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Did I do this right? New to permaculture methods-blueberries  RSS feed

 
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I have just started reading up on permaculture, and would like to ease into it one small project at a time.  

My first attempt was with blueberries:  We had tried planting blueberries in our garden adding acidic soil, and it died.  I think we had planted it in an area with too much water and not enough sun.  I bought two plants today and a sac of acidic soil.  I planted them ON TOP of our grass, so no digging.  My husband is not convinced by what I did, and I am doubting myself.  Please let me know if I screwed this up, it shouldn't be too late to transplant and repair tomorrow if I did.

I put cardboard box, then I covered it with grass cuttings (we didn't have much organic matter on hand so we cut the grass to generate some).  I had some sawdust and put that on top of the grass, then I put some of the soil (acidic) on top of the grass in two little mounds, put the plants on top of the soil mounds, covered them with more soil (for two plants I used 3/4 of a sack of soil), then I covered with some straw which we had for the chickens, and then some more grass clippings (not too close to the plants) and then I found a bag of leaves and put that on top.  In the leaves was also some ivy, which had some green leaves, I am worried that I just planted ivy where I don't want it...

I put some rocks around this mound, and added some water to the plants.  Did I do this right?  Is that too much grass and not enough other stuff?  

Regardless of the outcome we had fun with our project and are excited to learn more!

Thanks for any expert advice for a total novice,
Meyer

 
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Blueberries are tuff if the soil is not acidic. My attempts have been in large pots(cattle troughs) with peat moss and using rainwater. Period.

Peat moss and my alkaline well water doesnt work.

My alkaline soil and rain water doesnt work.

Blackberries thrive with my soil and water, so my focus is on them. Blueberries are a novelty here. In the same category as growing citrus here where it freezes. It can be done if you are willing to do what is needed. Neither will thrive without attention and care.

The sad thing. There are hundreds and hundreds of blueberry plants and citrus trees at the chain stores in my area. I shake my head at the total waste of all these plants that will be dead within the year. Yet i try to grow them.....

Something i have thought about, maybe someone smarter than me can give me insite. Acid wants to be neutral? You dump acid on the ground and it fizzes. Once it stops fizzing its no longer an acid? Or its less acidic? If this is partly true, then acidic soil taken out out of its environment will soon start neutralizing. From water added, etc. I just see it as a liftetime need of intervention, so growing the berries that thrives in your area may be the better thing.


 
Meyer Raymond
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Here are some pictures of my not-so-artful blueberry planting experiment.
IMG_20190413_184632.jpg
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IMG_20190413_184558.jpg
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IMG_20190413_184648.jpg
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Meyer Raymond
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Thanks for the reply!

We live in an area where there used to be a lot of wild blueberries, so theoretically they should be able to do ok here.  We don't have a pH meter or anything so I have no clue what our soil is like.  We do have a lot of water in our soil, that is for sure.  We rarely have to irrigate in the summer.  I planted the blueberries above a little mountain of wild strawberries that grow exceptionally well.  Raspberries do very well too, as do our black and white currant.  Across the street from our house is a little wooded area full of blackberries, I'm ignorantly hoping that all "frutti di bosco" or "fruits from the woods" can grow in similar  environments.

Does the way I assembled the planting area sound like it could work?  Reading up everyone talks about mulc using that one word but it can mean so many things, I worry that it has to be some complicated and balanced scientific process.

Thanks again,
Meyer

PS I think you are right that I will have to continuously add acidic soil every so often to keep things going, but to be honest I'm willing to do this.  My 5 year old loves blueberries, so much that when he gets to choose a prize for good behavior he chooses blueberries!  



wayne fajkus wrote:Blueberries are tuff if the soil is not acidic. My attempts have been in large pots(cattle troughs) with peat moss and using rainwater. Period.

Peat moss and my alkaline well water doesnt work.

My alkaline soil and rain water doesnt work.

Blackberries thrive with my soil and water, so my focus is on them. Blueberries are a novelty here. In the same category as growing citrus here where it freezes. It can be done if you are willing to do what is needed. Neither will thrive without attention and care.

