Frustrating Blueberry Bushes

chellamaralApril 28, 2012

Is there a way to tell what cultivar? I purchased 3 at a wholesale nursery but the manager didn't know what type they were because a past manager had purchased them. I took my chances hoping that they were southern highbush. I planted them last fall in a mix of compost, peat, and ground soil and mulched with pine bark. I also amend with sulfur and palm fertilizer.

There was very little new growth,and the new growth had interveinal chlorosis.I did get a few berries.I am figuring that the soil PH is too high, not allowing the plants to take up nutrients. I also applied a foliar feed twice that didn't seem to help. They get irrigation 3 times weekly with well water.

I figured that I wasn't going to get many more flowers, so yesterday I cut them back 1/2 way to about 2 feet to try and invigorate growth. I am considering digging them up and then planting in straight peat. Having the well water tested today. Any suggestions out there? thanks!

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judderwocky

if you are using well water i imagine the ph is too high... we had the same problem here with a bunch of our plants.

i have found that alfalfa pellets help with a lot of the hard water chlorosis we have from time to time.

if you get tired of blueberry bushes i hear figs do well in the alkaline soil. my elderberry/chikasaw plums don't seem to mind it either. i only left my in the yard a week before i had to rescue it from voles...

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 4:10PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Chellmaral,

I currently have 142 blueberry bushes and the fight with the alkaline well water never ends.

First make sure whatever fertilizer you are using does not contain muriate of potash. The nitrogen in the fertilizer should NOT be from a nitrate source.

Now your water:) People will always tell you to keep the
blueberries moist and the first thing people tend to do when the blueberry leaves start to brown or look bad is water more and that is a big mistake. The reason is simple....you did the right thing and added acidic materials when you planted the bushes but watering 3 times a week you are adding huge amounts of alkaline water. It goes like this..you water the bushes and saturate the acidic soil with alkaline water which the plants do not like. Over the next couple of days the acidic soil neutralizes the alkaline water and just when the plants are able to take up nutrients you hit them with more alkaline water and that cycle continues.

You have a few options...water less often and ONLY when the plants need water but you can't let them ever get dry. Or you can acidify the water. You can add vinegar to the water till it is PH 5 and use that and the bushes will love you. You can also use battery acid to do the same thing and it takes very little acid to adjust the water. OR you can start saving rainwater for them. I have always done the method of watering just when they need it and it works but if you wait just a day too long the plants leaves will burn.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 5:23PM
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chellamaral

Thanks bamboo_rabbit. I suppose I can remove the 3 drip heads and just hand water with city/or rain water. Didn't get a chance to test the PH this weekend, but that's where I need to start. My lawn looks really bad as well, taking out more sod all the time. This drought and wind has been awful!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 7:09PM
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m5allen

I am just getting started with blueberries. Where do you get your PH testing kits? I looked in the fish area of PetsMart and the test kits only had a limited range of PH (I believe they didn't go below 6).

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 9:13PM
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loufloralcityz9

Ask at any of the garden centers at the big box stores for the soil PH test kit or a soil PH test meter.
The meter usually has 3 modes of operation, Soil PH - Soil Moisture - Sunlight Intensity.
I personally prefer using the soil Test Meter as it gives me more information.

Lou

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 10:12PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

m5allen,

If you are talking about water PH testing you can cheat:) If you buy a bottle of pool test strips they will work. The color chart on the bottle my not go below 6 but the strips themselves will show the true PH. The color you want is dark goldenrod yellow if the strip turns red you went too far. You can dip the strip into leftover black coffee and note the color as that is the color you want. Black coffee is almost a perfect PH 5.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 8:17AM
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m5allen

Thanks Bamboo. I bought one of those PH meters with the metal rods at Lowes and it was garbage. I stuck it in straight peat and it gave me a 7 reading.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 9:20AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

They are garbage I agree. You can get test strips from Amazon that do PH 1-14 for like $10 per 100. But like I said the pool strips work also and are cheaper. You don't have to be exact and that is why you shoot for PH 5 as it gives you a margin of error. Generally deep orange is PH 4 and more acidic that that it goes red. Lighter the yellow the higher the PH.

Once you treat the water and record how much acid it took to lower the water from PH X to PH x you don't have to do it again. In my case it takes 1/2 cup of 32% battery acid (sulfuric acid) to lower 300 gallons of well water from PH 7.4 to PH 5. Note that the initial reading you take after the acid application can change. With some water the PH will creep back up a bit after the water sits as the acid balances out with the buffering elements in the water. All water is different. My water does not go back up at all but some may find it bounces back up a bit.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 9:59AM
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chellamaral

Does anyone know how difficult it would be to add a feature to our well to control the PH and rust problems?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 11:29AM
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