I planted a 100’ row of blueberries last year. I’m in Western PA with high clay content and a neutral pH soil. After seeing the negligible growth throughout the season last year, I did my research and see that it’s a pH issue. I have elemental sulfur and holly tone, as recommended. I’ve also read from a few on here that planting in peat and pine bark is ideal. I’m wondering if it’s worth it to dig them up and supplement the holes with a healthy amount of peat and pine bark. Maybe 1 part pine bark, 1 part peat, 1 part native soil.
Thoughts? Will this produce significant results in the next 2 growing seasons? or will Sulfur + Holly Tone only produce similar results?
From my experience of transplanting blueberries, they grow their fibrous roots in a very top layer of the soil. I am not sure what you will achieve by adding peat moss below the roots. When you dug them up, their roots will be interlocked with native soil and it will not be that easy to remove it without damaging the roots. I would do a top/side application of organic materials like peat and bark, mixed with compost. And add soil acidifier. The roots will grow to fill that pillow.
Poor drainage often causes death of the plants…or at least lethargic growth.
A very few blueberry varieties can handle adverse conditions. I’d have to rack my brain,
but SunshineBlue is one that handles clay and higher pH than most.(Good production 6 to 6.5 pH for me. Sunshine Blue is winter hardy at least to zone 6 and probably 5.
I don’t have any experience with Sweetheart or Chandler.
Herbert needs good drainage, has large berries spaced out over several weeks ripening.
Patriot and Spartan are two that can tolerate both clay and excessive wetness.
Supposedly Hardyblue is clay soil tolerant (I own one plant but it’s in a 2 gallon container at present).
In zones 7 and 8 the Rabbiteye varieties do better handling clay soils and the heat and humidity.
I live in PA too and had a similar issue with poor growth, so I dug mine up and added fine pine bark mulch, peat moss, some sulfur and some native soil. Made a wider hole (4 x4) versus a deeper hole. Started wider holes away from plants, then dug closer until I was able to pull/heave/roll the big root ball out. Then dragged it far enough to finish my hole. Covered the root mass with wet textile. You will lose some of the fibrous roots doing this, but it made a positive difference for me. I also started a good pruning program, used pine needles as top mulch, added a gravity fed drip irrigation and incorporated cottonseed meal (cheap) for fertilizer. The plants are very healthy now. Go for it, I think it’s worth it!
Appreciate all the feedback and you know what… I’ve got 2 varieties (Sweetheart and Herbert) already in the ground, 7 of each. I’m going to replant half of them and simply supplement the other half. To supplement, I’ll add sulfur, holly tone and peat/pine bark on the surface. I’ll see how it goes and post back here with pictures!
A third variety (Chandler) is being planted this spring. I’ll just do the right thing in the first place with those guys.
Anyone have a rule of thumb for applying sulfur to a new hole and an existing plant? I see ‘per acre’ recommendations by various universities. I suppose I could reverse engineer that to a ‘per plant’. Like I mentioned above, I’m working with a neutral pH clay soil. From what I read, that would put me on the ‘more sulfur side’.
I used Sulfur when first starting,but was unsure of the amount and it took months to find out the results.Switching to acid(for batteries)made it quicker.Sure,a person needs to be careful about safety,but when the known amount is needed,it is much simpler.I think @ramv uses Citric acid for his.
Yes,that will work.I use to get it that way,but now buy the five gallon size,that comes with about a 1/4 inch outlet tube.There is an additional spigot sold,that I put on it,for easier metering.
My Blueberries are on drip and using an EZ-Flo fertigator.Not the best,but it’s better than carrying buckets of water.It dilutes it fairly quickly,but the plants look okay.
In the Summer,I’ll set the timer to come on about twice a day for about 1/2 hour.The emitters are 1-2 gallons per hour.
The ratio will need to be found out by using either pH test strips or a liquid,something like aquarium shops sell.If watering by hand,get a container,like 1 or 5 gallons and fill with tap water.In increments,perhaps 1 teaspoon at a time,add acid to the water and measure the pH each time,until a pH of 5 is reached.Then write that down or remember,the amount it took to reach it,for next time.
Acidifying the water doesn’t have to be done every time.Once a week should be okay.
Here’s the after market spigot for the larger acid container. https://www.amazon.com/Thexton-THE604-Battery-Filler-Tool/dp/B000J4KQCY
I bought a cheap pH meter once. It told me my soil had pH 7. I tried adding some baking soda to the water. Still pH7. So I tried dunking it in vinegar. That also had a pH of 7. So I threw away the meter.
I haven’t done the math,but vinegar is a weak acid and so it’s takes more and also doesn’t last very long,compared to something like Sulfuric.
Muriatic is hydrochloric acid and while being able to reduce pH,it’s the chlorine I’d be concerned with.