The sad thing. There are hundreds and hundreds of blueberry plants and citrus trees at the chain stores in my area. I shake my head at the total waste of all these plants that will be dead within the year. Yet i try to grow them.....

Something i have thought about, maybe someone smarter than me can give me insite. Acid wants to be neutral? You dump acid on the ground and it fizzes. Once it stops fizzing its no longer an acid? Or its less acidic? If this is partly true, then acidic soil taken out out of its environment will soon start neutralizing. From water added, etc. I just see it as a liftetime need of intervention, so growing the berries that thrives in your area may be the better thing.


 
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What you did "might" work, I've had small-scale reasonable luck with container planting of blueberries. I don't have acidic soil either. . . so when I planted them in the yard they weren't happy. I moved them to large planters and used a high peat moss ratio and have had pretty good luck, but they are still young plants. I also put a tomato cage around them and then cover them with mesh laundry bags to keep the squirrels and birds at bay!
 
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Meyer Raymond wrote:covered them with more soil (for two plants I used 3/4 of a sack of soil), then I covered with some straw which we had for the chickens, and then some more grass clippings (not too close to the plants) and then I found a bag of leaves and put that on top.



I like the way your planting looks!

You may have already looked into this, but I would try to find out if there are any blueberry species closely related to the wild ones in you area. The stores and nurseries in my area have a lot of blueberries for sell that really don't grow best in our area. If you could find those varieties (if they exist), that should help a lot!

I would think you would be fine skipping the first part of how you planted and just starting at where the quote above begins. You could add a little soil directly on the grass and plant right on top of it, and mulch like is in the quote above. My concern (if I'm correctly understanding how you planted it ) would be that the cardboard would block the blueberry roots from reaching the actual soil, and the mulch on top of it under the soil you added may create a dry pocket and the roots may dry out easily.

Looks like you're off to a good start, best wishes, and hope you have some tasty blueberries to harvest soon!
 
Meyer Raymond
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Now that you say this I also realized that I was supposed to heavily wet the carboard before proceeding with more layers...
Should I try to somehow fish out the cardboard?  I could re-apply all of the mulch but would probably have to buy another bag of acidic soil.  Should I try and wet the cardboard with a hose stuck in really low?  Or would I drown these blueberries?  Should I just cross my fingers and hope for a miracle of nature?

As far as the more wild varieties go, unfortunately despite the fact that a lot of families have a little veggie garden in my area, the nurseries all tend to sell the same old, run of the mill plants, so I can't even find cool tomato varieties or any varieties that I can't buy at the store.

I had seen this thing with cardboard all over the place online talking about permaculture, are you saying that it isn't necessary?  Thanks for the feedback!  
Meyer

My concern (if I'm correctly understanding how you planted it ) would be that the cardboard would block the blueberry roots from reaching the actual soil, and the mulch on top of it under the soil you added may create a dry pocket and the roots may dry out easily.

Looks like you're off to a good start, best wishes, and hope you have some tasty blueberries to harvest soon!
 
Steve Thorn
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Meyer Raymond wrote:As far as the more wild varieties go, unfortunately despite the fact that a lot of families have a little veggie garden in my area, the nurseries all tend to sell the same old, run of the mill plants, so I can't even find cool tomato varieties or any varieties that I can't buy at the store.



That's a bummer. I had the same issues too, it's so hard to find good plants! I finally found some awesome plants online, that I had to mail order. Maybe there could be somewhere in Italy or another place in Europe that sells the plants (I'm not sure how the plant shipping regulations are over there though).

I had seen this thing with cardboard all over the place online talking about permaculture, are you saying that it isn't necessary?



I've never had to use it. Especially if you mulch it like you mentioned above. You may have a few weeds come through, but they should be easy to remove.

This thread has some good information on some possible downsides of using cardboard. https://permies.com/t/2157/concerns-cardboard-newspaper-mulch

Should I try to somehow fish out the cardboard?  I could re-apply all of the mulch but would probably have to buy another bag of acidic soil.  Should I try and wet the cardboard with a hose stuck in really low?  Or would I drown these blueberries?  Should I just cross my fingers and hope for a miracle of nature?



