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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - January 20, 2010

From: Pleasanton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Getting blueberries to grow in Atascosa County, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'm trying to get blueberries started in my garden. I mulch constantly and have tons of success with almost every thing. But last year my blueberries were new plants and after harvesting a few berries the plants never grew and finally during the heat of the summer they died. I have new plants and a new resolve but I'm thinking they need something different.I've read about coffee grounds and pine needles . Pine needles I have due to Loblolly pines in the yard but coffee grounds is a negative since I 'm not a coffee drinker. My blackberries and bluebonnets are both prolific and it's ironic because they are on different sides of the PH scale . What's the best mulch for blueberries ? My soil is more sandy loam than black dirt.

ANSWER:

I'm assuming you have Vaccinium virgatum [syn. = Vaccinium ashei] (rabbiteye or smallflower blueberry), one of the most popular blueberries for the South. If that's the case, your soil pH in Atascosa County is much too high for this plant that thrives in an acid soil with a pH of 4.0 to 5.0.  The article, Blueberries for Texas, from Texas A&M University Extension Service tells you how to create the ideal conditions for successfully growing your blueberries.  First of all, Drs. Stein, Kamas and Parsons recommend that you grow your plants in 20-30 gallon whiskey barrels (or similar-sized containers with good drainage) so that you can maintain their roots in the ideal growing media with the required acid pH.  They suggest growing them in a soilless peat-based mix that drains well.  They also say that the plants need full sunlight for maximum growth and fruit production.  You can also read Dr. Jerry Parsons' recommendations for Growing Acid-Loving Plants in South Central Texas.

You can have your soil tested to determine its pH level; but, unless you have been working a great deal of peat moss into it, you can pretty well bet on it being considerably higher than the recommended acid pH for these blueberries.  If you do decide to have your soil tested, you can download a Soil Sample Information Form from your Atascosa County Extension Service.

 

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