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Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this week

Posted by appletree729 none (My Page) on
Mon, Mar 31, 14 at 14:09

I am so confused - I amended this soil this past fall - added a ton of peat and compost (maybe this is why?) and I just got my soil test back - pH of 7.1!

My barefoot blueberries are arriving later this week. Is there anything I can do here? Can sulfur drop the pH quickly enough that I'll be able to plant? :( I was NOT anticipating needing to adjust the pH by this much!!!

Any tips would be greatly appreciated by this newbie gardener� I have 7 high bush plants arriving�


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Sulfur acidification of soil depends on microbes, and therefore takes 3-6 months of warm weather to take effect. To chemically alter the soil quickly, one would have to use sulfuric acid (and take all the necessary precautions in doing so - esp goggles).

You could pot them this year in peat/pine bark while you work your soil over the summer and get the ph down. That way you could use sulfur.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

No,Sulfur will take months to work.If they were mine,I'd put them in pots,maybe #5 or about 3 gallon with a mix of conifer bark mulch and Peat,until the pH goes down in the soil. Brady


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Thanks to both of you - I have a feeling that your advice will be the consensus among anyone else replying as well…

Do you think it will be fairly easy to transplant the bushes next spring then? Are there any problems with transplanting blueberries that I don't know about?

I'll grab some planters and get the mix ready… thanks so much...


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

''Do you think it will be fairly easy to transplant the bushes next spring then? Are there any problems with transplanting blueberries that I don't know about?''

It's fairly straight forward,pick a sunny place,if the roots are tight,break them apart a bit and mulch after planting.Also wait til they start growing to fertilize. Brady


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Yeah compost can raise PH, a notorious one is mushroom compost. I myself don't use it for anything. Best to use organic fertilizers to feed blueberries, not compost. Some use it, but I prefer not to. I use cottonseed meal, Holly-Tone, or other acidic fertilizer, organic or soluble. Also peat is a compost, and it will breakdown with time. Sulfur is the best answer.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

I had the same problem with compost when preparing for blueberries. You can fix the problem with ferrous sulfate for fast results as it acidifies without needing bacterial action. From my notes, tilling in 25lb ferrous sulphate plus 5lb ammonium sulphate to a 3ft x 80 ft row decreased ph from 7.4 to 6.5 almost immediately. This was sandy loam soil amended with shredded redwood bark and compost. The blueberries did great. You may need to adjust the ph again after the first season by adding regular sulfur.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Here's a question - what would be the difference between planting the blueberries in containers vs planting them in container-sized holes (or larger) in the existing soil?

In the holes, I'd place the same potting mix as I would have used in the pots, and by the time the roots are ready to venture past the potting mix, maybe the sulfur would have had time to act on the surrounding soil.

Would there be much of a difference between that and growing them in containers now and transplanting next year? I know it's best to have consistent soil and to avoid 'pockets' of differing growing conditions, but it's not like people knock off all the soil from the roots of a plant as they transplant it - the rootball usually has it's own soil that is different from surrounding soil anyway.

Thoughts?


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 31, 14 at 20:09

Bareroot blueberry stock will thrive if it is potted up, and grown in a somewhat protected place, for a few months. After the shrubs have leafed out, they will do well if they have three or four hours of sun per day, as opposed to full sun, all day. They should be able to handle full sun all day by September, and that would be a good time to plant them outside in the ground. If you do not know the pH of your irrigation water, it would be helpful to get this checked. The planting holes can be prepared this spring, and agricultural sulfur can be put down at this time. If this is done, the pH will have dropped by about one full point by September.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

good point about checking the water pH - I've come across this advice a couple of times today in my research..

As far as planting them in the ground as I mentioned in my last post - something along the lines of what is described in this post - http://clippings.gardenweb.com/clippings/?alias=appletree729&gwc_mode=edit&key=forums2.gardenweb.com_forums_load_contain_msg101443566175.2

although I the point ericwi made about keeping them potted until september and avoiding full sun makes sense too. I think I'm over-analyzing now! But I do like the idea of planting in september…

thanks again to all...


