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Blueberries and _too low_ soil pH?

Hello!

I'm starting a small-ish blueberry farm, placed in a empty plot, about 10m wide and 35m long. Plan is to plant 72 highbush blueberries (mainly chandler plus some cross pollinators).

The soil was lifted about 0,5m because we needed to do a irrigation water pond and here is some risk for winter floods. 


The soil is loam and the land hasn't been in any farming use at least in 15+ years, so I knew it is going to be acidic, but results from soil test came in and the pH is 3,88! I have already made ridges (0,8m x 0,25m) so the water flows/doesn't rot the roots and the plants will get organic material and soil gets more airy/loose. I used 10m³ pure peat moss (in Finland average pH for peat moss is something between 4 and 4,5). Planting ridges are about 50:50 peat moss and loam now.

Question is, is my soil too acidic for blueberries?

Should I mix some lime into the ridges with rototiller/garden rotor, since i have not planted bluberries yet?

Thanks!

-Ville

(Picture included, the ridges are not yet made into final form/ it was taken after tilling)
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Posts

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,739
    I doubt it would be a problem - they like acidic soil, which is why so many people have to grow them in containers. Not a problem up here as many areas have acidic soil.  :)

    I hope you have success. There was a situation up here last year where a farmer with a large blueberry farm had to scrap/give away the whole crop as the ongoing overheads meant he couldn't compete with imports  :/
    https://www.scottishdailyexpress.co.uk/news/scottish-news/perthshire-farmer-gives-away-bumper-28343850
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....



    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • vilkoivuvilkoivu Posts: 13
    Yep I know they love acidic soil, but there must be a some sort of limit of pH or how low it can get. 

    Plan is to sell berries in local Farmers markets etc. since we already attend them with other products of our berry farm.

    Next step is to finish the fence and install DIY drip irrigation system from garden hose.
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 11,284
    Ideally they like pH 4.2-5.5
    Your pH isn't too far off that and with the works you are doing it will likely change again as it all settles down.
    Soil is a powerful buffer so any changes you make (e.g. adding lime) will only be short-lived and the soil will return to its original pH over time.

    Are the varieties you've chosen known for having a decent shelf-life?
    I grow Herbert, which (from what I've read) isn't grown commercially as the berries start to deteriorate after as little as 24hrs.

    I also grow mine in a cage as the birds will eat the lot before I get a chance to pick them.

    Best of luck!


    Billericay - Essex

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • vilkoivuvilkoivu Posts: 13
    Thanks for the info.

    Mainly I chose the variety chandler because it is huge in berry size and good in flavor. And the plant itself is winter hardy.

    Usually the sales events occur on the evening so we pick the berries based on orders. And we'll freeze them (if over production) for selling at winter time.  Upick is also a possibility. 

    It is just a nice add for our other berries :)
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 11,284
    Chandler is a mid-late season variety.
    If you want to extend the harvest period you could include some varieties that ripen earlier or later.
    https://pickyourown.org/blueberry-varieties.php

    It's also worth being aware of this pest that can damage the berries.
    I just have 3 varieties and every year I find a few berries that have become infested- 
    https://www.rhs.org.uk/biodiversity/spotted-wing-drosophila

    Billericay - Essex

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • vilkoivuvilkoivu Posts: 13
    edited April 2023
    Yep. Chandler suits us well in ripening time, since seabuckthorn starts to ripen after chandler and they overlap little bit, so it is good for farmers markets etc. 

    I have some bluegold and bluecrop, mainly for cross pollination. 

    I need to read that link about pests. That SWD was in a article in Finnish gardening magazine. It is going to be a world wide problem... 

    Bird net is going to be installed also. 12m x 35m. It's gonna be a hazzle to install that :D
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 11,284
    vilkoivu said:

    Bird net is going to be installed also. 12m x 35m. It's gonna be a hazzle to install that :D

    🤣

    Good luck with that!
    I get really frustrated netting mine which is only 2.5m x 1.5m!

    Billericay - Essex

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • vilkoivuvilkoivu Posts: 13
    edited April 2023
    Yea, well there is going to be three 3mm metal wires where the net will hang. 

    Last year we made a DIY greenhouse for our wines, 4x12m and putting in the plastic with some "mild" coastal wind. Damn it was hard!

    I assume the pruning will not be needed in first few years? Plants are 2 years old container plants, with mycorrizha. I take only the flower buds away this year, am I correct?

    Anything else to be taken into consideration? Even irrigation during the week (smart plug and well pump will do that), mulching with woodchips. 

    Btw about mulching, woodchips are rather expensive, I need about 9m³ of that. Plastic/mypex would be waaay cheaper but I read somwhere that it could expose roots to heat (black plastic) and when the soil eventually compresses, air pockets for moles etc. could be a problem?
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 11,284
    I've had mine for about 6-7 yrs.
    I didn't prune at first.
    After a couple of years I noticed that the berries forming on the oldest stems were very small. At that point I cut out about 1/3 of all the oldest branches on each of the bushes.
    This reduced the crop the following year, but new stems appeared from the base of the plant which subsequently produced full size berries again.
    In winter I trim back any very long branches as when they get fruits on the the branch,  the berries end up laying on top of the soil which makes them dirty.

    I didn't remove the flowers in the first year and that didn't seem to have any detrimental effect.

    During the growing season I feed them once a month with a granulated feed for azaleas (i.e. acid-loving plants). I use Miracle Gro for Azaleas.

    Do bear in mind with your netting that you only want to stop birds - the mesh size needs to be big enough to allow bees and other pollinators access to the flowers or you won't get any berries.

    Mine are in pots, so I don't mulch as such.
    I don't know about mypex, but I'd always prefer something natural as a mulch if possible.

    Billericay - Essex

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • vilkoivuvilkoivu Posts: 13
    Yep the top net will be 30mm hexagon and the fence will be 25x25mm hexagon chicken wire. Should keep birds and deer (we have ALOT of them here) away, but small enough to have pollinators fly into the bushes. Even thought of having a local beekeeper to haul few nests for blooming time to the side of the plot.
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