Blueberry is a delicious super fruit that can be grown fairly easily at home with the right care. Providing blueberry bushes with proper nutrition is key to getting a good harvest of plump, sweet berries. While store-bought fertilizers will certainly get the job done, homemade options are gentler on the environment and your wallet. This article will explore various homemade fertilizer recipes tailored to meet the nutritional needs of blueberries.
Getting to Know Blueberry Nutrition
Before diving into homemade fertilizer recipes, it’s helpful to understand what nutrients blueberries require and why they are important for optimal growth and fruit production.
Nitrogen – This nutrient promotes healthy leaf and shoot growth. Insufficient nitrogen will result in reduced yields.
Phosphorus – Critical for root growth, fruit development and overall plant vigor.
Potassium – Helps bushes resist disease and supports development of tasty, plump berries.
Calcium – Prevents blossom end rot and promotes cell growth.
Magnesium – Aids in fruit production and gives leaves a rich green color.
Sulfur – Important for fruit flavor and production.
By providing a balanced feeding of these key nutrients, you’ll set your blueberry bushes up for success. Now let’s look at some homemade fertilizer solutions that can deliver what blueberries need.
Simple Homemade Blueberry Fertilizers
1. Coffee Grounds – A Simple Source of Nitrogen. Incorporate used coffee grounds into the soil near your blueberry plants or use them as a mulch. As they decompose, they gradually release nitrogen. Remember to refresh the coffee ground mulch annually.
2. Banana Peels – Contain phosphorus, potassium, calcium and other nutrients. Bury peeled halves under mulch near blueberry bushes. Chop peels into small pieces first to speed decomposition.
3. Wood Ash – Sprinkle lightly around plants as a source of potassium and calcium. Avoid overuse as wood ash can alter soil pH.
4. Grass Clippings – Fresh grass clippings can be used as mulch or allowed to break down into the soil. Be sure they are free of weed seeds and chemicals. Provides nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.
5. Compost – Finished compost contains a balance of nutrients plants need. Mix a few inches into soil or use as mulch. Be sure compost is well decomposed first.
Nutrient-Packed Homemade Fertilizer Recipes
If your bushes need an extra nutrient boost, try one of these more powerful homemade blueberry fertilizer recipes.
1. Fish Fertilizer – Add 2 cups fish emulsion and 1 tablespoon epsom salts to 5 gallons of water. Pour 1 cup per plant monthly. Provides nitrogen, phosphorus and magnesium.
2. Banana Peel Tea – Steep 5 chopped banana peels in 5 gallons of water for 1-2 weeks. Dilute tea 1:1 with water and feed bushes monthly.
3. Fruit & Molasses – Blend together 1 overripe chopped banana, 1 grated apple and 1 tablespoon molasses. Feed 1 cup puree per bush.
4. Compost Tea – Steep 2 gallons mature compost with small amounts of fungal and bacterial food sources like molasses and fish hydrolysate in 10 gallons of water for 2-4 days. Dilute mixture 1:1 with water and feed bushes.
5. Manure Tea – Steep 2 gallons aged manure in 10 gallons of water for 2-4 days. Add some fungal and bacterial food sources in small quantities as mentioned above. Dilute manure tea 1:1 with water and feed bushes monthly.
6. Yogurt & Eggshells – Combine 1 cup of unsweetened yogurt with 2 powdered eggshells. Distribute 1 teaspoon for every foot of the plant’s height around each bush.
7. Bat Guano Tea – Steep 1 cup bat guano in 5 gallons of water for 5 days. Dilute at a 3:1 ratio before feeding. High in phosphorus and nitrogen.
Remember to feed your homemade fertilizer in place of your regular fertilizer rather than in addition to commercial options. Observe how your plants respond and adjust accordingly.
Adjusting Soil PH for Blueberries
For blueberries to flourish, they need soil with a pH level between 4.5 and 5.5. Start by checking your soil’s pH. If it’s not acidic enough, you can naturally adjust it using materials like sulfur, aluminum sulfate, or iron sulfate. Before you plant, mix these substances into the soil. While sulfur gradually reduces pH over a couple of months, the sulfates of aluminum and iron act more swiftly. Your target is to achieve the desired pH in the soil’s upper 6 inches.
The second step is to maintain proper soil pH post-planting. Mulching with pine needles, oak leaves, peat moss or rotted sawdust helps keep soil acidic as they decompose. Coffee grounds or composted manure mixed into the soil 1-2 times per year provides organic matter while releasing additional organic acids. With periodic pH testing and organic amendments as needed, ideal growing conditions for blueberries can be sustained.
Getting the Timing Right
When and how often you feed your blueberry fertilizer can make a big difference in how well bushes respond. Follow these tips.
- Fertilize bushes at planting time to encourage root growth.
- Begin feeding again in early spring when buds break dormancy.
- Repeat feeding every 4-6 weeks during the growing season up until early fall.
- Switch to lower nitrogen fertilizers after mid-summer to harden off plants for winter.
- In warm climates, resume higher nitrogen feeds in late winter.
- Always water plants thoroughly after applying any fertilizer.
With proper nutrition supplied by homemade fertilizers, your blueberry bushes will reward you with abundant, mouthwatering berries for years to come. Experiment to see which organic recipes your bushes respond to best.
Common Blueberry Problems
Even with ideal homemade fertilization, blueberry bushes can sometimes struggle with pest, disease, or other issues. Here are some common challenges and how to address them.
Potential causes for yellowing leaves
- Insufficient nitrogen.
- Iron deficiency.
- Root damage.
- Apply nitrogen-rich fertilizer like compost tea.
- Check soil pH and amend if needed.
- Amend soil with biofertilizers like Trichoderma.
Potential causes for stunted growth
- Extreme temperatures.
- Poor sunlight.
- Shallow roots.
- Unhealthy soil.
- Provide some shade protection during high heat.
- Prune overcrowding branches to improve air flow.
- Mulch to keep roots cool and moist.
- Test and amend soil nutrients and structure.
Potential causes for failure to flower/fruit
- Insufficient chilling hours.
- Unpollinated flowers.
- Verify bush variety matches the climate.
- Avoid heavy pruning.
- Introduce bee habitat to the garden.
Potential causes for blossom drop
- Frost damage.
- Water stress.
- Poor pollination.
- Protect flowers from late spring frosts.
- Maintain even soil moisture before and after bloom.
- Solve the pollination issues.
- Amend soil with copper rich fertilizers.
By identifying vulnerabilities specific to your growing environment and needs of your blueberry varieties, you can take the right actions to get your plants thriving again. Pay close attention and course correct until you find the right formula for success. With time and care, your blueberry bushes will become fruitful, healthy additions to your garden.