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Growing Blueberries Naturally

 
steward
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There are a lot of blueberries forming this year
20210428_075743.jpg
blueberries forming
 
Steve Thorn
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Large clusters
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Large blueberry clusters
Large blueberry clusters
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Large blueberry cluster
Large blueberry cluster
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Large blueberry clusters
 
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Lots of great photos here! I mulch my 3 blueberry bushes with the old Christmas tree. When the wifey wants it ‘gone’ I chop off the branches and mound them around the base. By the next year it’s still about 2-3 inches high with mostly branches covered in mycelium and I just mound up again. The bushes are under some long leaf pines and they drop a bunch of nice long needles that are left where they fall. Some find their way down into the pile, some stay on top.
I’ve never tried anything else as this is what I have on hand. Seems to be working so far.
 
Steve Thorn
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The blueberries have been coming in for a while now.
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blueberries
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blueberries
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blueberries
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blueberries
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blueberries
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blueberries
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blueberries
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blueberries
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blueberries
 
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Joel Bercardin wrote:I had to coddle ours for the first years... some varieties didn't do well through the winter, etc.  After the survivor varieties became decently rooted, they've thrived.  Some of ours are now 7-ft tall and 4-ft across.  And producing lots of sweet berries.  Best of luck with yours!



Tell us more.
How did this berrie feast forest get so big?

Whereare they located?
Any companions?
Dont?
To dos?

What names of blue berry are thwy?
 
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I'm reviving this thread with a question. Has anyone ever grown blueberries from seed? I'm willing to give it a go and looking for advice and pointers.
 
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A little off topic. What's that plant with purple flowers in the background?
 
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My Dad planted a couple hundred blueberry plants more than 40 years ago.  They have never been pruned, fertilized, watered, or anything else.  Most every year we get a huge number of blueberries.  Excellent investment for decades of food.
 
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Joshua States wrote:Has anyone ever grown blueberries from seed? I'm willing to give it a go and looking for advice and pointers.



I'd be interested to read the same stuff. I extracted a pile of seeds from a bag of frozen wild blueberries bought at the grocery store and have them in wet vermiculite now to see what sprouts.
 
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Christopher Weeks wrote:

Joshua States wrote:Has anyone ever grown blueberries from seed? I'm willing to give it a go and looking for advice and pointers.



I'd be interested to read the same stuff. I extracted a pile of seeds from a bag of frozen wild blueberries bought at the grocery store and have them in wet vermiculite now to see what sprouts.



I took mine from fresh berries. I wonder if they need to stratify (get cold like through a winter) before they will germinate.
 
pollinator
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May Lotito wrote:A little off topic. What's that plant with purple flowers in the background?



May, I noticed them too! They look like they could be a tall growing catmint . I hope Steve lets us know!
 
Steve Thorn
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The purple flowers are anise hyssop. They grew really easily and produce a large number of really nice flowers that smell like anise. Yeah they do look similar to catnip. I'm going to try to spread the seeds around some this coming year, the pollinators love them!
 
Steve Thorn
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I haven't grown them from seeds yet, but hope to try it soon. I like to direct plant most of my things, and blueberries extremely small seeds have held me back so far.

Yeah I think stratifying them in some way might be beneficial along with keeping the soil pretty moist after planting, which blueberries seem to love.

Would love to hear how planting them from seeds goes and what worked or didn't work. Best of luck!
 
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My poor blueberries look nothing like these beautiful pictures!  Mine are so leggy that I'm going to cut them way back after they finish producing fruits.   They are 3 years old, but we just came out of a 2-year drought here in coastal South Carolina.  I watered them all last summer, but I'm sure it wasn't enough.   Another thing hurting them is that they are in full sun all day.  I don't have any shade around my house, so there is no place to move them.    
 
pollinator
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This whole thread has been so helpful for me trying to help my 3rd year blueberries thrive here in Western NC. They are in full sun all day long, are growing in sandy bottom land soil that I’ve amended w lots of mulch, compost & pine needles. But my plants are just not happy. And I can’t figure out why. The ph tested at 5.3 & I’ve tried to get that down w rich composted manure & coffee grounds.
So I’ll continue to read your responses for more clues as to how to help my plants!
Maybe more ground cover around them? Get the soil ph lower? Make sure they get enough water in the dead heat of summer?
Ok folks. I’m listening. Give me more of your wisdom!
 
