Blueberries in the border - ?

mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)September 29, 2013

Since my rampage left a lot of open spots and a bed I'm going to re-do, I'm thinking of incorporating a few more shrubs in the perennial beds. What about blueberries? I've read in countless books how attractive they are, but I've never actually seen anyone growing them in the beds/borders. I would be interested in a lower-growing variety, and the bed I would locate them in is part-shade, moist soil, drains well as far as I can tell. Are they worth prime real estate in front of the window?

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laceyvail(6A, WV)

As long as deer are not a problem and the soil is VERY acid (below 5.5 pH) and you can mulch them very deeply and water in very dry periods, they should be fine.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 6:04AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

livonia soil was not acidic enough ...

most peeps grow them in pots.. to change ph ...

its going to be very hard to change pH as it is an exponential function ...

they will probably be the most expensive fruit on earth.. if you should succeed ...

they are not as forgiving as rhodie and azalea ...

ken

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 7:02AM
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rusty_blackhaw(6a)

I'd certainly try to group blueberries with other acid-loving plants in the border.

It isn't that hard to change pH enough to get healthy fruiting blueberry plants.* And there are dwarf-ish shrubs (like "Top Hat") that would be especially suitable for growing in a perennial border.

*the other obvious bonus is attractive fall color.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 8:42AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

It isn't that hard to change pH enough to get healthy fruiting blueberry plants

==>> i am not soil scientist.. but it would depend on the soil you are starting with ....

if all it takes is a handful of whatever.. then that isnt bad ..

but when you get into talking about pounds per year.. per bush .... it can become cost prohibitive ...

i think.. we are pretty neutral around here .. SE MI .... hovering around 7 ... as per the definition

according to the chart at the link .. as an example ... to change from 7 to the 5.5 that lacey mentions... you would need to add .. IF I READ IT RIGHT .... 2.7 pounds of aluminum sulfate ... or .3 pounds of sulphur .. both per 10 square feet .... and then you would have to figure out how it leeches from your soil.. so you could figure out how often you need to remember to do this ... etc ....

if you havent had a professional soil test done.. a quick call to your extension office .. or Ag office .. might get you in the ballpark as to feasibility ...

all i know.. for sure.. is that as you get out grand rapids/zeeland way .. the native soil is deep dark MI peat.. and perfect for BBs ..... but that is not metro detroit ...

as always... give it a go ... the worst that can happen.. is in a year or two.. you tell me i was right.. or wrong ... just providing info on the variable i think is important ...

ken

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 8:59AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

Don't forget most blueberries need a second plant for cross pollination/higher yields.
CMK

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 10:39AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Do you want fruit (enough to harvest and eat) or are you looking at it more as a decorative shrub for - primarily - foliage color? And did you want the berries for decorative purposes, or is that secondary to foliage? I wonder if that might make a difference (i.e. not needing ideal conditions to produce fruit)

Dee

This post was edited by diggerdee on Mon, Sep 30, 13 at 15:38

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 3:36PM
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trovesoftrilliums(5)

I planted 4 blueberries in my neutral soil summer 2010 (two taller varieties and two smaller ones). They were $5 clearance shrubs from a big box store. I put them in a bit of a low spot so I mounded up a ridge for them using bales of peat moss (purchased several of these large bales when they were discounted to $1 each). I ended up about 50% peat, 50% existing soil. I mulched with pine needles and for the first year I put our coffee grounds around them. Year 2 I purchased an 8lb bag of soil sulfur for about $6 and I have sprinkled sulfur around them (and then lightly raked it into the soil) in the spring. I sill have over 3/4 of a bag. I don't think the expenses have been overwhelming.

They occasionally have mild leaf discoloration (either fungal or nutrient problem I suspect) but they have grown steadily and produced several handfuls of berries this summer. They are not fast growing, dense shrubs though, in my yard. Fall is their most ornamental season with attractive red foliage. The flowers have not been very showy. Plus, they have that ericaceous look which seems a bit incongruous in my yard. They look as though they should be surrounded by mountain laurels and azaleas, not grasses and coneflowers, IMO.

Animals do love these plants. In the winter the rabbits chew on the low stems (my smaller ones were almost eaten to the ground last winter), in spring the deer eat the young foliage and in summer birds eat the berries. A great way to attract wildlife to the garden! I just moved my shrubs to a location where I can more easily net them against animals. The berries are quickly eaten if not netted. The birds don't waste any time locating them.

Have you considered Little Henry Dwarf Sweetspire?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 4:26PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

If blueberries are going to be a problem because of pH, sweetspire isn't going to be happy either.

Now lavender, OTOH,....

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 6:21PM
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trovesoftrilliums(5)

Sweetspires are doing well in my yard. I added a couple of handfuls of peat at planting but that's all.

I thought of them because they have a similar look but with denser foliage growth and more pronounced spring flowering (generally equally more ornamental value).

If OP wants berries though, blueberries are worth a try. I love my blueberries. :)

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 6:50PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Nah, I don't have to have blueberries, I just saw yet another article singing their praises. I don't want too much fuss and bother, and whatever I plant has to be ornamental most of the year, since that bed is right in front of the picture window. I'm sure I can come up with some other part-shade shrubs that are low in height, no biggie. I saw some gorgeous blue-needled evergreens that actually would look terrific, I'm going to revisit that idea this weekend (hoping they will be marked down even further...)

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 7:46PM
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rusty_blackhaw(6a)

My blueberries are in a raised bed and produced a decent fruit crop the past couple of years. I haven't been very diligent about soil pH (just got around to adding a slow-release acid fertilizer product a few months ago) but the plants are still doing well.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 9:42AM
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