If you've researched it, and feel good about it, I'd go with what you have!

I honestly haven't researched using cardboard a lot, since I haven't had to use it, so it may work just fine. My personal approach to permaculture, is to try to use as many natural and free things as possible, but there are many other techniques out that there that may work just as good or better than my approach!

If you decide to remove the cardboard, I think you could do it without having to buy anything extra. I would remove the mulch, and wouldn't worry about it mixing if it does. Then the soil could be carefully removed and put on something on the ground (like cardboard, if you have any left over ). Then the cardboard could be removed, and you could replant the blueberries without it.

Best of luck!

 
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Is there someone growing them commercially there?  
We get our plants from a local blueberry farm, all known varieties for this area, where besides selling the berries he makes cuttings and sells gallon sized one and two year old plants.
He has just sold his farm this year so was trying to sell out all of the plants also.  They were four dollars each (normally six dollars) so I bought twenty and have been planting like crazy and giving some to our sons. We already had seven in the ground, so I think we'll end up with twenty total...can't have too many

Our farmer says to dig a hole three times the size of the root ball and mix peat moss half and half with the soil....and don't let them dry out.
The only fertilizer he says they need is nitrogen...that over fertilizing is a mistake many folks make....worm castings or watered down urine is good, a little compost.
We mulch with pine needles if we can find them, otherwise pine sawdust from our son's band saw mill.

I only water with rain water as I found the same as Wayne mentions, our municipal water is too alkaline.



 
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I've been there, done that with the cardboard thing and I can tell you that roots will definitely NOT grow through it the first year. For annuals this was completely detrimental. For blueberries I'm not sure, if you provided enough fertility on top of it they might do OK the first year and then be able to grow through it the second. Then again it might completely stunt their growth, cause them to fail to pereniallize and set you back to square one the second year.

I would strongly consider removing it. I've had good luck making raised beds just by letting the grass grow a couple feet tall, cutting it as low as possible with a sickle, laying it flat on the ground and building the raised bed on top of that. As long as the raised bed is about a foot high or more and you plant into it immediately, no grass should get through, no cardboard needed.

I like your stone raised beds by the way! Very rustic.
 
Meyer Raymond
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Ok, I am going to attemptt to remove it, I have already started dreaming about these two flourishing blueberry plants, and how I will expand them into a hedge all along the top terrace where I put them, so I don't need stupid cardboard bursting my bubble!  I will try after work, I wanted to yesterday afternoon but it was pouring so I decided to wait.  

I planted some borage (google translated, I've never heard of borage in English, we call it borragine in Italian), some butternut, arctic basil, lemon thyme and chamomile on top of the grass.  I didn't have any more grass clippings, so I basically put the plant on top of the grass, covered with potting soil and put some dried leaves from my neighbor on top.  Is that right?  Should I add some straw?  I can add grass clippings next time we cut.  I am worried that if the wind picks up I am going to lose everything though.  We get some pretty crazy winds, so maybe I should put these in the ground?

As far as local producers of blueberries, that is a great idea, I will ask at the market next week!
 
Judith Browning
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Maybe since you're deconstructing the pile to remove cardboard anyway, a compromise of digging down just a little and a mound would be better?  

How wet does your ground stay? standing water wouldn't be good for the blueberries but well drained and moist all of the time is what ours like.

We grow high bush blueberries though so maybe I'm talking about the wrong variety of blueberry?

I'm curious just what 'acid soil' is? maybe a lot of peat moss?


Edit to add...Meyer, in response to the title of this thread.... there is no 'right' way in permaculture

One of the responses you will hear a lot here is 'it depends'.

Sometimes it takes trying things one way and then another in order to find what works for one's particular climate and soil, etc.
 
L. Tims
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Don't worry, if grass does start to come through you can just snip it off with some scissors and mulch with it and it will die from lack of photosynthesis eventually.
 
Meyer Raymond
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I fished down and took out what i think is about 75-80% of the cardboard, taking care to get what was directly beneath the plants.  I was able to do so without disrupting the plants.