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

I plant mostly bareroot and prefer them to potted. I place them straight in to the ground with no pot stage. My rule is November-March though. After that I would be very careful here in Florida planting them as it just gets so hot. If you are in the temperate zone I would definitely put them in ground directly. No worries if they are watered religiously 3 times a week minimum. It really depends on the care you can give them. If you are willing and dedicated to the plants go ahead and plant in the ground. Just use acid, sulfuric or vinegar to keep them happy till the sulfur kicks in.

PH of your water will not tell the whole story. The PH could be fairly high and be just fine for them or horrible just depends on the bicarbonate load.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

There was a thread here a few years ago of a man delving into commercial blueberry fruit production- he was already in the daylily business. He set up a watering system for a couple hundred plants which he grew in 5 gallon pots. He used high quality time release fertilizer and the plants never suffered for water. His first years growth was incredible- from small plugs to 5-6' tall well branched plants ready to produce heavy crops.

There are advantages to putting bare root plants directly into the soil, I agree, but I don't know how I could get that kind of growth in regular soil and blueberries are often sold to commercial growers in small pots (Van de Camps Nursery in MI, I think- it's been years) as I used to purchase them when I grew them in my nursery. Not sure of the research, but they are touted to establish more quickly then bare roots.

The point is, you can size them up in pots and benefit from larger plants going into the ground then smaller ones. I also expect that if you planted them directly in the soil with 50% peat moss and pelletized sulfur immediately, the results would be fine, especially if the plants are mulched with woodchips or pine needles.

The main problem with planting potted plants is that potting soil is coarser then most any native soil. It not only dries out much faster than most natural soils but finer soil surrounding coarser soil will pull water from the coarser soil if it is drier.

Establishing blueberries suffer greatly from even short periods of drought. Blueberries are particularly slow when planted as potted plants to develop roots into the new soil so if you do start the plants in pots make sure the mix doesn't dry out even when you put them in the ground.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

I can remember that guy harvestman,if it's the same guy,I found the link.The fertilizer made by Florikan,that he was highly touting.They were also being grown in the ground. Brady

Here's a link to his homepage http://www.bluegrassgardens.net/Catalog/Blueberry Info Page.html

Here is a link that might be useful: Old link to Gardenweb Blueberry Thread


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

You mean, the pots were placed in the ground? I just skimmed through his first communication and he started them in 3 gallon pots- not 5.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Yeah, I checked back, when he was raving about their growth he was talking about how they did while in the pots. Wish he'd posted a couple years later to let us know how everything did in the field, long term.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Here is what I'm going to try and if it fails, I'll have a good story to tell on the "worst gardening mistakes" forum!

It's a beautiful day today, so I just dug up practically the whole blueberry bed that I created last fall - it technically was a raised/mounded bed. I just dug it all up and used the soil to top dress the rest of my garden area (soil test also revealed nutrient levels to be WAY too high - so I'm looking at that soil more as a fertilizer/very rich compost now)

So I now have until friday to build another raised bed and I'm going to plant the blueberries in the soil as opposed to pots. I really wanted to avoid pots for a few reasons but mostly because I think it will be a lot easier to keep them well watered in the ground.

Any advice on stuff to use to build the raised bed? Mostly peat? Mixed with a little bit of the native soil? Do they sell bagged garden soil that is acidic - meant for azaleas, etc? maybe some of that?

Plants arrive this Friday. The clock is ticking... but I am determined! (some have other words to describe it but I'm sticking with 'determined' ;))


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

On the bright side, I just transplanted some 20 year old blueberries on my property that I originally planted for the birds. Initially I added sulfur but then ignored the soil for the next 19 years because the blueberries were extremely healthy and productive. I kept them mulched with wood chips and did nothing more.

I checked the pH after moving the plants expecting to need to add calcium to get the right pH for peaches. The pH was 6.6- once again I find thriving and productive blueberries in near neutral soil- this time on my own property!

