container blueberry

groem(6)March 11, 2011

I am coming up on having my 2 blueberrys for 1 year, and thinking of getting a 3rd. They survived the winter and my learning mistakes that first summer. Just as back ground, I live in Utah, about 30 miles from the Great Salt Lake, so everything is alkaline, water, soil, and it feels like the air is to. Weather is cold in the winter we get snow but the air stays dry, and hot and dry in the summer. Not the best environment for a moisture loving plant but the challenge has been fun, and a learning experience.

Right now the 2 I have are in a equal mix of bark/peat/compost. It got my plants through the fist year, and holds moisture pretty good in the hot dry summers. I have been thinking of tiring the 511 mix for the new one. Would the 511 be ok for a blueberrys? What changes should I make to improve it for my situation? Do I need to screen the bark fines for the 511?

Oh I made the containers out of redwood, they are about 2 feet squared, to give the plants room to grow. They have a bottom of boards with small gaps between, would this effect the drainage/breathabality of the soil? Now that I know that I will be repoting them in the future, I am thinking that such large planters could be difficult. Also I hear that blueberrys have delicate roots and don't like to have the roots messed with. Any suggestions on how to change the soil with minimal damage/plant stress? From other reading I know it is a good idea to root prune container plants. are my planters big enough that I could get away with minimal root pruning?

I have been using MG azazel fertilizer, on a weakly weekly basis. After reading about fertilizer I see that what I am using is missing a few things. I can start to add some epson salts to get my mg. I don't have any thing for the ca or cl. If I could find some gypsum i could add that, or is it likely that my water would have ca and cl in?

What I was doing at the end of summer was using vinegar in tap water when I would fertilize, then using distilled water (i get it free from work) to keep the soil moist during the week. I may have access to water that has had sulfuric acid added to bring the ph down to 4.6. Can there be to much sulfur in the soil?

wow lot wrote a lot more than I expected. I was hoping to explain what I have been doing and hopefuly get questions more specific to my situation. Now as long as I didn't just confuse the matter more :)

Thanks for the help and I have learned a lot here over the last year.

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kinder_devonshire(4b ID)

I am new to this forum, and I am going to be very interested in the answers you get. I am about 3 hours north of you, in Idaho, and I was planning on getting blueberries to put on my apartment porch this year. I was also interested in the 511, but was planning on using that for my veggies. I was considering the gritty for my blueberries. Lasts longer, good draining. I would hopefully not have to disturb the blueberries for new mix repotting for at least three years.
May spring be here soon,

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 9:56PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Groem - neat forum name. ;o)

Lots of people have grown BBs in the 5:1:1 mix, and it does work very well. BBs are like potatoes - they like lots of moisture, but don't tolerate wet feet. I would probably use the gritty mix and plant them in very large containers, but that's just my personal preference. If you wanted to change it up to benefit your plants more, you could use a 5:2:1 mix of PBFs:Turface:peat, which would offer better water retention with no sacrifice in aeration/drainage or the ht of the PWT.

The gaps in the boards won't do much to help drainage or aeration, but it won't hurt anything, either. It might be a good idea if you didn't let the roots escape into the surrounding soil through the container bottoms because it SOUNDS like there would prolly be some significant pH issues involved if that occurs, in your area.

I've never heard that BBs don't like their roots being mauled. I don't grow them, but I have a lot of friends that do, and I've helped them (and a lot of others) manage their bushes. To date, it's the first time I heard that comment. *Root pruning is what it is, and WHAT it is, is a way for you to eliminate the crowded conditions and root problems that reduce growth/vitality/yields in your plants. There is no such thing as 'going to a bigger pot so I don't have to root prune". You HAVE to root prune to maintain plant health/growth in containers. There is no way around it, unless you ALWAYS pot up before roots get so tight the root mass & soil can be lifted from the container intact. Mess up once & ignore potting up, letting roots get tight beyond that point, & you need to go back to the asterisk above & reread. ;o)

