replacing blueberries

brookw_gwAugust 20, 2012

After a devastating summer, I need to replace at least 45-50 blueberries. Over the last several years, the summers here have been brutal while the winters much milder than average. My few Southern varieties have been doing much better than their Northern counterparts. Since I have to replace the majority of my stock, should I go heavy on the Southerns, risking a bad winter, or keep replanting Northerns, which have been dying out more frequently over our hot summers?

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Noogy(6 sw mi)

Get 'Legacy' it's a later blooming N/S hybrid. Super Quality

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 3:03PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


Having grown BB in PA as well as now in Florida I have always found them to be tough plants once established. What is causing your plants to die? If the soil PH and texture is right and they get the water they need I have a hard time understanding how the sun is killing them? Is it watering restrictions?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 6:07PM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

Brother you would weep at the sight of all the brown blueberry fields that at one time needed no irrigation. Deep soils, high water tables, clay and combinations of the like enabled success w/o irrigation. Those days are gone.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 8:18PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


Got it. Thanks for the clarification. I guess irrigation lines will have to be run.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 7:44AM
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Without trying to stir up a debate, do you believe global warming is real and imminent?

Thing is you should plant blueberries with an eye to the long term as they can grow for decades. If you think the trend of hotter dryer summers will continue, you may want to lean towards more southern varieties.

As mentioned above though, blueberries, including northern varieties can be pretty heat tolerant if given enough water. I am in southern Ontario, not far from you, and I didn't lose any blueberry plants in our heat wave that had 90F+ temps in June through July, but I did have to water very carefully. I did let them get too dry once to the point of some leaves browning, but caught it in time. I would concentrate on that capability.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 9:27AM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

My old school dutch christian reformed and staunch conservative relative (82yrs)hasn't planted cherries in west Michigan (southhaven area)in 50 yrs. "It warms up too soon and frosts too late" "Of course it's warming up" he says." He's outside every day so I believe him. He used to have 25 acres in cherries.
Science shouldn't follow the dictates of politics. What good is science for if it doesn't serve humanity? exactly. Short term money or long term sustainability. I propose there is a lot more money in the sustainability side.
I invested in drip emmiters in January and it saved my plants. I only have 300 in the ground and without the efficiency gained, I wouldn't have any alive. My sprinklers wouldn't keep up. I'm in sandy loam. I still experienced some browning. Probably the ammonium sulfate/lack of water. Those two together I suspect are really bad.
As for my 800 potted plants, I went with a squatter pot(free), doubling my water needs. It's a bigger wick surface for sunlight to hitand the water to evaporate in the heat. Nice roots, though. They like the 2pm watering.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 10:01AM
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Our blueberry shrubs came through the hot summer just fine, but then, I was out there hand watering once or twice a week, & I have the sore back to prove it. We have 15 shrubs, so this is a chore that I can manage. I would not plant an acre of blueberries here in southern Wisconsin without setting up an irrigation system. Any time we go two or three weeks without rainfall, it's time to water the plants.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 10:51AM
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I should point out that almost all that died were newly planted or two year olds. I did lose half of the mature bushes as well. My soil is acidified and highly organic, and the bushes were deeply mulched. I watered until all wells in the area ran dry; then it was survival of the fittest. Our well water here has a moderately high lime content, so I did some addition of vinegar. I built a pond this summer, but it will take a couple years to fill to the point where irrigation is possible. The only blues actually to do well were my Southern varieties--Misty and O'Neal. I will look into Legacy. Are there any other intermediate varieties I should investigate? I am really hesitant to plant any more strictly Northern ones.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 12:48PM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

You need to apply granulated sulfur while it is still warm. Vinegar has no staying power. I was misinformed about vinegar as well. A 50# bag of sulfur costs around $25 and is all you'll prolly need for now. 2TBSP per bush evenly distributed in rootzone area. In the spring hit them with AMMONIUM sulfate at budbreak. You can broadcast the Amsulf in March, or disolve and spray, and follow up with hand watering to dilute the concentration. If you spray you could even add some Kelp to the solution.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 1:35PM
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Good points Noogy.

Brookw: I live on sandy soil, and have a limited well and rainbarrels. I also have several inches of mulch. To be honest, my blueberries were the ones I watered the least with the limited water I had as other crops seemed more affected. It's been a tough year for all of us as it's been a continent wide drought. I really don't know if this is going to be the norm, but maybe instead of picking north/south varieties, maybe consider varieties based on drought tolerance. I believe Bluecrop is one variety that is known to be drought tolerant, and possibly the main reason it is the most widely grown variety.

I do a very similar routine as Noogy does in regards to sulfur and ammonium sulfate.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 5:01PM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

Not only are the Bluecrops resistant to drought, but they were the nicest eating too. The heat sweetened them up nicely. Damn ugly plant though.
It's important to note the resurgence of 'elliott' as a desirable cultivar. I have some 'pet' elliotts in containers that produced some magnificently complex and Sweet berries this year. You have to allow them to hang on an extra 4-7 days. I think they might actually get bigger, but it's hard to be objective about the whole thing when I'm drooling.

Elliott and Jersey, for machine pick, high $ later crop. During the glut the wholesalers(lastyear) were paying 45c a pound. Yep $.45lb. in Late July, Vs, $.95lb on up for late August.
The big growers are opting for taller varieties(machine pick)like Jersey(back again) because of the scarcity of migrant pickers and its lower purchase costs and the fast establishment and production in sandy soils.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 8:23AM
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LOL. I agree with ugly on Bluecrop, tall with few canes or branches and not many leaves compared to others. Still produce well though and taste good. I guess though it does make them easier to pick too. Sometimes you wonder how so few leaves and branches can produce so many berries...

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 9:51AM
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