There were 7 different varieties of typical highbush types in the mix besides a Tophat- you know, Bluecrop, Jersey, Duke, Patriot, etc. I'm guessing the soil was sweetened by the composting woodchips because my native, undisturbed soil on that hill runs about 5.6. The soil where the blueberries were is black and loaded with organic matter- the richest silt loam you'll ever see and drains perfectly without ever being soggy.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Apple tree,

I dig a hole 15 inches deep, 30 inches across. To this I add a mix of 1/3 to 1/2 peat to the native soil and plant. Mix it up real well and you cant overuse the peat, blues love it. Use potting soil if your native soil is not good. If ph too high, add 1/4th cup ammonium sulf sprinkled at dripline a couple times a year. If too low, use a urea form of peat. This is all I do and my 20 plants are doing fantastic. I grew them in pots for awhile and that worked too but I have found my plants in the ground go through a more natural wet-dry cycle and are far better protected in winter.

Good luck,

RM


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

What no pictures??? Lets see them. Perhaps you need to return that $9.99 lowes PH meter? Blueberries need acid soil and without it go chlorotic, that is simply a fact.

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Tue, Apr 1, 14 at 17:05


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

No, blueberries need free iron and all their roots don't have to be in acidic soil to get it. As long as a portion of the soil provides this iron the plants will be fine. Carl Whitcomb has proven that plants that depend on acidic soil to obtain adequate iron can be cured of chlorosis with a surface application of pelletized sulfur when it's only changed the pH of the very surface of the soil and can't be measured by a soil test. Essentially, for all measurable reality, the soil would still be very alkaline but the plants completely recovered.

I don't think it's much of a reach to suggest that the humic acids released during the composting of mulch could free adequate iron on the soils surface to fulfill the needs of blueberry plants, although it is only a theory. However, I have no doubt that I've often seen healthy, productive blueberries in nearly neutral soil.

I don't blame anyone for doubting my conclusions, however. If you search you will probably not find a single pedigreed expert that would suggest you can grow healthy blueberries in anything but highly acidic soil.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

"As long as a portion of the soil provides this iron the plants will be fine"

Nope you are wrong again lmao......as long as a portion of the soil is ACIDIC ENOUGH the iron will be available. HUGE difference.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Oh yeah, huge difference, BR.

If you notice, every person who's come asking about the acid issue has assumed that it will take a long time and they will need to alter the entire root zone to a very low pH. Of course, chemically, acid is needed to free up the iron so a sliver of soil at least must be more acidic(actually it could even just be the mulch and roots right on the surface), but this is not what you, or the literature generally has to say on the subject.

Until Carl Whitcomb did his experiments, it was assumed that soil readings would have to indicate a generally acidic soil before chlorosis in acid loving plants could be corrected. Unfortunately his information hasn't quite gotten to the Dr.s of agriculture yet- his experiments were with pin oaks. Maybe what I've observed isn't even related to his research, but I don't see why blueberries would react differently than pin oaks.

Now if you were more interested in the science and actually learning about horticulture instead of trying endlessly to ridicule me you might wonder if I don't have a point and there might be something to learn from it.

I'm trying to help people who think they are going to have to wait to install their plants. I honestly don't think it's necessary.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Thanks for all of your input and thoughtful advice, harvestman! (and everyone else too!!)

Interesting point about the fact that it's possible that even a sliver of soil, at a more acidic pH, can free up the needed nutrients just enough to allow the plant to thrive. In my research, I actually came across some of the same ideas - mostly in the form of the first couple of inches of soil/mulch like you mentioned.

I don't see any reason why entertaining this possibility should be looked down upon, especially when you've had first hand experience with it.

But of course I'm the furthest thing from an expert on growing blueberries and really growing anything in general, lol. I am a biologist though, so I have a deep appreciation for the fact that there is so very much we still don't know and that nature and science are very complicated and our understanding of these things are ever changing…

Anyway - you all are the best! Thanks for your help with this - I am going to try and plant in the soil, but like I mentioned, I actually removed much of it to top-dress another area of the garden, and Im going to add a lot of peat before I plant..


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Appletree, here is a picture of my plants in pots in June of 2011 and then two growing seasons later in the ground in October of 2012. Planted as I described above. My garden isn't perfect but it has done pretty well. I have had to replace a few plants over the years that didn't grow well but 85% of them have really done well. If you look at the second picture you can see the apples I put around the base of them but this is only necessary if you want to drop the ph.

