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creating a permaculture method for blueberries where the pH is too high for them  RSS feed

 
Denise Lehtinen
Posts: 102
Location: Tampa, Florida zone 9A
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I have been contemplating the puzzle of how to grow blueberries here where the pH is too high for them and now have a working theory which I want to share.

In my surfing the web, I came across the information that one way to maintain soil at a low pH is via anaerobic decomposition. On further research I ran into
this site which describes how to do composting anaerobically: http://compostingtips.info/anaerobic-composting/. (Versus the standard method I have always
heard about which is aerobic composting.)

It seems the key is to keep the items too wet.

This fits in well with the information I have about where blueberries are often found growing: in peat-bogs. Actually not right in the bogs themselves put on the higher
spots within them.

So, my idea is to create an ongoing anaerobic composting dynamic beneath my blueberry plants. I have already buried a double-decker kiddie pool in the ground.

The double-decker kiddie pool is two identical pools with their opennings fastened together with bolts and one of the bottoms cut out. The bottom pool is the resevoir that holds
water. The drainage "holes" is the seam between the pools. Fastening the pools together with bolts is far from water tight!

In the very bottom of this container I will put sand and twigs and then fill that layer with the most disgusting smelling water I can find. Above this layer of water a bunch of twigs
placed neatly above it so as to form an air-seal will go, which again will be moistened with disgusting smelling water. Above this now nearly-permanently wet layer will go the items
to be composted anaerobically -- probably some yard trimmings -- but nearly anything that goes into the compost will do. Then the top layer of local soil -- a layer that needs to be
thick enough to keep the blueberry's root system from being soggy -- 6-18 inches deep I think is what I have read. A top layer of pine straw mulch finishes it off.

I am contemplating using an immediate fix to the pH in the form of some overdone Water Kefir I have on hand -- especially for the soil meant for the blueberry roots to spread into.
It just seems like a nice solution to my excess very vinegary Water Kefir and my wish for something to drop the pH of my local sand into blueberry range.


Any ongoing watering ought to be of more smelly water -- to help keep the soil acid.

This will take some work to put into place, but once it is there will take very little maintenance. It fits in well with Sepp's notions of permaculture where we don't need to be
limited by the native abilities of our land in what we grow; we just need to figure out how to reproduce nature's way of doing it where we are.

I don't know if it is going to work yet, but I am now excited by the experiment.
 
tel jetson
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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could just work. seems like pretty extreme lengths to go to, though.

an alternative: honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea). blueberry-ish, without being so finicky about pH.

my own experience is that blueberries do just fine outside their ideal pH. loading the soil with plenty of organic matter buffers things and keeps ions in solution at a wider range of pH than is generally the case.
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 360
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Or you could just plant a pine tree and get all the bonuses that entails...
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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why not just build a raised bed and fill it with acidic soil for where you want your blueberries..and put on an acidic mulch and collect rainwater for watering them
 
Doug Owen
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We have alkaline soil with corresponding low sulfur values. Our berries just sat there looking yellow and glum. After a few years of trying various things I added pelletized ag sulfur to the soil as well as boatloads of various mulches such as shredded leaves and shredded pine needles. Afterwards the berries are now growing with gusto.

It is important to note that Blueberries are quite moisture sensitive with most of the roots in the very top of the soil. Add in a sandy soil and you have a problem! So I'd add in as much mulch and humus as possible to remedy that situation.

I have heard that coffee grounds are naturally acid plus they are a good amendment. But adding enough for my 24 bush patch was just too much. Lot's of contradicting info on using shredded pine needles so your milage may vary.


Good luck!
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3381
Location: woodland, washington
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Doug Owen wrote:It is important to note that Blueberries are quite moisture sensitive with most of the roots in the very top of the soil. Add in a sandy soil and you have a problem! So I'd add in as much mulch and humus as possible to remedy that situation.

I have heard that coffee grounds are naturally acid plus they are a good amendment. But adding enough for my 24 bush patch was just too much. Lot's of contradicting info on using shredded pine needles so your milage may vary.


I grow on fine sand and silt. it drains only slightly slower than a colander. I mulch the blueberries with whatever's handy maybe every 18 months or so, and that's the only ammendment. sometimes that's bark from peeling logs, sometimes it's wood chips, sometimes it's maple leaves, sometimes it's wheat straw chicken bedding. our berry bushes would not win any production records, but they produce consistently, even when we don't get rain for months (for those only familiar with stereotypes of the Pacific Northwest, that does happen here fairly regularly). we don't irrigate them at all.

I have also used coffee grounds as mulch. coffee grounds have a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus in them. depending on climate, nitrogen can cycle fairly quickly through soil. and blueberries really need a relationship with soil fungus to properly take up nitrogen, unless there's a lot around. phosphorus, on the other hand, doesn't really go anywhere, so it's easy to overdo it. coffee grounds also have some residual caffeine present, which can act as an herbicide and environmental pollutant. I guess what I'm trying to say is be judicious. don't go hog wild with the coffee grounds.
 
Josh Jamison
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I thought of something the other day. Has anyone ever tried using really acidic wood like pine to do hugelkultur beds for blueberries? I do know if this would work or not. If so, it would be a great way to use up that wood that isn't good for other hugel beds and also meet the niche the blueberries need.
 
Meliors Ruth
Posts: 2
Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
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Hi, I'm new to the forum. I've just moved to a new property and am starting from scratch. The soil is mostly clay which will probably take at least a year to get into shape for direct planting; time to spend observing/researching/planning/dreaming, while I continue to grow mostly in containers.

However I have been given a dozen fruit trees that need to get planted now (in NZ's wet winter before the long dry summer starts). The blueberry is proving the biggest challenge to locate because of its peaty needs. I'm looking at a big old oak half barrel that came with the property, as a medium-long term home for it. Would it be appropriate to put some rotten stumps and fresh shrub cuttings in the bottom half of the barrel and then fill the top half with compost/potting mix with added sulpher, finally mulching with bark? Or will the wood of the barrel rot in those conditions?

Also, if barrel planting is an ok idea, what would be good blueberry guild plants for the barrel?

 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 2839
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Josh Jamison wrote:I thought of something the other day. Has anyone ever tried using really acidic wood like pine to do hugelkultur beds for blueberries? I do know if this would work or not. If so, it would be a great way to use up that wood that isn't good for other hugel beds and also meet the niche the blueberries need.


I have a growing mound that is filled with Sacred Cedar wood for blueberries to be planted in. The mound PH tests at 5.7 currently, this mound was put together last winter to be planted this winter with the blue berry bushes.
 
cesca beamish
Posts: 46
Location: Leicester, UK 8b,
bee forest garden trees
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I put in bits of rusting iron around the roots - lowers the pH and hopefully addresses the iron deficiencies acid lovers can get in the wrong pH soil.
I think that composted pine needles are pH7 ish , I have tried.
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 2839
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
233
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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For Blue berries you don't want composted pine needles, you want fresh pine needles ( usually called pine straw) spread as a mulch. fresh pine needles will slow release acids as they are watered or rained on and the pH of leachate will be close to 6.5, depending on the soil pH, it could take several applications to actually lower the pH enough for blueberries (5.5 is considered ideal). I think pine straw is good for maintaining but not so much for acidification. For acidification of soil pine wood chips are much better than the needles.
 
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