Growing Blueberries / Grapes / Rhubarb in Zone 5

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Farmer's Wife, Jun 21, 2004.

  1. Farmer's Wife

    Farmer's Wife Well-Known Member

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    I getting ready to plant Blueberries , Grapes and Rhubarb on our farm in Liberty, IN, which is in Zone 5.

    I am new to growing all of these plants. I am looking for any suggestions or tips you may have to ensure healthy plants and a bumper crop in the future.

    Thanks :0)
     
  2. katydidagain

    katydidagain Adventuress--Definition 2 Supporter

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    My only experience is with grapes. Grown them for 20 years and never got much fruit. Why? I provided a very strong arbor from the beginnning but it was too tall for me to harvest--catbird got the few that weren't black and shriveled. Last year DH edited it to about 4' tall. I've always been afraid to prune (lack of knowledge) but last month I finally took the plunge and cut them back severely. Had I trimmed earlier, the bunches would have been more full--they don't look like grocery specimens but blackening is non existant and the fruit is plumping nicely. The vines can't handle every bunch they begin--you can't be greedy. Lesson learned--fingers crossed, jelly this fall!

    katy
     

  3. Farmer's Wife

    Farmer's Wife Well-Known Member

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    Thanks katydidonce, I will keep the prunung in mind. It makes me a little nervous, I'm afraid I'll cut back too much. How far did you cut them back?
     
  4. anniew

    anniew keep it simple and honest Supporter

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    As a note of encouragement, blueberries and rhubarb are easy
    to grow. Just plant and watch. Plenty of manure for the rhubarb.
    A low pH for the blueberries, which can go pretty much unpruned
    for 3-5 years as they get established. Then prune out the oldest
    canes each year.
    Grapes are also pretty easy, although the pruning may be a little
    more technical, but you cut them back each year, depending on
    how productive they were the previous year. I can't remember
    the specifics, but it is something like cutting back all but say, four
    canes, then cutting those back to 10, 15 or 20 buds, again depending
    on how much fruit they produced the previous year. They really
    look naked after a proper pruning...if you have any vineyards
    near you, take a look in late winter/early spring, and you'll get
    the picture.
    And remember, if you over or under prune, you aren't likely to kill
    anything. And experimenting after you know what is the norm is
    the best part.
    Ann
     
  5. Farmer's Wife

    Farmer's Wife Well-Known Member

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    Thanks so much Ann :0) I appreciate the input. It's good to know that these plants are pretty easy to grow. I just want to give them the best chance possible.
     
  6. Amy Jo

    Amy Jo Well-Known Member

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    I have hundreds of wild blueberry bushes on our property... I mean HUNDREDS!!! But they had no blueberry flavor or sweetness... do they need to cross polinate with a different breed, or is there something I can feed them that will enhance the flavor?
     
  7. katydidagain

    katydidagain Adventuress--Definition 2 Supporter

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    FH, I was pretty ruthless but was essentially cutting back 20 years of growth--chicken that I was, the only pruning I'd done before was to trim back the jungle. And with the shorter trellis--more like wine grape grower's--a lot had to come off. I was late to cut so I basically shortened vines and removes bunches down to 1 or 2 per branch/vine/offshoot.

    BTW, I did have decent grapes during the first 3 to 5 years without pruning so, in my experience, you have a few seasons to get comfortable hacking--just don't wait as long as I did. My newest vine (1 year or so and only 4') I didn't cut much but did remove excess fruit. Ann is right--you probably won't kill grapes if you overdo it so have fun.

    Amy Jo, I don't know the answer but I crave your plants!

    katy
     
  8. Mel-

    Mel- Well-Known Member

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    farmerswife,

    just wanted to say hi as I am about 90 miles west of you. I plan on planting blueberries hopefully this fall or next spring and the only thing I've really been told is a problem in our area is making sure the soil is acidic enough.

    my sister has some concord grape vines that are at least 15 years old and problably decades (they were there when my parents bought this farm 15 years ago). She never does a darned thing to them besides let them grow along the remnants of a section of livestock fence and gets enough to supply her family with all the grape jelly she wants (and she has 7 kids, 3 of whom have families of their own).

