Little pink and white lantern shaped flowers are popping out all over SunnysideLOCAL Farm. That means one thing….the blueberry bushes are waking up from their dormancy and bud break is rampant. This signal tells you that it’s time for some early spring care. If you have bushes, this is probably the most work you’ll do with them all year (which isn’t much). Below we will give you our suggestions for Wake-Up Care and show you how our bushes are doing. Read on.
Wake-Up Care includes: fertilizing, light pruning, irrigation system check and observing the general condition of the bushes. Our fertilizer is a nutrient rich cocktail. Part one is a 50/50 mix of peat moss and organic compost. Part two is a balanced organic fertilizer specifically for acid loving plants. Blueberries require Low nitrogen fertilization and the acid lovers fertilizer has an NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) rating of 5-5-3. Too much nitrogen produces lots of foliage at the expense of berries. E.B. Stone is my company of choice when it comes to most growing amendments.
To take care of 70 blueberry bushes, I pack a toolbox to roll around the grove with fertilizer and compost soil mix. In the wheelbarrow you’ll notice the 50/50/compost mix, acid fertilizer and tools for correcting irrigation problems and doing some light pruning. OFF WE GO!
This photo shows a grouping of Southmoon Southern Highbush blueberries. They are budding like crazy and waiting for the nutrients that will carry them through their producing season. Hoops provide structure for bird netting during berry production and shade cloth in the heat of summer.
To Fertilize: Remove old leaves that have fallen onto the soil over the winter. This allows the organic fertilizer to have direct contact with the soil. Add a heaping garden spade full of Acid Lovers fertilizer to soil surface. DO NOT TILL IN. Blueberries have VERY shallow roots and working the area with tools could damage precious new growth. Next, you will add the 50/50 compost-peat moss mix. Check the soil level in your pot. If you have had the bush for a few years soil will settle and compact. The amount you add to each pot may vary because of this. Now give the bush a good soaking of water to get all the nutrients filtering down.
Another part of Wake Up Care is light pruning. While you have this opportunity to look closely at the bushes clip out any dead wood that may have been missed from last season. You don’t want to do any major pruning until after harvest. This could disrupt your fruiting. If you are using drip irrigation, now is a good time to check your lines and emitters to make sure flow of water is optimal for the upcoming season.
While you are in a position to observe, look at the leaves. Do you see any signs of Chlorosis, a condition signaled by light yellow leaves with darker green veins. One of the causes of this is a soil environment that has become too alkaline for the plant and iron absorption is prevented. In this case, add a handful of Soil Sulfur with the fertilizer and water in. Within a week or two color should return to a nice forest green.
A cove of blueberry bushes basking in the warm spring sun. The branches look a little skinny and twiggy, but new leaves are unfurling everyday and within weeks there will be a lush green canopy. They are well fed now, loaded with blossoms and mid-April we are looking forward to a sensational harvest. Can’t wait!