How to protect my Blueberry bush over winter?

binkalette(Minnesota)August 25, 2009

Hello! I bought a blueberry bush from Home Depot early this summer and planted it along the side of our house. It got a few flowers on it, and I had read that I should not let it produce fruit it's first year, so I picked most of them off, but left one that turned into a beautiful blueberry :-) The plant itself doesn't seem to have grown much over the summer, but I also read that in it's first year it will be focusing on root development.. so I haven't been worried about it.

Anyway! It's late August now, and fall will soon be here! So I'm wondering what should I do to help my Blueberry bush survive the winter? I was thinking of getting some mulch.. the tree bark kind to put over the base of it and then I was going to get one of those foam plant protectors that they sell for rose bushes and stuff to put over it. Will this be ok? Should I not put the foam protector over it? How much should I water it before winter? Should I give it any fertilizer? Thanks for any help!

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Blueberry shrubs are generally winter hardy, except for certain varieties that are sold & grown in the south. I mulch our blueberry shrubs in the fall with about 8 inches of shredded maple tree leaves, but I don't think that they really need it. We have the leaves available and I use them for this purpose. Depending on rainfall, I might water the shrubs in October and November. If you shrub has not grown much, chances are that soil pH is too high. If you want the shrub to thrive and be productive, you will need to measure soil pH, and maintain pH between 4.5 and 6. The least expensive way to check soil pH is to use an "aquarium water test kit" found at local pet stores. This kit will allow you to get your soil pH down to around 6.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2009 at 10:17AM
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Yes, our soil is very very 'Basic'.. i tested it earlier this spring, but I was told not to fertilize my blueberry bush the first year because of the developing roots.. :-S do you think I should have fertilized it anyway??

I am thinking of going to collect some pine needles from around the base of my parents pine trees across town.. I've heard the pine needles will help make the soil more acidic.. is this true? Would that help the bush out this winter if I used those to mulch? Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2009 at 10:43AM
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The big three soil nutrients found in fertilizer are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. It doesn't matter if you are growing corn, peanuts, or blueberries, its the same big three. There are some other nutrients that plants need, but these are a small percentage of the total. You can pick up some Miracle-Grow and read the label, to learn more about fertilizer. Changing soil pH is not the same as adding fertilizer. Blueberries need the soil pH to be somewhere between 4.5 and 6.5, or they will not take up the nutrient that they need to grow. There are several ways to lower soil pH. Usually, granulated sulfur, aka agricultural sulfur, is mixed in with the soil before the shrub is planted. So, you have to dig out the hole, put back some of the dirt, and mix sulfur with it. Then you put the shrub in, and finish the process. Another way to lower soil pH is to mix a small, measured amount of acid with irrigation water, and put this on the ground around the shrub. For instance, I add 4 fluid ounces of white vinegar, 5% strength, from the grocery store, to every 4 gallons of tap water. We have hard water, our tap water contains dissolved limestone. The vinegar lowers the pH to around 6. However, the vinegar is consumed by soil bacteria, so the beneficial effect only lasts a month or so. The reason for testing the soil, for pH, is to keep the additions of sulfur and other additives within an appropriate range. Too much sulfur, or too much vinegar, will kill the shrub.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2009 at 2:26PM
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