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Two blueberry problems?

Posted by charleskoz 5-VT (My Page) on
Thu, May 31, 12 at 18:08

Hi all,

By way of brief background: 3 or 4 years ago I planted some rather small starter blueberry bushes in my backyard here in Vermont. They've really struggled - the first winter some deer or something got in there and gnawed them all down, and the first full summer my pH was probably too high, then that winter they got damaged again. I have all of this (I think) under control and they had been looking good until I just noticed a couple of things...

1. They are growing vigorously, lots of new shoots and leaves. I had noticed a pattern where the new growth would be red/yellow and then green up, which I believe is normal. But now I'm seeing some leaves that look more reddish yellow than normal, and some seem to be yellow with green veins, which I believe is a sign of iron deficiency caused by high pH.

Our soil is naturally rather sweet and I've been trying to adjust for this by mulching with peat moss and using ammonium sulfate. In fact, I've used quite a bit of ammonium sulfate so I am not sure why this problem is happening... unless it is due to the high amount of rain we've been getting. Any ideas? I could post pictures if that would help.

2. One plant is not thriving -- it's dying. The leaves are turning purple-brown on the edges and then falling off. I have no idea why as this isn't happening with any others. Thoughts?

Thanks,

Charles


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Follow-up: I just went outside to check pH using my Cornell soil tester. I tested two of the plants showing the "multicolored" leaves and got 5.0 to 5.2 or so (it only goes down to 5.4). The one that is dying had 5.4. These are a bit high but don't seem excessively so.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Oops, I meant the pH readout only goes down to 5.0, not 5.4. :)


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Charles,

A picture would certainly help. When you say

"In fact, I've used quite a bit of ammonium sulfate"

How much? Too much fertilizer will damage the plants. Other than the ammonium sulfate have you applied any other fertilizer to the plants?


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

I'll take some pix tomorrow. Aside from the one plant I am not even sure I have a problem... they are growing quite vigorously. Maybe it is just new growth taking time to "green up" but I am not sure.

I've gone through and tossed a handful of ammonium sulfate on each plant twice I think. But we get a LOT of rain here so I am pretty sure it has flushed through.

Thanks.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Okay I took some shots.

#1: An overview of the bushes.

#1

#2 and #3: Closeups of a couple of the bushes showing the "multicolored" leaves that have me concerned.

#2
#3

#4: Another bush, and this one also has some browning around the edges of some of the leaves.

#4

#5: The bush that is dying (blew the focus a bit, sorry). The tall cane on the left has some leaves but they are dying off. On the right, lower down, is a set of branches that still has small green berries but the leaves are all gone.

#5

Thanks for any thoughts.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Picture #4 looks just like my plants looked after going on vacation for a week during a drought with high heat. Do you know if they recently went through a dry period?

Here is a link that might be useful: My blueberries/gardens


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

It's actually been reasonably wet here, a little dry but not much, and we had a good soaking a few days ago. We are getting a bunch more rain so if that's it, it will resolve itself.

But I think it's a pH issue. 5.0 to 5.4 shouldn't be a problem, but maybe I'm reading it wrong, I don't know.

Thanks for the reply.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

There's definitely some Chlorosis going on there with the yellowing of leaves and green veins.Usually a high pH problem for Blueberries. Brady


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

I just am totally confused as to why this is happening now after 2-3 years of not seeing it.

What is the best long-term solution? It rains a lot here and using acid solutions means I have to do it every week which is crazy.

Thanks.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Long term I would say add pelleted sulfur. Short term add some Iron sulfate or liquid iron and see if the plants improve. If they do improve in the first couple weeks after the application you know it is a PH issue and you can go from there. If your plants get most of their required moisture from rain there is no need to use acid.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Thanks. I saw a suggestion to use Holly-tone, but that seems more fertilizer than acidifier so I'm not sure if it's really the right way to go.

My understanding is that the iron deficiency is really just a symptom of the pH issue. But maybe I'll use iron in the short run.

I've tried sulfur in the past.. it breaks down *really* slowly though. I was hoping that regular applications of ammonium sulfate would help with both acidity and nutrition but obviously something isn't working right.

This stuff is surprisingly complicated...


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

I'm curious what your original planting media was composed of? How was the planting done? Dig a hole and fill with an acidic soil mix? How big was the hole? Perhaps the roots of your plants are finally getting out of your original planting media and into the surrounding native soils. If your pH is indeed in the 5 range you should be more than ok.

RM


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

This is what has worked for me......dig a hole 3' wide and 15 inches deep and fill it with a mix similar to that in this video. Fertilize once a month with about an ounce of ammonium sulf and keep em moist.