Christopher Weeks
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Joshua States wrote:

Christopher Weeks wrote:

Joshua States wrote:Has anyone ever grown blueberries from seed? I'm willing to give it a go and looking for advice and pointers.



I'd be interested to read the same stuff. I extracted a pile of seeds from a bag of frozen wild blueberries bought at the grocery store and have them in wet vermiculite now to see what sprouts.



I took mine from fresh berries. I wonder if they need to stratify (get cold like through a winter) before they will germinate.



None of the ones I tried last year sprouted. So I don't have much hope, but I still have the other half of that bag of frozen berries so I suppose I'll try again, but I haven't read anything yet on what to do differently.
 
pollinator
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OK, Blueberry info dump...

My favorite blueberry for where I am and what I'm doing (packing as many food plants into 1 1/3 acres as I can) is a dwarf called Sunshine Blue.

I'm in north Florida and this blueberry was bred just a few towns away.

Here's the description from my very favorite wholesale/retail nursery, Hartmanns, with a few other things I know about them thrown in:

https://hartmannsplantcompany.com/wholesale/product/sunshineblue/

Origin:  Earleton, FL
Southern High-bush type cultivar hybridized and selected by Arthur Elliott and Patrick J. Hartmann in 1977.
A mature bush is 3-4 feet tall and wide.
Ripening date is May 10 though June 15 at Gainesville, Florida.
Yields 10 pounds of medium size fruits per plant.
Fruit size is 80 berries per standard cup.
Berry quality is good. Berries are very firm and can be stored for several weeks at 40 degrees F.. Harvesting is done by hand.
The plant is the best ornamental for low chilling areas.
Plants have slender foliage and long slender laterals that produce profuse amounts of pinkish white flowers.
Sunshineblue seems to tolerate higher pH soils better than all other Southern high-bush and Rabbiteye types.
Hardiness Zones 10a-6b.
Only needs 150 - 200 chill hours
self pollinating - might make more with a different cultivar around but I get plenty with just them.
works well in containers

Now, some answers to questions here:

https://extension.umd.edu/resource/blueberry-problem-not-caused-diseases-or-insects

"Iron chlorosis is common in blueberry plantings and, if left untreated, will cause decreased growth, yellowing foliage, early defoliation, and severely weakened plants.
The characteristic foliar yellowing may be apparent early in the spring or can develop later during the summer.
Symptoms develop because iron is not available to the plant, even though this element is fairly abundant in most soils. When the yellow foliage symptoms develop early in the spring, the soil pH is usually too alkaline (above pH 6). When the yellow foliage develops during the summer, soil temperatures for these shallow-rooted plants may be too high.

Where soil pH is too high, sulfur and iron sulfate can be incorporated into the soil to acidify it so that iron will be more available to plant roots. Where high soil temperatures seem to be the problem, a 3-to 4-inch layer of sawdust will retain water and insulate the topsoil against overheating."

I have a lot of calcium in my water, which would tend to raise the PH, but I counter that by mulching with pine bark.
I caught on to this by using pine bark as a substrate in my hydroponics and it just perfectly cancelled the PH rise from the calcium and magnesium in the water and no more constant adjusting of PH.
Most blueberries want a soil PH that's way acid, like 4.5 to 5 PH and sandy loam soil.


Then I found this which sort of backs that up:

https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=B1291

do not use nitrate fertilizer on them, they hate it, use ammonium or organic sources of nitrogen.

I use Steve Solomons' Complete Organic Fertilizer on mine minus the lime.
Cotton or other seed meals make a good fertilizer and acidifies them some.
Urea is another good one because it's acidic.