In the middle of the heap it was hot, i have read very superficially about hot compost and think i have accidentally created hot compost with two blueberry plants in it.  Are they going to die or suffocate? Is this a good thing?

I am definitely experimenting and am very happy to have found this forum for help and guidance!

I didn't dig down and put them in the ground, partly because i didn't want to undo and redo the whole thing and then because i felt the heat and wanted to figure that out first.

Our soil stays consistently moist, isn't too wet so i think that could be a next step (putting them in the ground) especially if someone tells me that hot compost on top of my plants is bad.

Acid soil is a literal translation, it is soil for plants that need a more acidic pH like rhododendron or blueberries.  It is potting soil that i bought and don't know much about its composition, it is kind of reddish in color if that helps.  I can look at the bag more closely tomorrow.
 
Judith Browning
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In the middle of the heap it was hot,  



I suspect that the green grass clippings are heating things up...if it were me, I would deconstruct and dig a hole, mix the acid potting soil with your soil, plant the bushes individually separated by a couple feet, water well and then mulch lightly with grass clippings if I had them, more heavily with some pine sawdust maybe crushed leaves...a nice thick mulch of some sort.

I'm known for rearranging plants like some folks rearrange their furniture though...not always so practical so see what others here suggest...

I just came in from mowing with the bagger...all of the clippings go around plants and fruit trees no more than an inch or two thick as mulch on the surface of the soil....some I mix in the compost to add some nitrogen to heat it up but I never mix them in the soil where plants are growing.
 
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One thing that might help, if you have access, is to find wild blueberries and dig up a little bit of the soil around them and put it next to your blueberries. Blueberries are pretty sensitive to the microorganisms in the soil. When I tried to plant wild huckleberries (same family of plants as blueberries), they did NOT do well. I went up my hill to where a different variety of huckleberries live, and dug up some of that soil and put it by my struggling huckleberries, and they perked right up!

If you do transplant some soil, try to keep the bit you transplant relatively undisturbed--don't crumble it up, but keep it in as much of one piece as you can, and just sort of "plant" it next to your blueberries.
 
Meyer Raymond
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Blueberryy emergency! Red leaf, i haven't dug it up yet and re-planted, is this a result of the heat from the grass clippings?

Please check out the picture and share your wisdom!
IMG_20190416_184541.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20190416_184541.jpg]
 
L. Tims
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To me it looks like the red leaf is some blueberry pigment leaking into the leaves. I had this happen when I grew glass gem corn one year, I think it results from inadequate fruit set and the pigment needing somewhere else to go.
 
Judith Browning
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Meyer Raymond wrote:Blueberryy emergency! Red leaf, i haven't dug it up yet and re-planted, is this a result of the heat from the grass clippings?

Please check out the picture and share your wisdom!



I don't know  
Maybe a few questions will help us figure it out though...
Were the plants bare rooted or in containers with soil when you bought them?
Were the roots circling the pot, looking root bound?
Has it been cool there since they were planted?
When you feel into the mound is the soil still hot? Is it damp or dried out?

My newly planted blueberries have a reddish cast to their leaves because we have had some cold weather since they leafed out but does not look like the leaf in your photo.

I see blooms on the bush...hard as it is to do we were told to pick them off the first year.  I did not do it and my son did...big difference in growth so this time I am removing all of the flowers.  Yours looks like an older bush though? Did it come with planting instructions?



 
Nicole Alderman
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Too much nitrogen? Did you add any fertilizer? Blueberries don't like much nitrogen, and I once almost-killed my wild huckleberries by putting poultry bedding on them. I think mine turned red like that with too much nitrogen, but it's been years. Blueberries can handle more nitrogen than the wild blueberries/huckleberries, but maybe there's just too much? Maybe add some more wood chips to absorb the nitrogen?
 
Meyer Raymond
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Judith Browning wrote:

Meyer Raymond wrote:Blueberryy emergency! Red leaf, i haven't dug it up yet and re-planted, is this a result of the heat from the grass clippings?

Please check out the picture and share your wisdom!