RM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnbYI4zaR48


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Charles,

The reason for using the iron is two folf. First it corrects the deficiency the plants are showing so growth will not be affected. Secondly it confirms that the PH is in fact the problem. The iron will keep the plants growing well while the sulfur has time to break down and do it's thing. Yes the sulfur can take months to work but it is the best solution. You could also heavily mulch the plants with peat and add mulch on top of that which helps also. With BB the root spread will be further out that the branch spread.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Thanks for all the replies.

These were originally planted in 2-foot holes with a mix of native (high pH) soil and peat moss. I've been mulching with more peat moss, used sulfur last year and recently started using ammonium sulfate.

The idea of the roots now going beyond the initial planting medium makes sense. I'm not really sure what I can do about it, though.

I will try the iron and to add more sulfur and see if it helps.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

If anyone is still reading this, I am hoping for a bit of advice on iron/sulfur.

1. I've seen mention of iron sulfate and chelated iron. They don't seem to be the same. Can I use either?

2. I found this product online and it seems to have very good reviews. It's also pretty inexpensive. Would it be worth trying? Seems to cover both "iron" and "sulfur".

3. For sulfur, does the type I use matter? My local store only carries the overpriced Espoma stuff that is only 30% sulfur, and this product, which is sold as a fungicide and I'm not sure if it is appropriate or not.

Thanks.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

The Greenlight stuff looks like something to try.Here is a little more about what's in it. Brady

Here is a link that might be useful: Greenlight Iron & Soil Acidifier


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Thanks, Brady.

The only thing I am not sure about with that stuff (and the liquid iron) is that it is obviously water-soluble. We get a *lot* of rain here and are in a rainy pattern. So I am concerned that I will apply it, much of it will wash away, and I won't even know how much did wash away.

Would combining the Greenlight with using elemental sulfur for longer-term pH adjustment be advisable? If so, how much sulfur do I even want to apply?

Appreciate the help.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Charles,
It looks like the Greenlight is fairly mild and some are using a sprayer to apply it,so getting it on leaves is likely okay and the leaves take it in quicker than the roots.I'd start out with small amounts though on one plant first that has Chlorotic symptoms and see what it does.
If no Sulfur has been used,I think it'd be okay to put some in.The amount depends on the soil type,more Sulfur if it's clay and less with sandy.Maybe start with about a half cup per plant.Work it in somewhat in the top six inches. Brady


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Thanks Brady.

Of the Green Light product, powdered iron sulfate or the Bionide "liquid iron", which do you think would be the best way to go? I can't seem to decide. :/

Others' opinions also welcomed. :)

Best regards,

Charles


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Keep it simple. Chelated iron for foliar spray, and elemental sulphur on the ground.

There also appears to be some water stress in your photos as well. Make sure your soil is well drained and stays moist, but not too wet or dry. Several inches of mulch helps a lot. Blueberries are very sensitive to wet/dry conditions, and can cause deficiencies. I didn't see where you said what type of soil you have, but a combination of sand/peat is much better then clay/peat, as clay/peat will retain a ton of water. If you mixed native clay and peat, it may explain all of your issues, as both clay and peat are water retentive. The drainage of sand, and retention of peat, is why that combination works best for blueberries.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Thanks Capoman.

I think ths oil drains sufficiently, it gets a lot of water, and it's been wet here recently. The soil isn't very sandy, but there's not much I can do about that now short of digging them all up.

Best regards,

Charles


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

I wouldn't be surprised if the recent wet weather caused the roots to be saturated for a period, which in blueberry can kill off many roots. This would certainly explain your issues. Blueberries are not just sensitive at the time roots are too wet or too dry, it actually kills roots that they have to grow back. This can cause long term reduction in yield.

You may have to accept the occasional set back if your soil occasionally saturates and you are not willing to dig them up.

Personally, I did dig them up when conditions weren't right in my garden where they were, and although a pain at the time, my blueberries have been growing and producing great with no setbacks after creating a raised bed with proper conditions. My issue was different then yours though. I had sandy soil with a ton of compost in it, that I couldn't get the pH to stay down on, and tended to dry out. I created a raised bed, mixed my native sand with peat and sulphur and when pH got low enough, I transplanted then covered with several inches of pine bark, sawdust, spruce needles and chipped cones. Blueberries bounced back with incredible growth. It was worth the effort.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Thanks, Capoman.

To be honest, I've put so much time and energy and money into these blueberries that I'm starting to wonder if it was even worth it. I love berries, but... :)

The soil does generally drain quite well. I also planted them raised above the ground level, and I haven't had any problems with wet feet before. So I'm going to try the soil amendments first and see how that goes.

Appreciate your help.

Best regards,

Charles


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Good luck. I hope you resolve your blueberry issues. They are one of the few plants that normal gardening practices do not apply to, the reason it's so satisfying when they do well.


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RE: Two blueberry problems?

Lots of good advice here Charles. If you really want to be sure and solve the problems, first time, just put the plants in containers........done deal. Use a mix of peat moss, potting soil and pine bark and the plants will do great.

RM


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