June, 2011

 photo june42011043.jpg


October 2012

October 2012 photo 4.jpg

Here is one of my Rekas loaded up.

 photo image.jpg

This post was edited by riverman1 on Tue, Apr 1, 14 at 22:06


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

but I don't see why blueberries would react differently than pin oaks.

1) different root structure ( none of the fine roots found in most plants), and 2) the absence (or very reduced) of reductase to convert iron to a form that can be uptaken. Blueberries are fundamentally different than most common plants.

I don't doubt that if a portion of the roots are in an optimal zone, that could be sufficient to prevent iron chlorosis. Or if assisted by appropriate species of mycorrhizae that less than optimal conditions in part of the root zone could be overcome. But, from my limited understanding of the chemistry of blueberry roots, it is a little unsound to equate oak results as applicable to blueberries. Too many differences.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Riverman1 - I hope that I have as much success as you have! Great photos…

I decided to build a raised/mounded bed and plant them in the ground. I hope it works - wasn't sure of exactly what to use but decided on lots of peat, some shredded pine mulch mixed in, along with some good top soil and a bit of composted manure. And a lot of muscle! But it's done and ready to go - photo attached!

I would have liked to allow the bed a couple of weeks to 'marinate' and settle in, but oh well - the plants are arriving tomorrow!

Wish me luck!!!


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

They will love that, looks excellent. Don't be surprised if they just sit there awhile, they don't like being moved so give them time to adjust. You may also see the leaves turn a little purple, they do this when the soil temps are still a bit too cold for them to properly absorb nutrients is what i have been told. I don't use pine only because I can't get it. All our bark here is a mixture of fir and pine so I mostly use peat. I think your plants will do really well. Next spring check the PH and then go from there.

Good luck.

RM


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Looks awesome. i started mounding all new plantings.
I have had 3 blueberry plants arrive from 2 different nurseries, but freezing temps at night, so I had to pot them up and bring them inside at night. 2 were breaking dormancy, so I really had no choice. If dormant they can take freezing temps.I have one more coming. i was going to grow them in pots anyway, but it would be nice not to have to bring them in!


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

At least you will find out if waiting was necessary there. Did you blend it with existing soil or top soil you purchased- I'm guessing the latter. Around here commercial top soil (from a yard) often runs alkaline- I'd probably have used pure sand, although it takes a ton to have a positive affect.

I think people sometimes think pH is killing their BB's when actually the problem is drainage. Blueberries are very fragile when they are establishing, so try to make sure they have constant moisture without being drowned in sog.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

I looked for an acidic bagged topsoil (marketed for azaleas, etc) but couldn't find anything local. So I went with one that was a "tree and shrub mix" - it was a peat blend and although I'm guessing it was pH adjusted, I figured it'd be unlikely to be too alkaline. Still I only used a little bit because I wanted something to blend up with the peat and didn't want to use too much mulch. Hope it works!

Drainage should be good within the bed - I'm a little worried about once the water makes it down to the native soil - it still drains (can't see it here, but this bed is also on a slight slope so that will help too) but I hope that I made the mound large enough and that it doesn't settle into something much smaller...

I've already decided that gardening is all about learning by doing - and with that will come a lot of failures. I just hope that my failures will also accompanied by at least a few successes!!!!

Thanks again everyone - I'll update again later in the summer:)


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Appletree,

You said:

"Interesting point about the fact that it's possible that even a sliver of soil, at a more acidic pH, can free up the needed nutrients just enough to allow the plant to thrive. In my research, I actually came across some of the same ideas - mostly in the form of the first couple of inches of soil/mulch like you mentioned.

I don't see any reason why entertaining this possibility should be looked down upon, especially when you've had first hand experience with it."

The key in there is the word thrive, it is false. What will happen is the plants will survive. If you were fed bread and water and a vitamin pill so you got just enough nutrition to stay alive would that be an ideal situation? Would you consider that thriving? There is a reason why the commercial farmers give the plants everything they need and the best soil conditions.....it results in better healthier larger plants and more and better fruit. If that was not the case they would not spend the considerable money and effort in doing so.

