Blueberries in wicking buckets...

16 April, 2014

My blueberries have been variable performers. I've had them since the early days of around 2009, when I first bought three blueberry plants from a pick-your-own blueberry farm.

As I was still in the process of working out the backyard, I planted them in pots. In their first year they produced a handful of tasty berries. However, this was their peak haul. In 2011 I planted them out in the front yard amongst the strawberry plants. Knowing blueberries like an acid soil, I planted them into a dug out pit filled with an acid potting mix and mulched them with pine needles from my Christmas tree. That year they produced a grand total of two berries. But that was ok, they were only newly planted, they were probably still finding their feet. The next year I got barely any better with 11 berries. This year was about the same.

Things are not looking good.

So I have decided to go back to the pots, but with an added extra. Wicking buckets.

I've been reading a lot about wicking beds from foodnstuff and frogdancer.

They are basically a system where there is a water reservoir in whatever planting area (be it large or small) which maintains moisture in the soil and stops the plant drying out (essential in our climate and especially for plants like blueberries which are relatively shallow rooted and love moisture).

I have decided to go with wicking buckets as I felt they would be a good way of getting a pot size container which I can easily move depending on the season, so I can give them more shade in summer and less in winter.

I bought large buckets from the local big warehouse hardware and gardening store.

I drilled three 1cm-ish round holes around 10cms from the base of the bucket, which left a good 35cms of growing space above the holes.

View from top:


View from side:


I then filled not quite up to the holes with sand, and added my tube which allows me to water directly into the reservoir. These I cut from some old vacume cleaner tubing that has been hanging around in the garage for many a year. A win for re-purposing.


Then a layer of garden mesh was added (sorry for the poor quality photo).


The mesh provides a barrier between the sand and the soil/potting mix in the bucket, which helps to keep the reservior free from blockages. It also covers the holes and prevents soil loss from the drainage holes.

I then filled the buckets with an acid potting mix, and dug up my blueberries and replanted them into the buckets. I also planted out two more blueberries to add to the collection and hopefully extend the season.

This is the current line up:


From left to right we have 'Northland' and 'Reveille' which are the two newer plants, and then the older plants 'Rose', 'Bridgitta' and 'Marg'. I love how the last three all have feminine names.


Now these are not quite done yet. I watered these in well from above, mostly to help settle the potting mix in around the newly planted roots. Though when they settle in I will be watering via the tube directly to the reservior.


Success!

Next step is to add some worms, so they will keep the soil airated and fertilised.


Go on, get in there son!


I also added some compost/mulch, to add nutrients and prevent water loss from evaporation.


There you have it. Blueberry wicking buckets.


Hopefully this lot will produce lots of tasty berries come summer. Otherwise I will just have to hang up the blueberry growing gloves, and that is just too sad to contemplate.

12 comments:

  1. Nice work. My great fear with blueberries is that they won't get enough chill. I have some of the low-chill evergreen varieties – Sunshine Blue, Sharp Blue, and Burst – to get in early for global/Melbourne warming, and a higher-chill Brigitta in a self-watering pot, and a Chinese blueberry which hasn't flowered yet and almost died over the summer. Brigitta did pretty well last Summer, for a young plant, so deciding my paranoia about chill is (for now) unwarranted, I've gone and ordered a Reveille from Diggers'.

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    1. Cheers. But now you've made me a bit scared of insufficient chill. I bought my first lot before I knew of such things, but I figured if they grew at the farm just outside metro melb they would grow for me. Maybe not so true?... We shall see...

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    2. Ignore me. I'm all about the dangers of global warming and the chilling hours needed for my favourite foods to fruit. I lie awake at night worrying about a world with no hazelnuts. Given that my highbush blueberry fruited last season, and this in a suburb that's 80% heat retentive concrete and brick walls, there's probably nothing to worry about, blueberry-in-melbourne-wise.

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    3. Not at all, I'm totally with you. I do wonder if my apple tree collection is a potentially worthless thing into the future, where winter chilling time is but a distant memory. There may be no effect right now, but not to say that won't be the case in the future.
      But I'll take the blueberries (and apples) as long as I can!

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  2. Looking good! Keep us posted. The white buckets will be better than my black strawberry buckets, because they'll reflect the heat and keep the roots cool. I'm trying to get cuttings struck from my one blueberry in a pot so I can try some in wicking buckets. May have to end up buying some though. Cuttings are difficult and slow. :-(

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    1. Cheers, I shall. I hadn't thought about bucket colour selection, they were just chosen on the size I wanted, so that's a bonus. I agree, I've taken cuttings of blueberry but they all died. Not an easy task, but good luck.

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  3. I think it'll work well.
    I transplanted two (or was it 3?) blueberries into a large wicking bed. The first year.... not so good. But O planted them at the wrong time because I was remodelling where they lived, so I basiacally sketched the sign of the cross over them and said, "Good luck, my lovelies!"
    This year I expect good things. Your set up looks great. Enjoy your future glut of blueberries!

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    1. I hope you are right! Good to hear they did well in the wicking bed. I hope you get a fabulous crop also!

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  4. They looks so great. My lonely blueberry bush died last year, despite my efforts to keep it happy in the ground in my one wind-free corner. If I replace it this year I will definitely be trying your bucket method.

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    1. Cheers! Good luck, I'd love to hear how yours goes. I didn't find wind an issue (although my garden is reasonably sheltered) but they really didn't like the heat and dry weather.

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  5. Hi Bek.
    Just wondering how your blueberries have fared in the wicking tubs.
    Gordon

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    1. Hi Gordon
      They are doing great! I've had quite a few berries off the plants in tubs, but am needing to repot this year I think. They have done well in summer in a full sun position, which in previous years in the ground they needed a lot of water to keep them happy. I'd never to bother to plant in the ground in our dry climate.
      Hope that helps :)

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