More info and a PDF chart to download:

https://southernlivingplants.com/planting-care/a-tasty-task-fertilizing-blueberries-and-blackberries/

also...

file:///C:/Users/User/Desktop/Blueberries/Managing_the_Nutrtion_of_Highbush_Blueberries_(e2011).pdf

https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%201163_1.PDF

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



Info on starting from seeds:

https://zeroinputagriculture.wordpress.com/2019/12/13/plant-profile-blueberry/








 
Gaurī Rasp
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Hello! Regarding Hartmann’s Plants:

[Here's the description from my very favorite wholesale/retail nursery, Hartmanns, with a few other things I know about them thrown in:

https://hartmannsplantcompany.com/wholesale/product/sunshineblue/  ]

One must purchase a minimum of 100 items with an order! That’s a lot of blueberries!





 
Dave Bross
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Sorry about that, I thought they had them retail.

They do have a retail sales setup, but I just looked there and they don't offer Sunshine Blue on the retail side.

Their wholesale terms are 100 plants minimum and usually at least 10 of each plant.

My neighbors and I just bought a 72 tray of one inch plugs to split among us and enough other interesting goodies to take us up to the minimums.
perhaps a group buy might work to hit those numbers for you?

I know we're doing blueberries at the moment but...we filled out a lot of the order with Negrone/Violette du Bordeaux  figs, which is an awesome cultivar. Again, not available from Hartmanns retail, wholesale only.

There are many other sources for Sunshine Blue, here's one good outfit with a good price on them:

https://www.gurneys.com/product/sunshine-blue-southern-highbush-blueberry?

Which reminds me....a lot of the good old nurseries have switched hands lately and in some cases the new owners are doing OK, but in an unfortunately high number of incidents, they're not.

Here's how to check someone you're considering buying from.

https://davesgarden.com/products/gwd/

Scroll down a bit and there's an index by letter, ABCDEF, etc. it's green in color.

So let's have a look at Gurney's and ooooops! lots of negatives.

I bought my first Sunshine Blue plants from them a few years ago and they were fine, but caveat emptor.

Home depot and Lowes have them too but the price is way up there and in one case they're just being drop shipped from Gurney's anyway.

A bit of digging in your favorite search engine may turn up some other good suppliers and a local nursery just might have some because they're so bulletproof and adaptable they're a popular item for nursery sales.






 
Steve Thorn
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Gaurī Rasp wrote:Make sure they get enough water in the dead heat of summer?



My soil is very sandy also, and this was a big key for me. I try now to make it easy on myself and just plant them in naturally wet areas where nothing else wants to grow, but the blueberries love it!
 
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I thought I already posted this but I must have forgotten to hit submit. So here they are. I went to the self reliance festival last weekend and picked up a couple of plants. One is a thornless raspberry and the other is a ground cover raspberry. I'm very excited about the ground cover raspberry. I've never heard of this before
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[Thumbnail for 20230404_210649.jpg]
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[Thumbnail for 20230404_210630.jpg]
 
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Saralee Couchoud wrote: One is a thornless raspberry and the other is a ground cover raspberry. I'm very excited about the ground cover raspberry. I've never heard of this before



Does the ground cover raspberry produce fruit? Obviously, I've never heard of this before, either.
 
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Mary Haasch wrote:

Saralee Couchoud wrote: One is a thornless raspberry and the other is a ground cover raspberry. I'm very excited about the ground cover raspberry. I've never heard of this before



Does the ground cover raspberry produce fruit? Obviously, I've never heard of this before, either.



i lived at a place with creeping raspberry, which seems to be different from some things currently on the market as a ‘ground over raspberry’. the creeping rasp make a relatively small amount of orange-colored raspberries. pretty cool though!
 
Steve Thorn
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Here's a picture from today showing just how much our blueberries love water.