I don't know  
Maybe a few questions will help us figure it out though...
Were the plants bare rooted or in containers with soil when you bought them?
Were the roots circling the pot, looking root bound?
Has it been cool there since they were planted?
When you feel into the mound is the soil still hot? Is it damp or dried out?

My newly planted blueberries have a reddish cast to their leaves because we have had some cold weather since they leafed out but does not look like the leaf in your photo.

I see blooms on the bush...hard as it is to do we were told to pick them off the first year.  I did not do it and my son did...big difference in growth so this time I am removing all of the flowers.  Yours looks like an older bush though? Did it come with planting instructions?





The plants were in containers and the roots were in circles in the pot, i didn't loosen them as i usually would when planting.  I didn't put any fertilizer but there was probably some traces of chicken poop in the straw (but i put a tiny amount of straw) and there are a lot of grass clippings, i don't know how quickly that nitrogen becomes available.
I stuck my hand in yesterday and it was warm but not as hot as the previous day, it is moist but doesn't feel wet.
The guy at the nursery didnt give any instructions but did pick these plants for me saying they would be ready to eat this season. I didn't think to ask how old they are...
The weather hasn't been cold, it has been in the 18-24 celsius during the day, maybe one day it dropped down to 10,but not cold, could that one cold front have affected the plants? Nights are definitely above zero, probably low os 6 celsius. If the grass is warm though wouldn't that combat the cold, like a blanket?
 
Meyer Raymond
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L. Tims wrote:To me it looks like the red leaf is some blueberry pigment leaking into the leaves. I had this happen when I grew glass gem corn one year, I think it results from inadequate fruit set and the pigment needing somewhere else to go.



I like this answer the best as it would give the most positive outlook, but i see the fruit starting to turn ble, and it looks like there is a lot of fruit.

Should i just put them in pots? Should i dig a hole and put them in soil topped with acidic soil and wood chips?

There's no wrong way to do permaculture, but killing the plants seems like it isn't the right way either 😜
 
Nicole Alderman
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Transplanting would probably stress them out more, I'm thinking. I'd probably just add some woodchips on top and wait. That's what I did with my huckleberries, and they pulled through.

Hopefully someone with some more experience with blueberries and their ailments and the causes of those ailments, will chime in.
 
Judith Browning
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The plants were in containers and the roots were in circles in the pot, i didn't loosen them as i usually would when planting.  



This stands out for me as something important....not that it would have caused the red leaves, but could cause problems later on if the roots continue to circle as they sometimes do when root bound.

Since the plants are already bearing, maybe for now leave everything as is until after they are done fruiting?

There are some slightly different planting guidelines for high bush, low bush or rabbit eye blueberries so it would be helpful to know the variety that you have?

I just finished planting the last of my high bush blueberries yesterday...all have a reddish cast from a couple cold nights a week or so ago.  The ones we planted two years ago are covered in bloom...can't wait for fruit

 
Judith Browning
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planted some borage (google translated, I've never heard of borage in English, we call it borragine in Italian), some butternut, arctic basil, lemon thyme and chamomile on top of the grass.  I didn't have any more grass clippings, so I basically put the plant on top of the grass, covered with potting soil and put some dried leaves from my neighbor on top.  Is that right?  Should I add some straw?  I can add grass clippings next time we cut.  I am worried that if the wind picks up I am going to lose everything though.  We get some pretty crazy winds, so maybe I should put these in the ground?



These were all potted plants?  I think that, depending on how lush your grass clippings were and how thick a layer of them, they might heat up and the plants would be happier in the ground.

I do mulch out areas for future plantings with grass clippings, leaves and bark but have not tried to plant anything immediately as it takes awhile for the grass to decompose...several months at least.

Every year I swear that I will have fewer things in pots and every year I actually have more because I start so many things from seed, herbs and flowers esp. that I fill up the space in the ground as quickly as it's ready.  

For this year, maybe you could pot the blueberries in some nice sized pots with the 'acidic' potting soil and give yourself some time to prepare their final home?

That way you could release their roots properly and know that the other additives aren't hurting them.


 
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