Blueberry in 5-1-1 mix

pkozulNovember 17, 2011

Hi there,

Not sure if this is the best forum for this, but since it's in a container, here goes...

I have a blueberry in Al's 5-1-1 mix (bark, perlite, coir peat). I'm not sure about how well the plant is doing. It looks like it will bear some fruit this season, but I'm not sure about the leaves. Does it look like some deficiency? I haven't grown blueberries before, so I'm not sure about this.

Looking at the photos, what do you think?



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I'll offer my 2 cents based on my own research and experience. It'll give you sometihng to consider until others will weigh-which I'm sure they will.

Do you notice how the area right around the veins is dark green while the areas between the veins is yellowing? This 'road map' pattern is indicative of an iron deficiency. It's probably not a matter of your container mix being iron deficient--though it could be. Rather, at pH of 7 and above iron (and manganese) become much less available to the plant. The common wisdom is that blueberries prefer a very acidic soil. A more accurate statement would be that blueberries tolerate low pH soils because it's easier for them to get the nutrients they require. As long as you provide the required nutrients in a form the plant can use, blueberries will be perfectly happy growing at higher pH levels. I have native stands of lowbush blueberry on my property which are growing in acidic (pH 5.0 - 5.5) sandy soil. I have transplanted others into my nutrient-balanced garden soil (pH 6.5) and they grow equally well. In fact, the garden-grown blueberries taste are much sweeter.

As a remedy for your situation, you could try to lower the pH of your soil solution by (i.e. your irrigation water and nutrients) by adding vinegar. If that doesn't work, the addition of iron sulfate or iron chelate would be appropriate. If you search here in the container forum, I think you'll find several threads/posts with information about this.

As a final thought, many 'experts' advise planting blueberries in a soil mix that is large part peat. If you're not familiar with Tapla's seminal post regarding water movement (link below) it explains in detail why a peat-heavy soil simply doesn't work in containers. This is doubly important for plants like blueberries which abhor wet feet.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XIV

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 9:17AM
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fortyonenorth is absolutely correct.

I might mention though that the 5-1-1 is inherently acid due to it's composition, the reason you add lime for most plants. But for Blueberries, don't add lime to the 5-1-1. If you need to add calcium and magnesium due to using fertilizers that do not have it (such as MG) then you'll need to add it not with lime but with gypsum and epsom salts so you don't raise the pH. Generally though, you usually only use minimal ferts with blueberries, and mostly only add 21-0-0 - ammonium sulphate. Because the 5-1-1 mix is essentially soilless, you will still need some ferts, but far less then you would use with hungrier plants. The main thing though, is keep the pH low, and you'll be fine. The iron deficiency is a classic symptom of pH issues for blueberries.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 4:28PM
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