    Mel-
     
  9. Farmer's Wife

    Farmer's Wife Well-Known Member

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    Amy Jo - I have no idea about cross pollination. I know when I bought my plants, I was told by the botanist at the nursery to buy two different varieties.

    Katy - Thanks for the pruning info. I am such a chicken when it comes to pruning, I am always afraid that I will do more harm than good.

    Mel - Wow, someone in my area :0) I was told when I bought my blueberry bushes to mix Peat in with the soil to help with the acidity. Also, Henry Fields sells a product that is supposed to amend the soil to Blueberry specifications.

    I certainly hope my grapes do as well as your sisters :0) I love making apple butter and other jellies for Christmas gifts. I am tired of buying the fruits I need, so I am taking a stab at producing them myself.

    Thanks guys for all of the input! Now, do you know anything about Asparagus ;0)
     
  10. havenberryfarm

    havenberryfarm Well-Known Member

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    Do not feed blueberries. They do not like fertilizer. Check your pH, they like it about 4.5-6.0. Planting a few commercial blueberries should do a lot to help stimulate berries. If you really want to fertilize them you can mulch them with peat moss or pine needles, which are both acidic. Is there any possibility that your soil pH could be too low? It seems impossible, but I have never heard of blueberries tasting bad. My recommendation is to check your pH and if that is OK, then get a few bushes from DeGrandchamps.
     
  11. havenberryfarm

    havenberryfarm Well-Known Member

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    Don't fertilize blueberries the first year. That is my only recommendation. Just plant them with peat moss in the hole and let them root in. We killed 25 blueberry bushes by fertilizing them the first year. Blueberry fertilizer is mostly Nitrogen, which stimulates leaf growth. That is the last thing you want when a young plant is stressed and trying to root in. Oh well. Live and learn. and don't plant before a drought... :no:
     
  12. Ed K

    Ed K Well-Known Member

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    Probably aluminum sulfate which is pretty commonly used to lower soil pH. Like the others have suggested check your pH first. I second the idea of an acidic mulch. or just leaves or wood chips.
     
  13. Amy Jo

    Amy Jo Well-Known Member

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    I'll have to check the ph. Our blueberries are growing under and around red & white oaks, which I've been told will acidify the soil, but perhaps it isn't enough. If they end up being good, tasty blueberries, I'd be happy to share them - though right now, I wouldn't see it being a smart idea to pay for the shipping of plants that aren't producing something worth having.
     
  14. tellingstories

    tellingstories New Member

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    Hi,

    I used to do a lot of organic gardening when I was in my early 20's...now I live in Vancouver, B.C. with a small balcony to grow things on.

    I had recently read an article about growing blueberries in containers so I went off to my local green store and bought two different varieties. So far so good, blueberry crop totals just enough berries to add to a bowl of cereal. I couldn't ask for anything more delightful...but that isn't my question. :shrug:

    My question is...Now that the plants themselves seem to be established in the containers...how will they winter in regards to frost levels, etc...should I wrap the containers in burlap? How do I keep them moist??? do the plants actually go dormant and when will I know to stop watering or to start??? not to mention pruning? :hobbyhors

    If anyone has some suggestions around container growing of blueberry plants I would be most delighted. :)

    tellingstories
     
  15. MELOC

    MELOC Master Of My Domain

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    there were two grape arbors at my house for as long as i can remember. since they finally rotted away, i think i am going to grow them on a fence type trellis instead of an arbor. grapes really need ventilation and i think mine will do better on a fence. i think i will also be able to prune them better on a fence as i can follow various pruning techniques more easily.
     
