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Blueberries - ph down?

Posted by Lori615 5b (GR, MI) (My Page) on
Sat, Mar 16, 13 at 0:32

I am planting seven 1-gal blueberries into larger pots (either individual 5-gal pots or planting 2 blueberries per 22" pot), using the 5-1-1 mix with gypsum and epsom salts added, and Miracid for ongoing fertilizer. I have not yet set up my rain barrel, but I hope to use it to water with rain water this summer. Until then, I'll be using tap water, which is measuring at over 8 pH in my four-year-old pond water test kit.

Before I read about simply using white vinegar to lower the pH of my tap water, I went out and bought a bottle of General Hydroponics pH Down, which is Phosphoric acid. I added 1T to a gallon and it lowered my water to about 6 pH on my old pond test kit. I added three more teaspoons, one at a time (for a total of 2 tablespoons/gal), and it finally went to about a 5, which is the lowest this kit tests. I'm having a surprisingly hard time finding another water test kit that's inexpensive and measures down to 4 pH. But I'll keep looking. I suspect that I didn't need to add that much to get the pH down.

Meantime, is it OK to use this Phosphoric acid for my blueberries, or should I stick to vinegar?

Right now my blueberries are in my garage in their 1-gal pots. They arrived a couple weeks ago and have small buds on them, but nothing has leafed out yet. My temps are still around 35-40 highs and 25's for lows for the forseeable future (at least 10 days). I'm not sure if it will harm them to be in the dark garage since they have buds on them, or if it would be more harm to put them out in the freezing nights with those buds on them. Suggestions?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

I got a pH test kit at the local pet store that goes down to 4.5 for fresh water. I also got a couple of different brands of litmus paper online, for about a buck each, and it will measure to 4 and below. I like using white vinegar because it's cheap and 2 Tablespoons per gallon is all I need to bring my 8 pH water down to below 5. I'll go through a couple of gallons per year. Sorry, don't know anything about phosphoric acid for blueberries.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Forgot to mention..the Fruits forum has alot of blueberry growers on it.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Here's a thread from the Fruit forum that addresses different methods of lowering pH/removing bicarbonates. It makes for interesting reading...

Here is a link that might be useful: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Yes, that was quite an interesting read! And through the fireworks, there appeared to be lots of good info. I can use my phosphoric acid! Thank you.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

If you plan on using the 5-1-1 mix, I wish you luck.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

I must have good luck, because the 5-1-1 has worked brilliantly for my blueberries. Either that, or it's a first-rate potting mix put together by someone who knows more about container culture than most of us ever will (thanks, Al!).

This post was edited by shazaam on Mon, Mar 18, 13 at 12:19


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

shazaam,

How long has your blueberries been in the 5:1:1 mix? Can you post a pic of these blueberries in the 5:1:1 mix?

You can try what ever mix you think will work, but the 5:1:1 just doesn't work for blueberries.

Perhaps I am wrong, wouldn't be the first or last time, that's for sure.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

I'm just curious, Preston - can you detail your experience with the 5-1-1 for blueberries? It seems as though there are a lot of people here that have used it with success for blueberries. I'd like to hear your story. Thanks.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Lori615,

Well, I would never attempt to use a 5:1:1 mix for blueberries for the simple reason it mainly dries out too fast. I have never seen a pic as of today, and believe me, I have asked plenty of times to see a blueberry plant in the 5:1:1 mix.

I believe this myth was started by a few people without really testing it for blueberries and it slowly became known as a good mix for blueberries. I believe it wouldn't do very well past 4-6 months if even that. I'm referring to a blueberry bush that has a lot of fruit with new growth, not one that has a few new branches an leaves.

I don't expect someone to top my blueberry bush pic, but if someone does, fruitnut comes to mind, that is awesome for someone to raise the bar. Even if someone wants to post a pic of a blueberry in the 5:1:1, it's not a competition so just post it.

Ron


Sharpblue and southmoon.

 photo DSC06961mod_zpseb31f1df.jpg

This post was edited by prestons_garden on Tue, Mar 19, 13 at 21:15


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

I've been using variations* of Al's 5-1-1 mix for 4-5 years, and, at this point, I have nearly 30 potted blueberries of varying ages. I'm not in the habit of photographing them, but I'll take the time to do so in the next week or so just to satisfy your curiosity. In the meantime, take a look at the video that I've linked to below -- it's a brief story about a commercial grower in SC who grows blueberries in 40 gallon pots in pure pine bark. It's not the 5-1-1 mix, but it's pretty darn close.

Despite your statement to the contrary, I've found that the 5-1-1 mix can actually retain a bit too much water when used in combination with plastic pots. Nonetheless, in porous containers, like terra cotta and fabric pots, I do have to be attentive to moisture levels in hot summer weather.