You are getting bad advice.....it is going to cost you extra time, money and frustration. This is a picture of one of my plants, I would consider this thriving.....compare it to the results you will get following the advice you have received.

 photo 20130703_124122_zps283a4559.jpg


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

bamboo-rabbit… your plants look great!
If you'll read through the thread here, you'll find that I decided to build a raised bed for the berries. So there will be more than just a sliver of acid soil to help them thrive :)

I think that the advice given earlier was not meant to be information about the best possible way to grow blueberries - it was given to help a newbie quickly figure out a solution to a difficult situation. Yes - I probably should have used the word "survive" instead of "thrive"…

I appreciate your concern in trying to help me avoid costly mistakes - hopefully the mounded soil will get my berries off to a good start...


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

I hope so too, just trying to have you avoid the mistakes I made. Do yourself a favor and buy a PH meter, a decent one. A Kelway is not that expensive and makes it so much easier when the guess work is eliminated.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Bamboo,

Great looking plants. Your passion also shows up in your plants.

Mike


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

This will give you an idea of how my plants have done Appletree. This is two years after planting a 10 inch start. I'm not sure there is a "best way" to grow blues, even experts have a wide range on what's "best". Some say only pots, others say ammending the soil with sulfur and wait for ph to adjust, others add peat and pine, etc. I have been growing blues for about 8 years and have tried several approaches, most worked. The one big mistake I made was buying some older plants and I never could get most to grow. The best luck I have had has been with healthy young plants. Your plants are gonna do great. Did you say you are a biologist? I am too and that's why I asked.

reka photo rekamay.jpg

This post was edited by riverman1 on Fri, Apr 4, 14 at 11:03


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

All these photos of beautiful blues are making me excited (and nervous/jealous!) My plants arrive today so they'll be in the ground hopefully by tomorrow!

riverman - I'm a stay at home mom now, but before I had kids, I worked for a couple of years as a marine biologist and have a degree in biology. It doesn't help me all that much when it comes to growing blueberries, lol. What sort of work do you do?


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

I just posted this on another thread. Here is what I have done and so far so good:

Edit: I also have collected rain water specifically for the blueberries.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blueberry growing intense in Colorado

This post was edited by milehighgirl on Fri, Apr 4, 14 at 15:19


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Wow milehighgirl! I have never heard of planting directly in the bag of peat! That's really interesting. Did you have trouble wetting down the peat mixture before planting? I've always struggled with making sure the peat was sufficiently wet as it always repels water and seems almost like it would dehydrate any roots in contact with it (that is until it really has a chance to soak and absorb any water)

That's so interesting :) How long have you been growing them like this? I guess it would be the same as growing them in a container with just peat right?


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

I've always been wary of using that method in areas with frequent summer rain- peat does not drain well- especially when constrained by a container (or plastic bag, presumably) which is why potting mixes generally contain some perlite and/or sand.

In the west you want to limit the need for additional tap water and having it wrapped up in plastic helps for that- I suppose you'd add what water is needed and let winter rains flush out the salt.

Never tried it don't know any one who has in the humid region.
Anyone?


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

The peat was damp when I bought it, and boy was it heavy. It usually does take several days to properly moisten it, just make sure you bury it before you try watering it, otherwise it is way too heavy. This is my second attempt at blueberries here. The first was a total failure in pots and ordinary potting soil with city water.

I started this system last year so it's still experimental for me.


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Blues love peat moss, interesting way of growing them for sure.yet another idea for you Appletree. I'm a fisheries biologist and have been for about 25 years. I live in the state of Washington.

RM


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RE: Please help! blueberry soil pH is 7.1 - need to plant this w

Just wanted to say 'thank you' to everyone who chimed in here and helped me figure out a plan of what to do - blueberries are now happy in the ground! I learned a lot and admire all of you and your wisdom! What a great place to come and learn from those who have more experience than I do…

Thanks especially to harvestman, bamboo-rabbit and river man - I appreciate all the time you took to reply and help me learn...


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