For The Answer
in San Antonio
you like the taste of blueberries?
Do you fondly remember picking blueberries in the North or
Southeastern US? All the blueberry species require acid soil
which you would think eliminates them as a plant for San Antonio but
three horticulturists from the Texas Cooperative Extension—Jerry
Parsons, Larry Stein and Jim Kamas have worked out a way we can grow
rabbiteye blueberries in containers here in San Antonio.
Here are their instructions:
require a pH of 4.0 to 5.0 good plant growth.
The plants' feeder roots are very close to the surface and
they do not have root hairs; therefore, good soil moisture management
and mulches will also be required.
plants should be planted in a whiskey barrel size (20-30 gallon) container.
A soilless peat-base mix that drains rapidly should be used.
Ideally, when you pour water around the base of a plant, water
should soon be coming out of the bottom of the container. This not only indicates proper drainage but also enables leaching
of fertilizer salts, which, if accumulated, can damage a blueberry
plant's roots. Blueberries
thrive in 100 percent peat moss, so there is no limit to the amount
you can use and if you are doubtful about the pH of the potting mix
you plan to use, simply add more peat moss.
Be sure to incorporate a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote
into the peat-base potting mix. Avoid the use of rapid-release, nitrate fertilizer
and use an acid-based, water-soluble fertilizer once a month during
the growing season after the plants are established.
you have mixed or purchased a well-drained soilless peat-base mix
in which to grow the blueberry plant, be sure that the container being
used has adequate drainage capabilities.
Drainage holes may have to be drilled.
When considering drainage holes, the old saying, "The
more, the merrier" definitely applies.
Also, don't worry about lining the bottom of the container
with course gravel or charcoal to expedite drainage.
Recent research indicates that such a gradient in materials
actually impedes drainage. Heavy duty coasters can be attached to the
bottom of the containers before potting mix is added to allow ease
of movement even though blueberries will not have to be protected
from cold weather--they require cold weather in order to fruit.
critical key to successful blueberry production is sunlight. All berries require full sunlight all day for
maximum production. Minimum
is eight to ten hours of direct (not filtered) sunlight a day. Not only do the plants require full sunlight
when they are planted, but also as they continue to grow. Over time if they become shaded by trees in
your landscape, their production will be much less.
blueberry varieties require cross-pollination so variety selection
will be critical. However,
Tifblue has been shown to be self-fruitful and is the most universally
outstanding rabbiteye blueberry grown to date.
The fruits are large and light blue.
The bush is vigorous and very productive.
Tifblue is more cold hardy than most rabbiteye blueberries
varieties and receives adequate chilling (cold temperatures) to fruit
as far south as Pleasanton, Texas.
Tifblue rabbiteye blueberries require little pruning.
Lower limbs can be thinned out to keep the fruit from touching
the soil, and excessively vigorous upright shoots can be thinned out
several feet from the ground to keep the center of the bush open and
to keep the bearing surface within reach. Spindly, weak, or dead branches should be thinned
out annually during the dormant season.
have a very fine and fibrous root system so mulching is a must. Use some sort of organic mulch such as sphagnum
peat moss. Avoid manures since
most are alkaline and salty. Because
culturing plants in containers severely limits their root spread,
frequent watering and fertilization are essential.
As plants grow larger, more watering is required because water
is being absorbed and transpired.
As temperatures increase more water is evaporated from the
mix and transpired from the plant.
Check the moisture level of the mix with your finger before
watering. If you feel moisture
with your finger DO NOT WATER. Blueberries require good-quality water. It would be best if you could use rainwater
or air-conditioner condensate for irrigation.
To acidify SAWS water add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a gallon
fruit of the Tifblue variety will ripen over a 4 to 6 week period. A normal season can extend from late May to
late July. Don't pick the
berries until they are fully ripe; otherwise the fruit will be bitter. Once the berries begin to ripen they should
be picked every 3 to 5 days. Birds
love blueberries as much as gardeners but the bush is easy to cover
with bird netting. A mature
bush can produce 15 lbs of berries.
If rabbiteye blueberries in a container sounds like something
you would want to try, visit your favorite nursery, many are featuring
Tifblue blueberries at the present time.