*I've experimented with the 5-1-1 mix in a variety of ways. I've used it by the book in terra cotta and plastic pots, and I've tinkered a bit with the proportions and ingredients in fabric aeration containers. For the latter, I used a 4-2-1 ratio of bark fines, peat, and rice hulls last year, but I've switched to 6-1 bark/perlite ratio this year. The rice hulls seemed to do a good job as a perlite replacement, but I found a price on perlite that I just couldn't pass up this spring.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHQikgbktBw&noredirect=1


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Preston - what is your planting mix? Nice pic!

Shazaam - is there a reason you are taking out the peat in your mix this year? I did order the root pouches and am going to see how two plants in root pouches fit in my 22" containers. I was thinking 5-2-1 pine bark-peat-perlite, kind of a blend between Al and Dave Wilson mix. The finest pine bark I've found is a little larger than the recommended size, so I thought I would compensate with a bit more peat.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

I dropped the peat for a few reasons:

1. The bark that I bought this year is nicely aged with lots of fine material. Therefore, it should hold more water than the fresher bark that I've purchased in previous years.

2. I'm planning to leave my plants in the same mix for two or more years, so I'm foregoing some moisture retention this year in anticipation of more moisture retention next year (as the bark ages further).

3. I'm a bit conflicted about the environmental costs of peat. I do use it, but I'm always looking for ways to reduce the amount that I use. Pine bark, on the other hand, is produced in abundance in my region, and it's a byproduct of another industry. It's also 1/3 of the price of peat. Since I have a lot of pots to fill, bark's cost savings plus lighter environmental footprint appeals to me.

At this point, I think you're wise to use peat in your mix, and I see no reason why you shouldn't go with the 5-2-1 ratio for the reasons that you mentioned. Next year, you can evaluate your results and fine tune accordingly.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

shazaam,

'it's a brief story about a commercial grower in SC who grows blueberries in 40 gallon pots in pure pine bark. It's not the 5-1-1 mix, but it's pretty darn close. "

Pure pine bark is not close to the 5:1:1 mix. I highly doubt they screened there pine bark. A lot of nurseries use pine bark these days, cost effective, lasts a long time, shipping costs, etc. That does not make it a 5:1:1 mix. The 5:1:1 mix is screened pine bark 1/8" to 1/4" 5 parts, 1 part peat moss, 1 part perlite.

It seems as you have moved away from the infamous 5:1:1 mix, and that was my point.

Lori615,

That sharblue is a 5 year old mix. I don't remember the exact ratio, but I do know I used sphagnum peat moss and pumice.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Excuse me prestons-gardens, the 511 pine bark is NOT 1/8-1/4 in size. That's the gritty mix size. The pine bark size for the 511 mix is approx 3/8 - dust, and some people prefer 1/2 - dust. Decent pine bark mulch is the size right out of the bag, doesn't need screening, and is perfect for a 511 mix.

I also buy double ground pine bark right from a mulch supplier which is perfect for my 511 mix. All I do is add a little perlite if I want to. Is it exactly 511? No, but close enough to recommend it. Each person can tweak it a little here for more or less water retention etc.

Have been using THE 511 for my blueberries for 3 years and they are growing excellent.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Ron:

As edweather pointed out, your post makes it pretty clear that your dismissal of the 5-1-1 mix is based, at least in part, on ignorance of what it actually contains. I'd begun to wonder when you made the claim about it not holding enough water. As ed notes, Al's 1-1-1 turface/granite/bark grity mix is the one that contains screened bark, the point of which is to minimize fine particles so that the mix holds up (i,e. maintains superior aeration and minimizes compaction) for more than one season. The fact that the 5-1-1 mix ISN'T screened is very important -- nicely aged pine bark contains lots of fine material that excels out holding moisture while still providing good aeration. So, yes, I think the grower that I cited is using a mix that's VERY similar to Al's mix, which is about 71.5% AGED/UNSCREENED pine bark fines.

Next, the notion that my experimentation with the mix is somehow a testament to the fact that it doesn't work is just silly. Al himself is on record suggesting variations to meet other growers specific needs. No one is saying that the 5-1-1 mix is the ONLY way to grow healthy plants, and no one (most certainly not Al himself) is saying that the proportions of the mix are written in stone. Nonetheless, the 5-1-1 mix does provide a good starting point -- it does a nice job of holding water while still providing plentiful aeration, and it maintains its structure quite well for at least year or more. As growers learn more about their own particular requirements and preferences, they can modify the mix to better meet their needs. For example, if you'd prefer to water less frequently and are willing to sacrifice some aeration (or if you're using fresh bark that's short on finer material), then you might consider using more peat and less bark. Conversely, peat is by no mean essential, so if you're willing to water more frequently (of if you're using well aged bark with lots of fines), then you might eliminate it entirely. I'm not saying anything new here -- it's all been said many times by Al and others in past discussions about his potting mixes.

