In the Garden: Fertilizers not the only blueberry pitfall

Dear Anne,

“Last year I had few berries on my plants. What is the best fertilizer for blueberries?”

Neil, South Langley

Poor blueberry crops may not be caused by lack of fertilizer. In order to produce well, blueberries also need acidic soil, lots of water in dry spells, at least one other compatible blueberry nearby, and (in some areas) protection from birds.

But if you’re sure your blueberries need fertilizer, liquid fish fertilizer is good, because it acidifies the soil.

Fertilizer for acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons or azaleas is also excellent for blueberries.

Blueberries given too much fertilizer develop lush growth that can die back in winter. High nitrogen fertilizer is especially damaging, and does nothing for berry production.

Wood shavings or sawdust can help acidify the soil when you plant blueberries, and also makes a good mulch for them.

Peat moss is a great acidifier if you dig it in when you plant blueberries, but it’s a terrible mulch, because once it gets dry water runs off instead of soaking in.

Blueberries may have short of water last summer. It was hard to keep up with watering, as last year’s drought went on so long.

The number of blueberry plants can also have an impact. Blueberries self-pollinate, but produce bigger harvests if there are three bushes of compatible kinds – but one of them must be of a different species.

Compatibility depends on the blueberries flowering at the same time, so that pollen can mingle. Nurseries normally sell compatible kinds together.

Birds steal the berries. Some gardeners don’t get any berries unless they net them. And in rural areas, bears may harvest blueberries.

Dear Anne,

“Is it possible to prune a Japanese maple tree without sacrificing its beautiful pendulum shape? I have a two-foot treeling (as I call small trees) on my balcony, and I would like to keep it small enough to move. With bursitis in my shoulder, my new motto is, ‘If I can’t lift it, I can’t have it.’”

Caroline Moore, New Westminster

Japanese maples need very little top-growth pruning, just the removal of diseased, broken, or dead branches.

In order to keep it small and weeping, it’s far more use to keep the roots pruned. It doesn’t need to be done every year – usually every three or four years is about right.

Pruning the top growth will only encourage the tree to grow faster, but pruning the roots reduces the vigor available for the tree’s growth process, making it easier to retain the lovely drooping shape, and you should be able to keep it in the same pot for many years.

Actually, what you will be trying to achieve is something similar to a bonsai tree, though less intricate and on a different scale.

Dear Anne,

“I have a single pear tree, planted four years ago. When is the best time to graft it?”

Ann Parker, Terrace

Early spring when the buds on your tree begin to swell is the best time to graft it.

The swelling of the buds show that sap is beginning to move, and it will be ready to surge from the tree into the graft.

Just Posted

Kodiaks dominate spring season

Seven lopsided wins in a row for the 2018 provincial midget champions

Survey finds SkyTrain extension has 85 per cent support in Surrey, Langley

TransLink says there has been record-level response in public engagement about the project

Public invited to Alzheimer walk in Langley

A Langley seniors complex and a North Langley business group have teamed… Continue reading

OPP looking for suspect after Best Buy credit-card fraud in Surrey

Ontario Provincial Police believe suspect has links to Surrey and Langley

Aldergrove shoppers watch Safeway shelves ‘go empty’ before store closes

Store closes Saturday, locals express concern over FreshCo’s product quality

BREAKING: Court says B.C. can’t restrict oil shipments in key case for Trans Mountain

A five-judge Appeal Court panel agreed unanimously that B.C.’s proposed legislation was not constitutional

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

Body found after fire at Surrey homeless camp, police say

Surrey RCMP say the body was found inside a shed after firefighters extinguished the fire

RCMP probe hit-and-run of Richmond senior

The man, who is in his mid-70s, was walking with his wife when he was allegedly struck

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Coquitlam crash kills one person, injured two others

Investigators with the RCMP criminal crash unit are working to determing the cause of the incident

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

Vancouver man in serious condition after crash between motorcycle, transport truck

The man, 40, remains in hospital after a Thursday collision. Police believe speed was a factor

Most Read