Friday, March 12, 2010

PH and my blueberries

Ok....the other day i took a soil sample from he blueberry bed. To make it as accurate as possible I took the samples in between plants, and not directly next to them where more fertilizers and amendments are added. Last year, I built the bed with oak leaf mold and my Ozarks soil (which is very alkaline). I added 3 cu. ft. of peat. A full bag of soil acidifier, and fertilized with Hollytone.
I have read that it can take the better part of a year for the PH to drop even one point. I am assuming that the soil was 7.0 (neutral) to begin with, although the probe type tester does not seem that accurate to me....
So, I took this soil sample, then went ahead and dusted around each bush with sulfur and hollytone, because I knew that the soil would still be too high, and I really want them to be in the best possible condition when they leaf out.
The PH to me looks like its between 7.0-6.0, but it's not a good sign either way, although it's progress in the right direction.

(This is why it is SO important to plan ahead , even two years for blueberries if you have alkaline soil. This is also why a raised bed will help reduce leaching the alkalinity from the native soil, although, there are no guarantees!) I believe that I will have to continue to do foliar iron sprays all season, to ensure their viability, until the soil is in proper range....and I need to get another bag of soil acidifier on the soil ASAP. And a healthy mulch of pine would also be beneficial.

Foliar Sprays <---------(taken from this PDF)
Foliar sprays of iron sulfate or iron chelates may provide quick response, often in a matter
of days. However, the treatment is often spotty and only temporary. Multiple applications
per season may be needed. Effects will not carry over into subsequent years.
Foliar applications are generally not recommended due to application limitations.
Complete coverage of all leaves is essential. Individual leaves not treated may remain
chlorotic. Coverage on large trees is impractical to impossible.
There is a small margin between an iron concentration that will green up the leaves and a
concentration that will cause leaf burn. Leaf tissues are rather prone to turn black from an
iron burn. Following an iron sulfate foliar treatment, it is common to see leaves that
remain chlorotic, leaves that green up, and leaves with black burn spots on the same plant.
Spray hitting the sidewalk, house, and other objects may leave a permanent rusty
discoloration. Chelated iron sprays are inactivated by sunlight.
Foliar applications may be made with some iron chelates or with iron sulfate products.
Both types of products are equally effective, but iron chelates are more expensive. See
product label for specific application rates and instructions. With foliar applications, spray
in the evening or on cloudy days when drying time is slower. A few drops of liquid
dishwashing soap or commercial wetting agent will enhance sticking properties.

I do believe that this PDF has been my most helpful reference for information on Blueberries and PH....also, the problem of super high PH in Colorado soils, and free-lime content. Very, very interesting stuff. And really helps me understand the "Why" of the problem, instead of "What is the problem?".....that helps the info stick! =) In fact, because of the PH issue...looking up this blueberry information, and reading the Colorado State Master Gardener information...I became (yet again) so thankful for the internet, and PDF's! Most states have a master gardener program, and I really want to join in my state...but haven't yet.
Reading these PDF's gave me that epiphany, in my amateur gardener's mentality..."the OHHHHH! I get it!!!!"....If you want to grow acid loving plants, definitely read these.

This is the potassium test. It was kinda hard to figure out which one it looked most like.

I don't know about you, but I don't feel that comfortable with anaylizing this results!
I see medium to high on nutrient values and "way too high for blueberries" on the PH.

Reading more I came across this tidbit again:
The preferred way of applying nitrogen is injected through the irrigation system. Soluble N
forms may also be applied on the surface near the plant row and irrigated in with sprinklers or
rainfall. Use ammonium forms of N (e.g. ammonium sulfate, urea,). Blueberries prefer the ammonium form of N and ammonium is the predominate N form in the soil at low pH.

Forgot about that.
(most of these links are from last year, but I am brushing up on the info and these little excerpts are vital to me.)

The tables at Michigan State are helpful for large acreage amounts but I will have to decide how much acidifier I need for my plot. I am seriously considering sending in samples to the University Extension for this and maybe finding out about a leaf sample test. It could really help pin point exactly what needs to happen, because there is a good possibility of over fertilization when nutrients are present but locked up because of PH. In other words, I could easily shock these guys by having too much of a good thing, by trying to overcompensate for issues created by planting the berries in soil with a higher PH value, or while the PH lowering compounds are still at work lowering the PH, and I continue to add them, the total amount may eventually become much too I need to be very careful while playing with the soil, so to speak.

I am stuck inside since the weather has turned cold and this is just "Food for thought today"....... MMMMM....blueberries!

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