I'll conclude by saying that your blueberries look fantastic -- your approach obviously works well for you, and I'm sure others will benefit from learning more about your methods.

This post was edited by shazaam on Wed, Mar 20, 13 at 11:58


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

shazaam,

No need to be rude, just try to be civil in your response next time. Your point is understood and taken for what it's worth.

Still no pics shazaam? I only see 1 pic as of this day and it's not from you. At least edweather posted a pic and thanks for doing so.

When I see something that makes me believe other wise, I still hold to my theory that a 5:1:1 or anything close to it will NOT work for blueberries. There has to be a lot more people out there that are growing blueberries in a 5:1:1 mix, or is everyone shy. Come on gardner's, post them pics. Hopefully this will get someone in a outrage and prove me wrong. Shazaam?

Ron


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Here's a picture of a barely 2 year old Farthing in 511 mix. Not bad for a SHB growing in Z5?? This plant is currently overwintering in my garage and just dying to break buds. Don't know what I'll do if we don't get some warmer weather soon.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

I think my response was quite civil and on point. You obviously feel otherwise, and I'm sorry for that -- it certainly wasn't my intent to be rude. However, I did feel the need to make my points strongly, because it was clear to me that you were completely misunderstanding the basis of the 5-1-1 mix. Therefore, I'm glad that you take my point..."for what it's worth."

I did some digging on my hard drive and came up with a photo that includes my eldest blueberry bush when it was first leafing out last spring. There's a lot of clutter, but you should be able to see that it's large and healthy (despite being in the same potting mix with no root pruning for at least two years prior). It's been in the 5-1-1 mix for at least four years and fruits prolifically. Unfortunately, I've lost the tag and no longer remember the variety (which annoys me to no end...). If time allows, I'll take some additional photos later today.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


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The Farthing is gorgeous, Ed. I bought an assortment of SHB rooted cuttings last fall, and I can only hope that they'll look half that good next year. Is the branching your work? I'm still refining my ability to shape growth. I'm still trying to get a few Duke bushes in hand after letting them send up 30" bull shoots a couple of years ago before pinching them back. They still look like barbells standing on end...


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

shazaam, no, the shape was totally natural. Got lucky with this one. I did end up pruning a few of the longer branches. Hopefully it will continue on the same track this year. On the other hand I have a Sweet Crisp that is growing all over the place. I'm also getting that hang of when/how to prune for my zone and growing conditions. This year, year 3 of my BB growing experience, I should have a much better handle on when/what to prune. Yeah, I had some 24" sideways growing branches that I should have pruned before the wind snapped them off. Apologies to the OP.......looks like this thread grew sideways also.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Ron - I also thought that Shazaam's response was polite...

It is great to hear all the different ways to grow. I personally don't want to do gritty or turface/granite products because my pots will be on a second-floor deck and will be moved to my garage for the winter, so I'd rather not have the extra weight.

Ed - that is gorgeous!! When you say it's 2 years old, do you mean that's when you potted it? How old was it when you got it? Are you getting fruit yet? I'm always a little confused when people say the age of their bushes. The ones I bought are 3-4 years old in 1-gal pots. I'm hoping to get some berries off of it this year.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

(no apologies necessary, Ed - I love the info and the photos!)


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Lori615,
I believe you are right about shazaam's response. He used "ignorant" in the right context, but at first, I didn't see it that way.
I should be the one to apologize as I feel I hijacked your thread. I will stop posting if you would like, not a problem at all.

I too, had the same questions for edweather. I hope he hangs around.

You guys are doing a good job, don't let me discourage you or anyone else. It is a long learning curve to get optimum yields of blueberries with exceptional flavors.

Ron


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Lori, I received the Farthing and Sweet Crisp early last spring in the mail from Connie Horner of Horner Farms in Georgia. She shipped them bare rooted and they were about 16" tall had leaves, but few branches. She said they were probably a little over a year old. I potted them and what you see in the photo would probably be the plants second year growth. Horner Farms is more of a commercial farm, but Connie does ship to individuals also. I did a thread in the Fruits forum last under "Sweet Crisp source."


