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Blueberries and manure  RSS feed

 
Casie Becker
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I keep seeing information that says blueberries don't like urea and not to use barnyard waste on them. We've been composting in a raised keyhole bed in preparation for planting blueberries. We just got a line on some horse manure, both fresh and aged. If we put this into our keyhole and then allow it time to finish decomposing would it be safe to plant the blueberries later? Blueberries are already a little borderline here because our soils are so alkaline (hence the raised keyhole bed just for them).
 
Tyler Ludens
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Considering how droughty it is here and how moisture-loving blueberries are, are you sure about the raised bed?
 
Casie Becker
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Yeah, unfortunately. We're in the limestone caliche area of the hill country (actually half a mile from a limestone quarry). Blueberries have to be raised above the level of groundwater flows or the alkalinity will kill them. Hopefully maintaining the compost in the middle of the bed will keep the soil wet enough for them.

The bed's also in a good position to receive water from a rain water cistern. My mother has her heart set on blueberries. I tried to distract her with raspberries, but it didn't work.
 
ev kuhn
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where does this piece of 'wisdom' come from, that raised beds are dry or dryer than level beds?
if you put nice big chunks of wood in the bottom it will work like a sponge as it decays and hold moisture much better than most soils
but what do I know, I am only hands on, try it myself with no master gardeners or permawhatever degree

anyways, GA is not #4 in Blueberry production for nothing
blueberries love accidic soils and blueberries love pine straw
so why force them to live in or on manure?
mine get mulched with a foot or so half rotted pine straw and seem to like it just fine
they are 6-8ft tall, look healthy and produce like crazy,
only down side, the birds seem to love the berries even more than I do
 
Tyler Ludens
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ev kuhn wrote:where does this piece of 'wisdom' come from, that raised beds are dry or dryer than level beds?


My personal experience.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Casie Becker wrote:Yeah, unfortunately. We're in the limestone caliche area of the hill country (actually half a mile from a limestone quarry). Blueberries have to be raised above the level of groundwater flows or the alkalinity will kill them.


I can definitely see that. We have limestone here also but not caliche where I'm gardening. Wish I could send you some of my lovely prairie clay!

 
Casie Becker
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Tyler has a very valid point. In this area of Texas we can go three months with temperatures near 100 and no rain. Raised beds, even hugelculture beds, dry out in our summers. I've tried it myself, as have other members of this site. I live relatively close to the western edge of the Chihuahua desert and some years that's very obvious.

What does work in drier climates is buried wood beds. That won't work for blueberries because of the limestone in the ground. It's the base material of all my soil here. Even the water becomes alkaline as soon as it runs through our soils.

I found a source for manure which will be used on the rest of the yard, I'd like to know if it could also be used in my soil building efforts before the blueberries are planted.

As part of the efforts to fill the bed with none limestone based material I have buried several logs and covered the bed with a thick layer of ramadial wood chips. All the kitchen compost and most of the garden compost have been buried in this bed but it is still not full yet. If aging the manure makes it safe for blueberries I might actually be able to plant this spring and then maintain the bed with the regular compost from that point on.

Otherwise I either wait a year or buy expensive amendments to finish filling the bed. I don't want to get soil delivered because I suspect most if not all of the locally available soils will have the same problems I'm already working with. I think I'm basically building a soiless planting mix on site.
 
Casie Becker
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Actually, I have to live with the alkalinity of the caliche because of water flow from up hill, but sometime before we bought the yard someone brought in sandy loam. We've got 4 to 12 inches (depending on where in the yard) before we hit the limestone bedrock. It's great with anything except blueberries, especially as we continue to increase organic content.

The only reason I'm putting this much effort into the keyhole bed (which was sized to support full sized bushes) is my mother wanting it. She went to extraordinary lengths to raise us well after she was widowed. Think young woman with no family and three children under six (two of them in diapers) with a high school education. Add in that it was in this area and you might understand why sometimes I'll do the unreasonable for her.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Not unreasonable, just challenging! (Actually I have found most gardening challenging here! )

 
Nicole Alderman
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I think they say not to add manure or urea to blueberries because they can easily be burnt by nitrogen. At least, that's what happened with my mountain hucklberrries (same family of plants). I put duck bedding around my new little huckleberry plants, and really burnt them (killed 2 out of the 6). My bedding was pine shavings and composted duck poo with some fresh poo. I only applied it about an inch thick.