I planted these on the edge of a ditch this winter and when we get a lot of rain (like we have this weekend) they go completely underwater.... and they love it so far and have already put out some healthy new growth!
20230408_141336.jpg
Blueberries under water
Blueberries under water
 
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I have tried straw, pineneedles, acidic soil amendment and was told by nursery owner to plant into peatmoss, as well as keeping in pots, but blueberries seem to only survive 3 yrs only. Please keep our school posted of what you do to succeed in growing blueberries, Utah Valley Permaculture Classroom Gardens  & Greenhouse   www.permaculturedesignschool.org utahvalleypermaculture@gmail.com thank you
 
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Denise Devynck wrote:I have tried straw, pineneedles, acidic soil amendment and was told by nursery owner to plant into peatmoss, as well as keeping in pots, but blueberries seem to only survive 3 yrs only. Please keep our school posted of what you do to succeed in growing blueberries, Utah Valley Permaculture Classroom Gardens  & Greenhouse   www.permaculturedesignschool.org utahvalleypermaculture@gmail.com thank you



First questions that come to mind are: what is your climate (especially winter) like? and, what is your subsoil like?

I initially lost some plants during their first winter. Since I had planted several different varieties, I tend to believe that plant variety has some bearing on the survival of b.b. in a specific location. I replanted in spots where I removed dead plants.

My b.b. patch is part of a larger garden plot that 70 years ago had been conifer forest. The soil type is sandy-silty. Originally, the upper soil layer would have tested somewhat acidic, but in recent decades it tests basically neutral. So I specially prepared the immediate area around each b.b. root mass I planted. I dug holes, mixed some original soil from the hole with compost, sphagnum peat, gypsum, and a bit of alfalfa meal for nitrogen.  Most of the plants got a good start, and then the soil environment in the patch, which I covered with fine (wood) planer shavings & sawdust, promoted the obvious natural establishment of fungal mycelia.

Because the patch has, for many years now, provided very vigorous, bushy plants that produce well, I'm kind of reluctant to abruptly alter the soil condition around the plants. But every spring I do a soil test within the drip line of each plant, with an eye to keeping the soil acidic. From experience, I feel that ideally the pH should be 5.5 or lower. If the soil is becoming too alkaline, I scratch-in some powdered sulphur.

There are amendments I'll add, some years, to keep strong shoots developing and ample production of berries, but I believe these have less to do with survival in the first few years.
 
Saralee Couchoud
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Does the ground cover raspberry produce fruit? Obviously, I've never heard of this before, either


I was told that they produce fruit. I did have a little set back. While waiting for the weather to clear so I can plant them I discovered my cat said they are very tasty. I think they will make it. I'll keep you posted
 
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I hear the "rabbit eye" blueberries you can grow in the southern States are really big and yummy. We cannot grow rabbit eyes in Central Wisconsin, but there are a few varieties that are decently big and sweet. Where I am, though, it is out of the question to have them grow 'naturally", as much as I would love the idea. I live in 35 ft. of sand with first water at 10 ft and a PH of 6.5.
No matter how many pine needles I mulch them with, it will not go to 4.5.
I had a trench dug up  [30 ft. by 4 X 4 and I send the rainwater from my roof in there. That trench has been lined with tarp to slow down the absorption and I add some acidifiers regularly every season.
Here, that is what it takes to have a crop, so Steve, I hope you really enjoy your rabbit eye blueberries. You are so blessed and I confess to serious case of envy!
Yep, I know. they say the right plant in the right place ... but I LOVE blueberries... and I'm very stubborn, which in this case, I do not consider to be a fault.
 
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I thought I was quite clever planting four blueberry bushes of different varieties in an area where we'd had to remove a few older pine trees that were not doing well.  The area had been naturally mulched for years with pine needles, so I thought "acidic soil, perfect!"  They languished despite timely watering, weeding, plenty of sun, pine chip mulch, and protection from rabbits with some homemade cages.  

Later I learned that when a tree is cut down (don't recall now if it was just evergreen trees or all trees,) its roots decay and give off some kind of gas for up to 10 years that suppresses growth of other plants.  (not grass apparently though...)  

