Blueberry plants in containers-struggling to thrive

stwinwardApril 28, 2012

I thought I'd try my hand at blueberries, but our soils are very alkaline. Containers seem the way to go to control the soil acidity. I have 3 plants (Tophat, Northblue, and Northsky). I started them about 1 month ago, and two of the three are doing ok (only ok). The third is really struggling. I have read lots on this forum about their care but can't get it right. I've moved them outside about 3 times for additional sunlight, but each time I do, they seem to get set back in their progress. They have plenty of water, but once spending the day outdoors, they are wilting (soil is still moist, however). Does anyone have insights for me? Thanks!

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terrybull

i was just talking to a guy about buying some blueberry plants yesterday. he grows and sells them. and i asked him what was the best potting mix was, he told me straight spagnum peat moss.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 10:22AM
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Joe1980(5)

Straight peat moss would be a disaster, at least I would think. For soil, I'd go with the 5-1-1 mix, as it is nice & acidic, perfect for blueberries. Blueberries are also outdoor plants, as far as I'm aware, and shouldn't be grown indoors. Any plant growing inside has to be slowly acclimated to outdoor light too, so you can't just stick it out in the sun for a day.

Joe

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 11:50AM
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terrybull

i found this post. thought it might be helpful.

"The good news for blueberry lovers is that, with extra effort, there is a proven way to grow delicious blueberries in your Colorado garden. The keys to success are 1) plant the blueberry bushes in a medium that is primarily (or entirely) composed of sphagnum peat moss. This readily available material has a pH of approximately 5.5, so it is perfect for blueberries. Two further keys to success are: 2) make sure that the root zone always stays moist (even during warm, dry spells in winter), and 3) protect the bushes from drying winds during the winter. This can be done by wrapping the bushes with burlap or old sheets while they are dormant.

Any planting method that incorporates these three key elements should lead to success, so feel free to be creative. For those who want an established recipe for success, follow the instructions below. Keep in mind that you will need to have at least two blueberry plants of different varieties (for cross-pollination purposes) in order for the plants to set good crops.

For each plant:

- Dig a hole that is 20" deep, 30"long and 20" wide.
- Get a plastic-wrapped bale of sphagnum peat moss (3 cubic feet).
- Punch about a dozen holes in the bottom of the plastic wrap.
- Drop the bale, holes down, into your pre-dug hole. You can grow more plants in a row by dropping multiple bales in a trench. Different plants are necessary for cross-pollination as noted above.

- Cut an 8"x 8" "X" in the plastic on top of the bale and fold back flaps.
- Plant a bare-root blueberry plant directly into the peat moss (Do this in early-mid April).
- Re-close the "X" using tape, leaving about a 3" hole in the middle to accommodate the trunk of the bush.
- (optional) Install drip irrigation line by cutting a small hole at either end of the bale and feeding the line through the holes, resulting in an irrigation line that runs on top of the peat but under the plastic.
- Fertilize in early May and early July with a balanced fertilizer for acid-loving plants (i.e. Miracle Grow for Acid Loving Plants).
- Water and provide winter protection as discussed in keys to success above.
- Provide protection from "critters" as animals love blueberries too.
- Enjoy blueberries year after year!"

* Joel Reich is CSU Extension horticulturist at the Boulder County Extension office in Longmont, CO where he trials blueberries and other small fruits.

So it looks like you just dump the whole bail of peat moss in the hole, and plant the bushes into to bail! Amazing.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 12:34PM
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rina_

...that would work for growing them in ground if I am not mistaken..?
Rina

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 1:12PM
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Joe1980(5)

I would think that the peat moss would decompose into a soupy mess, just like Miracle Grow does. Also, leaving the plastic in the ground doesn't sound like a good idea either, because I'd think the roots would eventually get crowded in there. My suspecion is that the plants would grow fine until the peat moss broke down into a mushy mess inside the plastic, and then a lack of aeration would lead to root rot, with certain death to follow. But, just my thoughts, as I've never tried growing blueberries, or for that matter growing anything in a plastic covered bale of peat moss.

Joe

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 6:22PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

stwinward....Can you post a photo or two? I have my container blueberries in a mix of about 5:2 pine bark/peat moss w/a little garden gypsum for calcium. NO LIME. They love it. I have mine outdoors all the time except in the winter. It's basically the 511 mix w/o perlite and an extra part of peat for some added water retention. The sun pounds on my containers and I need the added water retention. Check out the Fruits forum on this site. There are some people that do some serious growing of container blueberries. A guy called "fruitnut" comes to mind.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 8:33PM
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