Ask a Question forum: Blueberries

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Name: Brett
North Dakota
Tass55
Jun 1, 2017 10:09 AM CST
So I have been doing my research but am fairly new to gardening and such. I wish to plant blueberries by my house as a hedge, which I've looked into and looks easy enough to do. However I have a few questions. First one is, what is the optimal space needed? I have 21in between my house and my sidewalk. Is that enough? Secondly, as of right now my ph is pretty neutral, there are columbines and bleeding hearts growing there now. What is the best way to lower this and how much time would it take? I would like to have the bushes planted this season.
Name: Baja
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Baja_Costero
Jun 1, 2017 10:47 AM CST
I can't help with the space question but my dad mulched regularly with pine and fir needles to help acidify the soil, and the berries were delicious. If you have a conifer around that might be a cheap homemade solution.
Name: Cheryl
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ShadyGreenThumb
Jun 1, 2017 10:57 AM CST
Just got back from picking blueberries at our local picking farm. Given their bushes are grown or fruiting, and I don't know the varieties as they grow 20 varieties on 20 acres. But at full maturity they were approximately 8 ft tall and about as wide. Some were cut way back and actively growing but not producing. The only time I saw a bush small enough to fit in a 21" space was when we first started going there, 20 years ago and they were probably trimmed back. But the farm of Southern Blueberries was started in 1975. But our Southern Blueberries love an acidic soil if that helps? Good luck!
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Name: Dave
Dayton, TN (Zone 7a)
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TennesseeDave
Jun 1, 2017 11:02 AM CST
I have 3 blueberry bushes in my yard that were here when I bought the place. Until they produced blueberries the first summer I didn't know what they were and in fact I was planning on cutting them down in the fall as they were tall enough (over 10 feet) that they blocked my view of the lake. When I realized what they were I did some trimming of the old growth and that really invigorated them. They produce heavily every year with little or no attention from me but they have continued to grow and now are about 12 foot tall and each has a spread of about 6 to 8 feet. I have no idea what strain they are as this has been my only experience with blueberries but given how big these bushes are (small trees actually) I would make sure that for the space you have that you try to find a much more compact size that the ones in my yard. They still block my view of a portion of the lake but the amount of blueberries they produce is simple incredible. So it's a swap-off. View of the lake or blueberry pancakes and muffins? Since they are still here after 12 years I guess the our choice is obvious.

A few photos to show you what I mean about size and production.
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Name: Karen
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plantmanager
Jun 1, 2017 12:05 PM CST
Wow, Dave, I'd take the blueberries too! It must be great to have such huge, wonderful blueberry bushes! I've never had them, but after we make a fenced area to keep out critters, I want to plant some.

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Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
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Leftwood
Jun 1, 2017 3:32 PM CST
The blueberries mentioned so far are not the kinds that would grow in North Dakota, anyway. You would want the half-high hybrids from the Univ of Minn.

21 inches isn't much space, and the only cultivar small enough to naturally fit the space is Northsky. But any of the others (Northblue, Chippewa, Northcountry, Polaris, St. Cloud, etc.) can be kept in bounds if you trim them like a hedge. But consider a few things first:
---- if this is the 21 inches next to your house, it's in a rainshadow. Where is the water coming from? And what is the pH of your water if you are going to be administering most of the moisture?
--- lime from the house foundation and sidewalk cement will continually want to raise the pH.
--- if the soil is sandy, then continual additions of pine needles will keep the pH low enough. If the soil is clay based, pine needles will not change the pH significantly enough from what the original pH was. Mix it half and half with sphagnum peat, and us a mulch that encourages acid soil, like pine needles or oak leaves.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
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Weedwhacker
Jun 1, 2017 10:48 PM CST
I agree with Leftwood's post -- I have 5 half-high blueberry plants (Northland, I think) that I moved to big pots after a couple of years because they were struggling with the soil pH being too high. I used a mixture of sphagnum peat, potting soil, coir and perlite, and added some soil sulfur. Even for the half-high blueberries I think the strip by the house would be pretty cramped.
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Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Hybridizer
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Leftwood
Jun 2, 2017 7:02 AM CST
To post on on any thread, scroll down to the bottom of the page where you see this text box where you can add a new message. I see you already know about the "Upload an image", "Preview" and "Finish" buttons.
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I have copied your message from your other communication so we can keep the conversation on this thread:
On June 1, 2017 - Tass55 said:You seem to know what you're talking about so I feel good asking you and thank you btw. I'm new to this site and couldn't figure out how to reply. Well I have it planned out to a degree. I was going to look into half-hi's or whatever they're called because it sounded like what id want. But in open to suggestions for sure. Im fine with them growing over the sidewalk a little and I would trim appropriately to fit my need. It's a southern facing wall and gets a good amount of sunlight, there is a good distance from any other buildings. As I'm planting the berries there, I would also be planting a couple evergreen shrubs of some type, haven't figured it out yet really, around the corner. I would be able to keep a solid pine needle base around the bushes as well to help with the ph. As for the rain, there is no roof ledge over the top, just a flat wall, and also my water spicket is right there. Thanks for prior response and hopefully you have the time and patience to help.


