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Berry/No Berry, A Blueberry Question

 
Posts: 7
Location: Memphis, United States
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   I have two food forests, this year the blueberries in one location are amazing  and in the other they are non existent. I have a small yard in Memphis and a much larger food forest 140 miles east in the Western Highland Rim. Memphis has been zone 8b in recent years, and the Western Rim land should be 7b, but has been 8a in the past few years. This winter was so mild in Memphis that many of my plants, including some elderberry, black berry, blueberry, goji, and passion flower never went fully dormant (this is an aside, but if anyone knows what that is called please let me know.) My trees in the Highland Rim did go dormant, but things heated up early and plants woke up early.
    About three weeks ago the Highland Rim land went down to 26, so all of the elderberries that had woken up in Feb. died back, I also lost my Indigo Bush flowers. But, now the Highland Rim’s wild blueberries are doing better than ever.
    My elderberries in Memphis did not suffer that hard late freeze and now they are huge and flowering. But, I have 6 blueberries in Memphis that have not had a single flower this spring! A garden center a few blocks away has bushes covered with berries already, so I don’t think I will get anything this year.
   Any thoughts about why the blueberries failed to flower this spring? The 5 different blueberry plants previously flowered for about 4 years, and each gave a small crop. Temperature could not have been the primary factor, because as I said it got much colder on the Highland Rim, and that land is teaming with blueberries.
    Could the issue be too much water? The berry filled garden center near my house has its plants at the top of a slope to increase drainage. My yard in Memphis is pretty flat with hard clay, so drainage is not as good, while my Highland Rim land has extremely well drained soil. So, perhaps they were too waterlogged during the spring? Any thoughts on the berries would be appreciated.
   As I cleared some brush in the Highland Rim last week, I revealed the best wild blueberry plant I had ever seen! It was tiny yet completely covered in flowers, while growing deep in the bushes. That made me wonder how much sun they really need.  Perhaps with time, and with your help, I can replicate that sort of natural success. Thanks all in advance!
 
gardener
Posts: 1959
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
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Sounds like some neat food forests that you have Coriana!

Were they pruned last year or recently, possibly removing the new shoots where the flowers would form on?
 
Coriana Close
Posts: 7
Location: Memphis, United States
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Steve Thorn wrote:Sounds like some neat food forests that you have Coriana!

Were they pruned last year or recently, possibly removing the new shoots where the flowers would form on?



Steve, thanks so much for your quick reply. Since blueberries are my slowest growing plants, I don't think I have ever pruned anything beyond removing old dead stems.
 
Steve Thorn
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Posts: 1959
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
746
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Very cool, I don't prune my blueberries either.

That is interesting. Yeah maybe the clay soil did waterlog them too much. The variety I grow usually like their feet a little wet, but the soil here is sandy, so they may still get some air.

It could be if it didn't get cold enough, they may not have gotten enough chill hours to bloom.

If you have a picture of the blueberries, that could help in maybe seeing what is going on.
 
gardener
Posts: 413
Location: Nara, Japan. Zone 8-ish
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I didn't think blueberries could get too wet. Ours when we lived in Vermont more or less lived in a puddle.

I agree it could be lack of chill hours, if Memphis didn't get could enough. If you know your varieties, you can look up their chill hour requirements. We have a bunch of varieties, some go dormant and some don't. They all have flowers.

One spring in Vermont, we had a lot of bad weather and gale force winds when the blueberries were blooming. Whole flower clusters were blowing away. We didn't get many berries that year. The bad weather also kept pollinators from doing their thing.

From: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/crop-production/berries/how-blueberry-plants-develop-grow

Rabbiteye and southern highbush cultivars need a pollinator for good fruit production. Flowers need a large number of visits from bees or other pollinators for good fruit and seed set....
Fruit set may be lower in regions that get a lot of rain or cold weather during bloom, which reduces bee activity.



Is is possible they flowered and lost the blossoms when you weren't looking?


 
Coriana Close
Posts: 7
Location: Memphis, United States
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Amy Arnett wrote:I didn't think blueberries could get too wet. Ours when we lived in Vermont more or less lived in a puddle.

I agree it could be lack of chill hours, if Memphis didn't get could enough. If you know your varieties, you can look up their chill hour requirements. We have a bunch of varieties, some go dormant and some don't. They all have flowers.

One spring in Vermont, we had a lot of bad weather and gale force winds when the blueberries were blooming. Whole flower clusters were blowing away. We didn't get many berries that year. The bad weather also kept pollinators from doing their thing.

From: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/crop-production/berries/how-blueberry-plants-develop-grow

Rabbiteye and southern highbush cultivars need a pollinator for good fruit production. Flowers need a large number of visits from bees or other pollinators for good fruit and seed set....
Fruit set may be lower in regions that get a lot of rain or cold weather during bloom, which reduces bee activity.



Is is possible they flowered and lost the blossoms when you weren't looking?



Thanks for your thoughts! It is really nice to know that there is a community to help!
I have been home for most of the spring, and I spend a lot of time in the yard. So, I doubt I missed the flowers and lost them to the wind.
But, the chill hours idea sounds promising. I think blueberries max out at zone 9, and we had temps in the 60's and 70's for much of the winter with only a few hard cold spells.
The garden center with great berries has plants on the west side of an unheated greenhouse and fronted by larger bushes, with limited solar gain. They are also next to a wide open road and park.
I imagine that area is cooler than my small sheltered yard.
In the future I will look for varieties with the lowest chill hour requirements.
Thanks again!
 
pollinator
Posts: 158
Location: Providence, RI, USA
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That's crazy! It sounds like you are onto a few good possibilities, though.

So far, the chill hours sounds like the best bet to me. Still, wouldn't that have affected your other food forest, or was it a little cooler there? Can you transplant some of them to the more successful location? Maybe then focus on warmer crops in the warmer spot? Figs? Pomegranates?
 
Posts: 34
Location: Middle Tennesee zone 7b
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I'm in Nashville area, so similar climate to Memphis, of the 6 bushes I have 5 are having their best year yet, and one did not flower at all for some reason not sure what it's deal is but they are all in decently close proximity. It's not the runt of the litter but it's not very big either, so if it just focuses on vegitative growth and gets strong this year I'm ok with that. Not sure if this input helps you any but figured I'd throw it out there.
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