In-ground Misty Blueberries: need help from experienced folks..

homey_birdFebruary 17, 2011

Hi,

I planted four varieties of bareroot blueberry saplings about one month back.

I am not a newbie when it comes to blueberries -- I've had them in the container for ~5 years now and they've been very productive all along.

But this is my first experience planting them in the ground. I have Misty, Jubilee, ONeil varieties.

The problem I have is with the Misty bush. While all others have been responding favorably to same treatment, Misty has suffered. All the leaves have burnt appearance, dried edges and there's no new growth of buds on it. The other three have new leaves budding and existing leaves are a healthy green.

For one Jubilee and the sick Misty, I mistakenly applied regular fruit fertilizer (oops!) Both made it very clear to me that they hated it. So I immediately followed it with water mixed with vinegar and later, regular Azalea+Camellia fertilizer. This alone has been sufficient to my container blueberries.

My questions to those who're experienced:

1. On this site, a number of folks have cited good experience with watering blueberries with Vinegar+water. However, some have mentioned that this effect is not long lasting to maintain acidity. Is it desirable to continue this in addition to acidifier applied to the soil?

2. For container, as mentioned, just Azalea/Camellia fertilizer is sufficient. For in ground bushes, will it be enough or should I apply acidifier?

Thanks in advance!

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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Okay, backpedaling just a wee bit: The regular fertilizer you applied. Was the nitrogen source in nitrate form? If so, this may have been fatal for your Misty (or any other blueberry). It may just be that the Misty's roots were just not established enough to handle the nitrate assault, and it has caused the demise of your Misty blueberry. That's the usual form of nitrogen in regular plant fertilizers :-( Remember, blueberries don't need a lot of fertilizer. They are basically very lovely weeds :-) If you're composting them, they're probably getting plenty of fertilizer. You can water with acidified water (vinegar is the easiest thing to use, to acidify the water), but you want to make sure you don't get too acidic. Invest in a pH meter for about $10.00 from your local gardening center to make sure you don't go below 5.0. Frankly, I think that's a lot of hard work. I would be more inclined to put my blueberries on a drip, and then address the pH with making sure the soil is properly acidified in the first place, then top dress once or twice a year with ammonium sulfate. And, the best way to keep your soil acidic is to to dig a hole about twice as big as the pot. Mix in azeala, camellia, gardenia potting mix. Add in a couple of tablespoons of soil sulphur into the potting soil to further acidify it. Then, about once, maybe twice a year, top dress with a little bit of Ammonium Sulfate. Check with the pH meter to make sure you need to topdress. Here's what UC Davis has to say about growing blueberries up in the Sacremento area, but it is really quite applicable to just about any area of California:

Blueberries do not require large amounts of fertilizer and are sensitive to over fertilizing, so observe first whether plants are growing and fruiting well. If fertilizer is needed, rake back mulch, spread fertilizer over the soil without incorporating it in, then replace mulch and water in well. Fertilize blueberries with an acidic fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 formula for azaleas at the rate of 1/2 cup per mature plant applied first in early spring as growth starts, and twice more at 2-month intervals. Organic fertilizers such as blood meal, cottonseed meal, fish meal, and alfalfa meal can be applied at a rate of 1 lb per plant instead of the above inorganic recommendation. Ammonium sulfate, a common acidic nitrogen source, may be used if caution is exercised to carefully follow application rates on its label.

Hope that helps, and sounds like maybe the Misty might need to be replaced. Give it a few weeks. If it doesn't come back, I'm afraid it's a goner.

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: UC Davis: Growing Blueberries in the Sacremento Region

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 11:43PM
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applenut_gw

If you planted them directly in your soil and are just depending on fertilizer to lower the pH, they may be a goner. When I plant them I dig a hole and discard the dirt I dig out of it, and plant them in 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 miniature bark, with liberal amounts of soil sulphur and ammonium sulphate. Even with this I barely keep the pH in the 6 range; if your soil is as alkali or they are near the concrete house foundation, it's going to be tough. You may want to invest in one of those cheap pH meters and test it. If the plant dies a slow, painful death, your pH is too high.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 11:36PM
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homey_bird

Thanks for the replies and sharing of useful information.

Admittedly, I never amended the soil. I was aware of the literature stating this requirement, but for my containerized blueberries I never had to acidify the soil -- and therefore I assumed same would be true in here.

I think I will watch out and if they seem struggling then pull them out and amend the soil with peat moss etc.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 6:28PM
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kittymoonbeam

make cuttings of misty quickly in case the roots are mortally injured. I started cuttings last week and they are already rooting.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 10:57AM
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homey_bird

Thanks, Kittymoonbeam. Did you root them in peat pellets or a special media? My experience with rooting blueberries has been minimal thus I ask.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 1:11PM
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