Here's how I would manage the Ca/Mg thing. Add gypsum when you make the soil. Then, include 1/2 tsp Epsom salts to the fertilizer solution each time you fertigate. If you leave the plants in the same soil for more than 2 years, reapply 1 tsp gypsum per gallon of soil in each subsequent year & keep using the Epsom salts. I would also get a pH test kit and determine how much vinegar or citric acid it takes to lower your tap water to a pH of about 4.5. Don't worry, as the water gives up it's CO2, the pH will rise by about .5 to around 5.0. You'll have really nice plants then. The 30-10-10 is much higher in N than it needs to be, so you might consider reducing your application rate & adding in a K supplement like Pro-TeKt 0-0-3, essentially turning your 3:1:1 fertilizer into a 3:1:2 ratio. Alternately, just use 24-8-16. The acid reaction in Miracid or azalea fertilizer (30-10-10) comes from the fact that the N source is urea. As urea breaks down, it releases H gas (the 'H' in pH) which lowers the pH of the soil solution and soil. 24-8-16 is ALSO an acid-forming fertilizer - they just don't put it on the label because they want you to think that 30-10-10 is essential to plants that do best at lower pHs - the dirty tricksters. Don't use fertilizers that get their N from nitrate sources, including FP fertilizers, (I hope our fertilizer watchdog heard that) and please don't add fertilizers that contain urea at mean temps below 55* - to guard against ammonium toxicity. Lol

I don't particularly like adding S to container media to reduce pH because there is already enough S in the soil. All proteins contain SOME S, many fertilizers contain sulfates, and acid rain also provides it. You'll probably be using MgSO4 (Epsom salts) which also supplies sulfate. Sulfur under anaerobic conditions produces H2S (hydrogen sulfide) gas that is toxic to plants. It's better to manage pH by managing the pH of the soil solution - which is the most important consideration for container culture.

Ruth - the soil (gritty mix) will assuredly hold up for 3 years or longer. Let root congestion be your guide to when repotting is appropriate.

Click me to go to another good thread about blueberries.

.... and if you're still interested, you can click on me, too.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 3:12PM
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Well Groem is a name I made up for a video game character, so now I use it for any forums or what not I join. It is used in diverse places all over the internet.

The reason I asked about the sulfuric acid is I work at a water treatment plant. One of the tests we do is to add sulfuric acid to water until it has a ph of 4.6 to see how much alkalinity it has. So I can just keep the water from work and it would have the right ph. Also I can just bring in samples of my water and find exactly how much vinegar would be needed.

As far as delicate roots, one place I read said to not even pull weeds until the soil is good and moist, then ever so carefully pull the weeds out. Well Im glad to hear I don't need to be that careful.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 4:58PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

:-) .... and I thought it was a clever variation on grow 'em.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 1:40PM
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Well I think that I have found sources for everything to make my 511 for my blueberrys. I haven't directly found the turface or substitute yet. I do have a napa store close and was wondering about the floor dry. I have seen it holds more water, but a has a higher ph. As I will be adding vinegar to my water how big of a concern would the higher ph be? If I use the napa would I still use the 521 you suggested. Or is the turface just a superior product and I should use that if I can get it?

I have been looking and searching but having a hard time finding what size to screen the pbf/turface for the 511, I find a lot for the grity. Or do screen the same for the 511. I think a 1/4 inch for the bark, and a window screen to remove dust from turface?

My blueberrys leaf buds are swelling and starting to open due to a warm week. Now that the cold and snow has come back the buds have stopped opening and holding steady. Can they be repoted now or would it be to late?

So I guess the main question would be should I rush and hurry and repot them now, or get everything ready for next year?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 12:14PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

For the 5:1:1 mix, you'll want bark from dust size to 3/8. If there are only a few pieces up to 1/2" - no need to screen them out. There is no Turface in the 5:1:1 mix, but you can use it as a substitute for perlite if you wish. If you do, you might wasn't to reduce the volume of peat, but that all hinges on the size of the bark.

You can repot now if you hurry, but if you have beds opening you'll either need to prune them back when you repot or pot up and wait 'til next year (for best results).


    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 8:44PM
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ah, your previous post you said to use turface. So that is what I was planing for. Oh well i feel lucky to have found some so easily, even if I am not going to be using it at this time.
At this point I think that I will just gather ingredients so that they are on hand for next spring and repot them then.
Thanks so much for the help.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 8:43AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sorry - I talk to so many people I sometimes lose track. I probably suggested you could use something like 5:2:1, bark:turface:peat? One of our old regulars (Justaguy) used to mix PB fines & Turface all the time and seemed to like it just fine. If you have more questions ..... ;-)


    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 7:03PM
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