So now I'm nursing one remaining bb bush and hoping the pine roots slow down their offgassing before it dies.  If it starts to improve, I'll plant a few more nearby.

I just did a quick online search for the offgassing info, and couldn't locate it.   Maybe someone else knows about this and can provide a reference.
 
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I planted a few Blueberry bushes about 14 years ago and added some through the years.  Mine get full sun all day long.  It took time for their roots to get established before I could harvest any.  However, there was one bush that was so very different from the others.  Its leaves are a bluish-green and it never bloomed or grew berries. I contemplated, over the years, to just dig it up and replace with another berry bush but just didn't have the heart, since the bush itself was really a beautiful blue-green color.  I could just imagine having a number of them as a hedge row. Really beautiful!

Last year, after 13 YEARS of it being in the ground...it suddenly had massive numbers of blooms and finally sprouted a massive load of Blueberries!!!  It did so again this year.  Trust me...I haven't a clue as to why it took 13 years for it to finally do it's job...as it's planted in a row with the other Blueberry bushes.
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:Josh,

I am growing some blueberries and like you, they are in heavy clay.  As others have pointed out, I had to really coddle them in their first 2-3 years after which they got well established.

The place I planted them was not the best for blueberries, but then I don’t think much else would have grown there.  In retrospect, it does not get enough sunlight.  There were some nearby trees that looked far enough out of the way when I planted, but as these were locusts, they shot up like rockets and their lateral branches are giving some serious shade to some of my blueberries.

Circumstances dictated that I had to leave the blueberries neglected for a while, but as I am getting back to giving them more attention this year, I am planning on trimming back and maybe even cutting down those offending locusts.  The blueberries that did survive are well established and the only amendment I gave them was a healthy layer of pine mulch to enhance acidity.  I am thinking about spreading woodchips around the bases and sowing wine caps.

By far this point, for the bushes that survived neglect, my biggest problem are birds.  Birds will and have wiped out crops even before I knew that the blueberries were set.  The plants need some netting and I may see about that this year.

But to condense everything I said to a few words, coddle your blueberries the first couple of years till they get established, make sure and give them as much sunlight as you can, and give them some healthy mulch.  After those first couple of years, the bushes will be pretty bulletproof.

Eric



Hi Eric,
I don't know if this will help but I have new blueberry bushes that I have planted through roses.  I haven't lost any berries because they are disguised by the rose and this seems to have confused the birds!  I've attached a photo 😊
20230621_074416.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20230621_074416.jpg]
 
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Here are some things I've learned about blueberries. I am on a ridge in WV, zone 6. So it's highbush blueberries I'm talking about. Incidentally I gave up on currants; they couldn't get enough shade, it seemed.
Blueberries need extremely acid soil. Mine in naturally acid but not acid enough.  I planted four blueberries in my orchard, with metal posts at the corners and concrete blocks around the base, poultry netting walls. One died, one gave tiny harvests, nothing from the rest. I decided that the concrete blocks were probably leaching alkalinity, and made a new place for them. This time I made it a hugelkultur, as that had seemed to help elderberries thrive (till the deer got them. Elderberries do well in the creeksides around here, the ridge is too dry for them. I used a lot of peat moss in the second bed, to get it acid enough. I've read that oak leaves and pine needs are neutral once they've decomposed. The second bed has no block base, and has sides of one-inch-mesh chickenwire. When the berries are ripening, I pull netting over the top. We have used tennis balls on top of the metal posts to avoid ripping the netting. I lose no berries to birds. I throw my used coffee grounds into that bed from February until the netting blocks access. I throw a lot of leaves on top in the late fall, too. This year, two plants yielded well but two did not, even though they all bloomed. I think I'll give them some goat manure. So: mostly full sun; a hukelkultur base, with peat moss in the initial soil; and a permanent cage of one-inch-mesh poultry netting, to make co vering them in berry season easy.
 
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