Question about Pine bark mulch and Blueberries

Bradybb(wa8)August 1, 2011

I was in Lowes the other day and talked to a lady in the garden department about growing Blueberries.I told her one of the things I put into the Blueberry medium is Pine bark mulch.She said that it needed to be composted first or it will pull needed Nitrogen away from the roots.Does this sound right?Finding Pine bark mulch is difficult enough.How can I tell if it has been composted?I sometimes use the Greensmix brand that Lowes sells, which has no ingredients listed on the bag or Soil Pep sold at Home Depot which includes Western Fir and Pine bark.The plants don't seem to be faltering,but it's only been about two months since they were put in to their new home.Thanks,Brady

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ericwi

As a general rule, those who grow blueberries in pots filled with a mix referred to as a "medium" are planning to apply dilute solutions of water soluble fertilizer periodically. Is this your intent?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 8:14AM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

Brady,
Any acid mulch is good, including cedar and oak. It's true that a layer of mulch will sequester nitrogen from the soil and even the compost. Fertilize in spring at budbreak and double or triple the amount of non nitrate fertilizers in a dilute fashion up to 2' from the base. Ammonium sulfate counters the hardness if watering with hard water. Make sure to deep soak when watering as an inch of rain wont do. Even pine needles break up nicely and are awesome. Apply mulch 3-4" thick, every 2 years,expanding the mulched area.
Sounds like you're on the right track. You might want some granulated sulfur to apply before mulching. Try a different search as there is tons of previous postings on the subject. Good luck to you.
Noogy

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 8:24AM
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gonebananas_gw

Use the finest pine bark mulch you can find (it is usually labeled "soil conditioner" here but maybe SoilPrep there) and don't worry about it not being composted. At worst you will need to add a little bit more N for a while. The easist way to deal with this for the first year is an occasional supplementary foliar spray with Miracid or some similar high-N complete nutritional spray while the bark "composts." I have always suspected that bark while composting takes up less N (or perhaps less rapidly) than sawdust but I don't know that for a fact. The southern highbush bluberry industry in south Georgia and northern Florida uses prodigious amounts of pinebark as soil. I don't recall any mention of composting first. You might Google some university ag literature on that topic.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 8:25AM
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Bradybb(wa8)

Thanks guys for the information.Yes ericwi,I plan on doing what it takes to help these plants.The ones without fruit have been getting the treatment that fruitnut wrote about, a tablespoon of Ammonium Sulfate diluted in approximately two gallons of water,once a week.The others were given some Cottonseed meal sprinkled around the drip line.
I'm still learning about growing these things and in some way am trying to find the ideal conditions,even though from what I've read,they thrive in some fairly poor soils.Thanks again,Brady

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 12:12PM
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ericwi

Blueberries will green up and grow in poor soils, if the pH is low enough. They do well in pH range 4 to 6.5, but they seem to do best when pH is between 4 and 5. Unless you live in an area with soil that is known to be on the acid side, you will have to do some pH testing sooner or later. Also, the water you are using on the shrubs might affect pH, if it is hard water, that contains calcium carbonate. You can set up the soil for success, but still have problems with chlorosis if the water raises pH. Rainwater is either neutral or acidic, so that is preferable.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 12:51PM
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Bradybb(wa8)

The ground soil where I live in Redmond,Washington is about 6.5pH and the tap water is near 7.2pH.Just about from day one,I've added a little vinegar to make the water close to 5pH.Lately,about a cup of soil sulfur has been added to the mix.My rain water collection ability is very limited right now,although it is fairly acidic.
I'm looking into installing a drip system with the intent of injecting some vinegar or mild acid.Brady

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 1:41PM
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ericwi

I think its easier to grow blueberries in the Pacific Northwest, due to favorable soils. Here in south-central Wisconsin, its a different story. Our soil has pH around 7.6, and our groundwater/wellwater is about the same. So there is a learning curve involved with blueberries.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 4:43PM
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solid7(9b)

I gorow in straight pine bark fines, and feed with fish emulsion and seaweed extract. Works more than just fine. I also like to use alfalfa hay as a mulch, about 2" thick. Foliar spray with a compost tea 1X per week, when possible. Planted in 1/2 oak barrels.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 4:48PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

In answer to your original question. Uncomposted pine bark mulch will look like freshly chopped up bark, basically brown in color. Partially composted or composted pine bark mulch will look black and have a decomposed look to it. I didn't know the difference either, but when I saw both side by side it was fairly easy to tell the difference. I usually start out with an uncomposted brown mix in my containers and after one year it turns black.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 5:23PM
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Bradybb(wa8)

It's been a while since this thread was started.The stuff I first mentioned is still being used,so it's probably the right kind,as the Blueberry plants are doing well. Brady

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 8:41PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Guess I should look at when a thread is started huh? :-)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:26AM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

I use one year old Pine bark its piled out in sun rain mixed couple times year with large front loader works good in large pot, but takes a lot watering if don't rain. I'm now trying composted Cotton Gin Trash pile out open at Gin that holes water longer both materials are black has some sand in mix.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 10:15AM
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