Homegrown: Blueberries, hawthorne tree

Are blueberries easy to grow in our area? Are there any soil amendments I need to be aware of before I make a decision to plant them?

— Lois

Blueberries are hard to grow here I’m afraid. They prefer cooler temperatures, high humidity and a rich, organic, well-drained, acid soil.

Basically, we have none of that here. We have sold them on occasion in the past, but they never seem to persist.

The people who have the most success with them plant them in a large container. That way, you can control the soil more readily.

The bigger the container, the easier the plant will be to take care of and the longer it will last. Understand that planting in a container is a temporary situation — the plant won’t last as long as it would if it were growing in the ground.

Try to use something really big, such as a whiskey barrel. You should get six to eight years of good production from a plant in that size container.

You’ll also want to place the container in a shady spot, preferably surrounded by other plants (that will help raise humidity). It’s vitally important to use a good quality potting soil to fill the container, not soil out of your garden.

If you want to plant them in the ground, pick out a cool, shady spot again that’s among other plants. But here you’ll really have to do a super duper job of amending the soil.

Blueberries are acid demanding plants and our soils are alkaline.

You want to dig out a very wide and deep hole and mix the soil with a lot of organic matter. Use a mixture of different products. I like using one-third to one-half Soil Pep and half to two-thirds peat moss. The peat is very acidic which is what they like.

Some people just replace the soil, which will work, but it has to be a large hole to really do the job. It wouldn’t be wrong to dig a hole 2–3 feet deep by 5–6 feet wide. That’s a lot of soil to move.

One trick I’ve heard about is to simply bury a big bale of peat moss and plant the blueberry in it. I’m not sure about how long doing that will last (I have my doubts), but it may be worth a try.

I just noticed a scrape on my hawthorne tree. What can I do, or do I need to do anything with it to protect it from the sun or insects/borers?

— Judy

I wouldn’t be too concerned about that scrape. It should heal in a year or two and carry on as if nothing happened.

Of course, there’s a chance that some bad guy could take advantage of the wound, but that’s pretty rare as long as the tree is healthy.

I would first trim around the wound to remove any loose pieces or flaps of bark at the edge. That loose bark is dead anyway (or soon will be) and exposing the wound to our dry air actually helps prevent most diseases from getting started.

I’m also not a big fan of painting the wound. I wouldn’t wrap it or cover it, either. When the wound is covered like that, bad things can get started in the dark, moist, hidden environment.

The last thing to do is to take good care of the tree. Make sure it’s watered properly, and avoid any additional stress.

As I mentioned before, it’s the tree that will do the healing and your job is to support it as much as you’re able. A vigorous, healthy tree will have stronger natural internal defenses against any potential invader.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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