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  • Flustered. Need some advice.

    This is my 3rd season with blueberries. After a great showing last year, and a LOT of good growth, they are completely crapping out on me this year. I've got 1 plant dead, and another starting to go the same route, and I'd like some advice on why it might be.

    My 3 remaining plants are currently showing a little bit of iron deficiency (pale leaves, dark veins), but nothing terrible. I didn't have this problem at all last year, which is curious. I use holly-tone and elemental sulfur to lower the pH for them, though I don't have a pH tester. My plants are also in a potting mix that is peat based, so it should have a slightly acidic pH to begin with.

    Basically, the following is happening:
    1) a few twigs begin to die. leaves dry out and curl
    2) the whole branch begins to die
    3) repeat until entire plant is dead. process seems to take 3-4 weeks (week 4 for the dead one, currently week 2 for the one dying)

    I've toyed with some ideas: Overwatering, lowering the pH too much, heat stress, or some pest. I do not think its the heat we've had this summer (95+ for like...2 weeks). Last summer wasn't that hot here, but we still had plenty of mid-90 temps and the plants just thrived. They would wilt a bit, but they'd bounce back after watering. Plus my largest potted plant (with a pale pot) is the one currently dying. I would have expected plants to cook in the smaller black pots before the big pale pot.

    I would lean towards overwatering. The thing is: that dead plant I pulled up...the soil wasn't soggy. It was...well....about how I wanted it, moisture-wise. So unless it HAD been really wet, and dried out as the plant died....also, I'm not watering any more than I was last year (every couple days). I will say that the current one dying is REALLY heavy....I lifted the rootball, and its not dripping or rotting or anything, but it is quite heavy, and clearly doesn't need to be watered for at least a few days.

    Any ideas/thoughts? I'm tempted to cull the one currently dying. Its never made great berries anyways....always small and slightly tart....but I'd hate to lose my last 2 plants. Plus, if this is going to be a recurring theme, I'd like to know how to prevent it.
    Brett in Athens, GA zone 7b/8a

  • #2
    Could be excessively low pH. Probably more likely if in pots than in ground. You need a pH tester. Unfortunately most are unreliable.

    I've saved a couple by watering with alkaline well water.
    Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7


    • #3
      What kind of water are you using, rain water, tap water, well water?


      • #4
        I know that it is done but I can't imagine try to maintain a BB in a pot. Their root system is spreading and very close to the surface. They need consistent moisture and good drainage. It is possible that in between watering you are suffering root damage and with such a small soil volume maybe you caused a chemical burn with additives. You mentioned they would wilt a bit. I would say you should never let them dry out that much. I'm not saying you did this but just trying to suggest issues.

        There is another possibility. If a young BB over produced it can kill the plant. You mentioned the second year was really good. Did You mean with berry production.

        I hope you can resolve this. It can be very frustrating.
        Last edited by Darkman; 06-30-2015, 11:06 PM. Reason: Spellchecker changed word
        Darkman AKA Charles in Pensacola South of I-10 zone 8b/9a


        • #5
          To answer questions: I'm using tap water (city water). Wilting is usually only on new shoot growth for the year. The second year was good, but I really just meant healthy, decently productive, etc. Nothing outstanding. They started out great this year too, come to think of it. It's only been the last month that they've been kicking the bucket.

          I'm leaning towards chemical burn, now that I'm thinking about it. Last year I was pretty reserved with additives, and growth was modest. Naturally, I thought adding a bunch of pH lowering things and fertilizer would help. I think I was mistaken. Hollytone+fertilizer+sulfur....I might skim the top inch or two of soil and add new soil, and see if I can slow the damage.

          Oh, and if I was overwatering....we just got a 2" downpour :-/ Crap.

          Sucks for this year, but if it boils down to it, my local nursery carries about 20 varieties for 9 bucks each in the spring in 1/2# pots.
          Brett in Athens, GA zone 7b/8a


          • #6

            Without a PH meter, a decent PH meter you are just chasing your tail. If you would like take a baggie of your good and moist soil put it in to a bag and mail it to me and I will test it for you. Don't need to send much, just a cup or so. That would eliminate one variable.

            Wilting happens on young growth on some varieties.

            Are you 100% sure they are not drying out between watering's?

            You can put BB in pots much larger than the plant, helps to keep the soil evenly moist.

            Would use a mix of peat and screened pine (purple bag walmart)

            Sadly The signs of too high of a PH and too low are exactly the same.

            Cutting sales will start Tuesday Nov 1 at 9:00 eastern


            • brettjm
              brettjm commented
              Editing a comment
              "Sadly The signs of too high of a PH and too low are exactly the same."

              This is what leads me to believe its a low pH issue. They were fine last year, and after adding a bunch of pH lowering goodies this year, they begin to die. That tells me whatever the old pH was, it was fine, but lowering it has caused some or all of the soil to become too acidic. I still can't fathom underwatering. The soil looked good on each plant I pulled up to check the root ball.

              I appreciate the pH offer. Realistically, I can take a sample to a lab on campus. My old lab has a pH meter, and I could totally go use it if it comes down to it.