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Here are some photos of my ever-growing collection of blueberries. I took them late this afternoon in less than ideal light. As I noted above, some grew in Al's 5-1-1 mix (mostly the Northern Highbush varieties, including the photo in my earlier post), some grew in the 5-1-1 mix with rice hulls instead of perlite, and some grew in a 4-2-1 ratio mix that I tried out in Smart Pots (some of my new rabbiteyes and SHBs).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Above is a group photo of approximately 17 blueberries of varying ages (plus an assortment of other fruits and ornamentals). At this point, my rabbiteye varieties are leafing out and opening flowers, my NHB varieties have swelling buds, and my SHB varieties fall in a spectrum in between. They're all safely tucked away under an Agribon AG-50 frost blanket because we have a couple of sub-freezing nights ahead.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I've tried to isolate a Tifblue rabbiteye in the above photo. I bought it from Simmons Plant Farm as a 2 year old bare root bush last spring. It was roughly 18" when I planted it. At this point, it's over 3' in height and blooming profusely.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Next (above) is a Southmoon. I bought it has a 2 year old bush last year from Burnt Ridge Nursery. It was in a smallish pot (4"?) and was somewhere in the 12" to 15" range. It's now nearly 3' in height and looks like it will fruit nicely.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Above are a couple of dwarf bushes -- a Top Hat on the left and a North Country on the right. It's hard to tell much at this point since the buds are just beginning to swell (the TH is a little further along than the NC). Both came from Burnt Ridge Nursery last spring, and both were in the 6" to 10" range when I potted them. I didn't measure them, but both have easily tripled in size and sent up a significant number of new canes. I really enjoyed watching the Top Hat grow last year. It's a beautiful little plant, and the leaves turned a brilliant shade of red last fall.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

No need to leave, Ron! People have different ideas, and it's interesting to hear what did and didn't work for them. At first the 5-1-1 sounded weird to me, but there are a lot of people who have used it successfully. I have also heard people on other sites that seem to snub their nose at it (theyr'e more into organic fertilizers/compost etc in pots) say that although they think it's crazy for veggies, they think it sounds like something that would work for blueberries specifically. To each his own. I'm going to try some tomatoes in 5-1-1, some in pure coir (Gardener's Supply Tomato Success Kit), and some in a TBD custom creation of whatever I'm in the mood for at the time of planting. Just for fun, out of curiosity to see if there's a real advantage in my situation.

Shazaam - sub-freezing temps.....as you say that, it's 12 degrees outside at 11 p.m. here. Spring is never coming.

Ed - I thought Sweetcrisp was southern type. Do you have to baby it in the winter in zone 5?

As for my blueberries, it looks like - based on your photos - I can look forward to some pretty good growth this year! Do you all think I will get any berries this year...or should I remove flowers to help the root system? My daughter would disown me if I don't let it fruit out! I have Chippewa, NorthBlue, Polaris, Patriot.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Shazaam, Wow you have alot of plants. Nice!

Lori, Yes Sweet crisp and Farthing are both southern types and I have them in my unheated garage where the temps have varied between 35 and 50 all winter. Most suggested that I didn't leave them out. My northern types are outside and have been frozen solid for 3 months. Forgot to mention earlier that there were a few berries on the Farthing last year. This year I might let a few berries mature, but will probably focus more on growth and prune some blossoms if they set too many.


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

My wife and I have been complaining about the lingering winter temps here in NC, but, compared to Michigan, it's been spring here all winter. :) Nonetheless, we seem to be bouncing back and forth quite a bit -- Sunday was gorgeous with a high of 71 or so, but today we'll be lucky to make it out of the mid 40s.

As for whether or not to let your bushes fruit this year, Lori, I'm inclined to say that, as long as they're healthy and vigorous, it shouldn't do them any harm to bear a light crop. That being said, I usually pinch all of the blossoms off of my own first-year transplants.

Your point about the variety of approaches to container media is a good one. It sometimes seems that no two people recommend the same thing! I exaggerate, of course, but I think you're wise to maintain an open mind and try different things. Given their inherent vigor and short lifespan, tomatoes seem like a good place to start. As for blueberries, it's clear that there's no single formula to success -- Ron gets stunning results with his plants in peat and pumice, fruitnut makes me envious with his huge crops in peat and wood shavings, some growers appear to do just fine in pure peat or pure bark, and others do very well with the Dave Wilson mix. Of course, I'm very satisfied with bark fines as the primary ingredient, and I'm pretty sure that I'll stick closely to Al's 5-1-1 mix for the foreseeable future. I wish you success with it, as well...


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

Lori,
What does the pH Down cost?I started out using vinegar and then changed to a product that was used for spas and hot tubs,that had 10% Sulfuric acid.It cost about $7-8 for 16 oz.
Since then,I've switched and go to the auto parts store and get battery acid(33%Sulfuric acid),twice the amount at the same price and use 1/3 the dose. Brady


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RE: Blueberries - ph down?

It was $9.95 for a quart at my neighborhood hydroponics store.


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