Having said that, though, last year I put a thin layer of duck bedding around my established blueberry bushes, and there were no negative consequences. My berries did great! I think if you want to us the manure, you'll want to use the aged stuff and mix a LOT of pine shavings or other woody material in there. That should help absorb the nitrogen. The pine (or other conifer) shavings/branches/needles should also help add the acid you need so desperately. I would also put it just on top of the bed, or near the base of the bed, so the blueberries can access it slowly and as they need it.
 
Casie Becker
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That was what I was hoping. It helps to have an idea of why blueberries might traditionally have bad responses to manures. I'll stick to the year old manure and just to be on the safer side I'll mix it in with another thick layer of wood chips. I'll try to remember to update this post when the blueberries go in to let everyone know if it succeeds or not. Thank you.
 
Casie Becker
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Okay, I have to admit, I chickened out. I've planted two bare root blueberries in planters to develop stronger root systems. We've decided to use the raised bed this year for a rather random assortment of crops (things that we didn't find places for when we planned the gardens) Next fall I'll plant the blueberries in the bed.
 
Chris Sargent
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I don't think the aged manure would have harmed the blueberries at all. But if you've already planted the bed with something else than keeping the blueberries in containers is an option. You'll have to keep a close eye on them though to make sure they don't dry out too much over the summer. Blueberries really like growing on rotting logs (at least all the ones around here do). I'd consider doing something like a hugelpot for your container. Maybe something like a self watering container but using a nice log as the 'wick'. The log should be easier to keep nice and moist this way and the blueberry roots will grow around the log taking advantage of the provided moisture. Here's a link to someone who was growing in containers using a modified hugel method hugelpots
 
Casie Becker
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As long as I'm not planting near heat of summer, I do prefer to get plants into their permanent locations. I did do something of a hugel in the raised bed. Planting that bed was going to happen in a couple of weeks. Right now the blue berries are in pots right by the front door where I pass them several times a day.

Depending on how many spaghetti squash my mom wants this year, I probably will have enough room for the blueberries. I'll talk to her later today. Maybe I'll also be replanting the (tiny sticks with delusions of grandeur) bushes. I've never done bareroot for a woody plant before, hard to believe they can even survive.
 
Akiva Silver
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The reason it is not recommended to use manure on blueberries is because it will raise the pH. It does not matter how composted the manure is, it will raise it. You could try adding sulfur or iron sulfate in combination with your compost.
 
Faye Corbett
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My blueberries were not producing anything and not thriving at all until I saw some vibrant, healthy plants at a friends house. Their secret: goat manure, double handful and a big bucketful of pine bark nuggets on each one. Pine bark holds in the moisture and encourages the mycorrhiza the blueberries love. You can also dig out a bit of soil from underneath rhododendron or mountain laurel to get the inoculant mycorrhiza strain that blueberries prefer. Keep the soil moist, they are shallow rooted.
 
Casie Becker
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Are you talking about the same species as the Texas Mountain Laurel? The evergreen shrub with grape bubblegum scented purple flowers? We have a very old, very healthy one in our front yard.
 
Faye Corbett
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Cassie,
The Mt. Laurel here has a whitish bloom, very poisonous. Don't think it is the same thing. It doesn't have a bubblegum scent at all. Blooms and leaves are so poisonous that if a child licks a bloom, it can kill the child. A few leaves can kill a goat. It's in the rhododendron family.
 
Casie Becker
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That makes sense to me. The Texas Mountain Laurel thrives in alkaline conditions. I was very surprised at the idea that it might have the same ecology as a blueberry, but it would have been nice. It also explains why I always see the full name listed, if there are unrelated laurels. Ours is poisonous too, supposedly it's one of these plants that can make honey poisonous if there's enough nectar gathered by the hive.
 
Faye Corbett
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I think the Texas laurel is a close cousin of the N.C. mountain laurel. Since it is also poisonous, you could try it for the deer. Probably would work, as they avoid the poisonous plants. They also don't like foxglove (digitalis) and will not go anywhere near it, so that could be a protective plant too.

 
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