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 9:40AM
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Bamboo may be right, pots may be your best option given your soil type. Check out youtube.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 1:01PM
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