[Last edited by Leftwood - Jun 2, 2017 8:07 AM (+)]
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Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Jun 2, 2017 7:12 AM CST
Hmmm....
What about low bush?

https://extension.umaine.edu/b...

Those wild Maine blueberries don't get much more than 2 foot high, even when not being 'managed'.

Seems like they could take the weather.... Dunno bout acidity... They say to add sulfur to the soil... Or.. I always heard that enough compost would help plants grow well outside their normal ph range.
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Hybridizer
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Leftwood
Jun 2, 2017 8:05 AM CST
There are three basic types of blueberries in cultivation:
Rabbiteye - do well in the southern tier of the USA
High bush - 5-10ft. Marginally in zone 4. The kind you buy in the grocery store.
Half-High - hybrids involving high bush blueberries and low bush blueberries (the kind that are native in Minnesota) Hardy in zone 3, and smaller than High bush.

Just be aware that there is still at least somewhat of a rain shadow next any building, overhanging roof or not. Blueberries generally have shallow root systems, and are only a little drought tolerant.

Low bush blueberries are a little more finicky due to their non hybrid origin, and have a coarser root system that makes them not as easy to establish. They do require more acidity than the others. Also have smaller and fewer berries. On the other hand, those berries have the best, strongest flavor of all, and they can send out new plants from spreading underground roots to fill an area like a groundcover. I would try both: half-highs and low bush.
https://www.extension.umn.edu/...

Name: Brett
North Dakota
Tass55
Jun 2, 2017 8:29 AM CST
Does the acidity need to be an optimal ph right from the get go or can I get it down a little and continue adding pine and such to make it right as I go.
Name: Brett
North Dakota
Tass55
Jun 2, 2017 8:32 AM CST
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This is the area in working with.
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 2, 2017 9:11 AM CST
I'd definitely leave what's growing there, and use the strip between the driveway and the walkway for your blueberries. If you plant them in that narrow bed near the house you'll very quickly not have any room to walk on the walkway no matter which variety you plant.

Planting in the wider strip you'll also be able to pick your berries from both sides, which is a very good thing! More elbow room for you to amend and keep adding amendments to the soil as well.

It would be best to amend the soil before you plant. Buy bags of compost, peat and such and till it in before planting. Then mulch every year with acidic mulch like pine needles, oak leaves and the like to keep adding acid to the soil. Most soil tends to rise in pH naturally, without constant addition of acidic amendments.

Also, as someone said above, be SURE to test your water - any pool store will test it for you, or if you have a friend with a pool you can use their test kit to test your irrigation water. If it's much above neutral (7.0) you'll be constantly raising the pH around your blueberries just by watering. Keep adding the compost and leaves/mulch.
Elaine

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Name: Cheryl
Texas (Zone 9a)
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ShadyGreenThumb
Jun 2, 2017 9:14 AM CST
I agree GREAT idea, Elaine! A picture always helps! Let us know what you end up diong. Welcome!
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Name: Brett
North Dakota
Tass55
Jun 2, 2017 12:25 PM CST
dyzzypyxxy said:I'd definitely leave what's growing there, and use the strip between the driveway and the walkway for your blueberries. If you plant them in that narrow bed near the house you'll very quickly not have any room to walk on the walkway no matter which variety you plant.


Well I'm going to be taking that stuff out one way or another. It's messy and irritates me haha. It was from the previous owner of the house and she didnt come back for anything. I really want berries and don't really care about the walkway. It doesn't really get used anyways.
Any other edible ideas that would make good landscaping as well are always appreciated.
[Last edited by Tass55 - Jun 2, 2017 12:26 PM (+)]
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Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
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Leftwood
Jun 2, 2017 4:05 PM CST
Yes the soil pH needs to be correct from the very beginning. It is much easy (and more permanent) to correct the soil pH before you plant than after, anyway. It's virtually impossible to make a soil too acid for blueberries. You needn't worry about that. Blueberries even grow in pure sphagnum moss in the wild - a pH of 4-4.5!

It looks like your water comes from your municipality. My city's water pH runs between 7.8 and 8.3. Yours will likely be similar.

Currants ought to do well in your climate.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jun 2, 2017 6:21 PM CST
Brett, you might want to check out the articles on "edible landscaping" in the Learning Library here on NGA: https://garden.org/learn/artic...
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