Potting mix for Blueberries

PunkRotten(9b)January 15, 2013

Hi,

I recently ordered two blueberry plants and still wiating to receive them. I plan to grow these in pots. I was recommended a mix of 1/3 pathway bark, 1/3 sphagnum peat moss, and 1/3 of forest by-product or azalea plant mix. I am having trouble finding the bark and azalea mix. Is there something I can substitute? I found Bark for Orchids but was unsure if I should use it. What would you recommend?

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DWD2(10a, Sunset 17)

PunkRotten, It sounds like you are trying to replicate the Dave Wilson Nursery mix for your blueberries.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnbYI4zaR48&feature=related
I largely follow that recipe with great results. I use a smaller bark size than he uses in the video. Any pine bark or fir bark should be adequate. Any Loews, Home Depot or local garden center/nursery in your area should have bagged bark and azalea or acid planting mix. The one cautionary note I make, is to be very careful with the soil sulfur amount. There is variation in mix components that can impact what the starting pH is. Getting the pH down is important, but it is easy to over do it with the soil sulphur.

There is useful info in these links:
http://blueberries.msu.edu/growing_blueberries
http://blueberries.msu.edu/uploads/files/Lowering_Soil_pH_with_Sulfur.pdf
http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1957/12202/ec1304.pdf;jsessionid=B6245D2F925D0A8325249B3DCA2AB7C9?sequence=1
http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/em/em8918.pdf

Good luck with your blueberries!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 12:38PM
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PunkRotten(9b)

Yep, it is Dave Wilson's recipe. I found some bark for Orchids at Lowes but wasn't sure if I could use that. I suppose I ought to buy a PH testing kit.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 11:26PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

The orchid bark might work for you, but it really depends on how big the individual pieces are. Ideally, you're looking for something in the 1/8" to 3/8" range. If you can find a suitable bark, you really shouldn't have to worry too much about the pH of the mix itself. Whether you use the Dave Wilson mix or Al's 5-1-1 mix (5 parts bark fines, 1 part peat, 1 part perlite w/o lime), the pH of the individual components should yield a mix that's suitably acidic. For that reason, I would suggest skipping the sulfur. As the previous poster mentioned, it's easy to over do it, and, in my experience, is largely unnecessary. On the other hand, you will definitely need to be careful about the pH of your irrigation water. If you have hard water, for example, you'll need to add an acid (vinegar, citric acid, etc.) to lower the pH to an appropriate range. Also, as you probably already know, be sure to use a fertilizer that's formulated for acid loving plants (MirAcid, for example).

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 11:21AM
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DWD2(10a, Sunset 17)

Punkrotten, I have a pH meter & use it regularly. My experience seems to be somewhat different from Shazaam's. I find a fair bit of variation in media components from different sources. With my current prep of Dave Wilson blueberry mix, I found I did need to add some soil sulfur to get the pH down to the level I wanted. I agree with Shazaam that you should be aware of your water pH. More importantly, you want to know the alkalinity of your water source. Below is a link that explains water quality considerations far better than I could and how to go about managing it. It seems daunting at first. But, once you have a couple of simple kits (I use the Hach kit they recommend) & have done a pour thru test a time or two, it is so quick & easy that you end-up doing more than the 3 or 4 times a year you should. Or, at least I do, but I'm a data junky.
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/floriculture/plugs/ph.pdf
Another, more detailed, publication is here:
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/nursery/cultural/cultural_docs/irrigation_water/water-quality.pdf
It is worth mentioning that your local water company may already know the level of carbonate alkalinity in your water & will just tell you their test results over the phone. If they do have the info (they should) & will tell you, make sure they tell you there results on a monthly basis as alkalinity will change by season in many locations.
I choose to not use vinegar (acetic acid) to adjust water pH should I need to do it. A number of insects, particularly fruit flies, are attracted by it which really annoys me.

By the way, the horticulture group at NC State University is fantastic. They are the first place I go to get container growing information. They have a number of web sites. Sometimes it takes a little digging, but there is a ton of high quality, dependable information there. Two links are below.
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/nursery/cultural/
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/

Good luck with the blueberries!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 2:02PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Your comments, DWD2, made me realize that my statement about media pH was a bit sloppy in that my experience has been exclusively with the 5-1-1 mix (or variations thereof). As long as I monitor the pH of my water/nutrient solution (which is much easier to manage precisely), I've found it unnecessary to further acidify the mix itself. Since I don't have experience with the Dave Wilson mix, I shouldn't have made a blanket statement that included it, especially since it calls for a significant portion of bagged potting soil that might vary considerably in pH.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 3:30PM
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PunkRotten(9b)

Yeah I have been wanting to give the water company a call. One of the reasons is I grow a carnivorous plant and I recently put it outdoors. I want to grow it outdoors exclusively now. They need their water pretty much devoid of nutrients. A few Carnivorous plants experts told me they can accept tap water if the hardness is quit low like less than 80 ppm. I used to test my water PH for my fish tanks and I know the PH was something like 7.6 and the hardness was pretty hard too. The buffer was high as well. It may have changed a little. I want to give the water company a call though and ask about several things. Thanks for the help so far.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 5:01PM
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