  16. woodspirit

    woodspirit Well-Known Member

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    Don't put peat moss on top of the soil. It'll dry up and float away with the first rain. My guess is that your wild blueberries aren't getting enough sun, which will preclude them from developing sugar. Same holds true for grapes. Full sun all day is best. You should mix the peat moss with your existing soil approximately 50/50. Aluminum sulphate is not fertilizer. It only lowers your PH. You can apply too much and kill everything that grew there. It also builds up in soil over time and can become toxic to your plants. Sulpher will also lower the ph. It isn't a fertilizer either. Iron Sulphate is not a fertilizer. It will lower the PH, and it will make your leaves darker green which translates to better chlorophyll production. It does not build up in soils to become toxic. So the best stuff to use is the Iron Sulphate. Don't use any fertilizer the first year. After that it is necessary to find a low acid type fertilizer and apply it half strenght and then two or three weeks later apply the other half. They aren't fast feeders. Now the most important thing you'll need to do is mulch them heavily after they are planted with a shredded hardwood mulch. I've had best success using that instead of sawdust which is what all the books recommend. Sawdust will use up all the nitrogen in the soil to help it break down, and finding well-rotted sawdust is tough. The most important time to water them or irrigate is after the harvest in August- Sept. That is when they're producing the "fruit buds" for next year. I've been growing blueberries for longer than I care to mention. You do need more than one kind in order to get good fruit production. There are early, mid, and late varieties. A late variety may bloom earlier than a mid variety though. So you need to get them by blooming time not fruiting time. Best just to buy more than you wanted and eat alot more blueberries.
    1 Peat moss 50/50 with existing soil
    2 Iron sulphate to acidify
    3 Mulch heavily with shredded hardwood mulch
    4 irrigate with drip or seaping/soaker hose.
    5 Full sun...morning till night
     
  17. woodspirit

    woodspirit Well-Known Member

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    Highbush blueberries must have cold temps below freezing so that will depend on where you live (zone). It's even more critical to mulch them heavily because the worst thing that could happen is the roots drying out during the growing year. They are very shallow rooted like Rhody's and Azaleas. Same family in fact.Just protect them from the winter winds, and buiy a few bags of mulch to bury the pot in. That will keep the roots cold but protect them from freezing. It's risky in zone 5 to keep plants outdoors in the winter.
     
  18. Rita

    Rita Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Woodspirit can I pick your brain a bit for my blueberry problems? First problem, some type of beetle? will just chew a large branch off and I will find it laying right next to the bush. The second problem is some type of borer gets down into the stems right above ground level. I can see the frass from where it bored in. When would I spray for these pests and with what? Maybe you don't have this problem. I also have some plants from last year that are just hanging on when the plants adjacent to them are flourishing. All get the same soil, fertilizer, etc. I am quite discouraged. Also have one older bush that blooms like crazy, sets a zillion berries and they get color but are little hard tasteless things. Not as many leaves on all the problem plants as there should be. I thought blueberries would be easy. Maybe it's here in TN zone 6. Too many blueberry pests???? Thanks, Rita
     
  19. woodspirit

    woodspirit Well-Known Member

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    Hi,
    The first question that I have is what kind of blueberries do you have? Ideally knowing which cultivars helps too because some of them are more or less susceptible to different diseases. Also knowing what the Ph is really helps to diagnose potential problems. What do the leaves look like? Are they puckered or have spots or are they changing colors?
    I'm not familiar with beetles chewing through branches. Except for cutworms which wouldn't be a problem to woody growth. My guess for that one is deer. The next one one is is a blueberry stem borer. Big problem in N Carolina so also in Tenn. Again I'm going to guess that your plants are three years in the ground there. Maybe four.Get rid of any wild blueberries, rhody's or Laurels that are nearby because they are a host plant to the borer. Don't buy anything called borer miner killer. It is very very bad stuff and will poison the berries. You need to start pruning. Especially the one that has so many berries. When you are done pruning you should be looking at a plant that has long pencil thick stems. Are you noticing tips dying off, or whole canes, or whole plants. I'm going to guess that you have a few deer moving through your place and that might also explain fewer leaves on your plants.
     
  20. Rita

    Rita Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The branches that get "cut off" are sort of girdled and look like someone used a lathe to take it off...so rounded and the branch just lays there whereas a deer would eat it. The deer are concentrating their efforts on our apples at this time. I don't remember the names of the bushes right now. And yikes, we have lots of laurel and wild blueberries! Sure would hate to get rid of them. Well, thanks for the hints. I guess I'll just have to replace them as they die and hope for the best. Rita