My blueberry bush triage

ilovecucumbersJuly 5, 2014

To continue the tale of my new highbush BB bushes (see my previous post in this forum)...

Planted mid-April. I removed old & dying rhodies & azaleas. The farmer who helps me (because my husband refuses) planted 2 arneson gem azalea, 2 bluejay BB, 1 PA native BB, blue prince and princess holly, and 1 Chinese lacebark pine. The BB bushes are in front.

Once all was planted, he added good-quality brown mulch.

It's rained a lot, and the blueberries look a bit peaked--not many leaves, part of one died, and weird-looking bark. (I also forgot I wasn't supposed to let them fruit.)

I asked for advice here, and got it: fertilize. This morning I removed the mulch to do that, and winced.

The soil around the BB bushes was completely covered by weed fabric. I understand that water goes through it, but it seemed that it would be difficult for the soil to dry--and it was indeed very wet.

So--I hope this wasn't wrong--I removed the fabric all around the bushes. Careful not to disturb the roots, I gently worked a mix of peat moss and compost into the wet soil. Then I sprinkled 10-10-10 and soil acidifier onto the much-drier soil and gently worked that in as well. (I didn't use much of either--too scared, as these are new bushes).

Now the bushes are minus the weed fabric and mulch, so the soil can dry a bit. Is it OK to put back the brown mulch, or should I use pine-bark nuggets around the BB bushes?

Sorry for the length. I hope I didn't screw them up. It just seemed like the soil would never dry with that fabric there, and I don't mind weeding around the bushes.

Did I do right, or wrong? If the latter, any suggestions as to how to rectify?

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I grow blueberries, with some success, in Madison, Wisconsin. I don't call myself an expert, but I have been doing this since around 1994, so I have had time to make many mistakes. I have no experience with "weed fabric," so I would not use it. Our shrubs are mulched with about 5 inches of shredded bark, or shredded tree leaves. I weed as necessary. Newly planted blueberry shrubs are not given fertilizer during the first 90 days. However, they are planted in a 50/50 mix of our native clay soil, and peat moss. Also, there will be 3/4 cup of agricultural sulfur in the very bottom of the hole, and another 3/4 cup of agricultural sulfur spread in a ring, around the shrub, on top of the dirt, but under the mulch. Since I don't know the pH of your soil, and the pH of your irrigation water, I really can't say if these instructions are correct for your location.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 5:15PM
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Thanks, ericwi.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 5:18PM
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"Weed fabric" would only cause an issue if you had it too close to the blueberry plant where the plant could not send up new shoots. It is probably not a bad idea to put some additional weed fabric back in place to keep the weeds in check.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 11:27AM
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Thanks for the reply! The fabric was all around the bushes--no room at all. It also meant I could not add fertilizer--it would have had to go on top of the weed fabric. I will watch and see how the bushes do. If more weeds are the only consequence, I'll consider myself fortunate.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 1:44PM
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