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blueberry shrubs from seed

                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
has anyone done this? I am wondering about a couple of things..1) is it really necessary to do the whole blueberries-and-water-in-a-blender-and-then -strain=and-dry thing and 2) how likely it might be that blueberries grown from a container might not crosspollinate each other when they are grown and how to address that..get boxes of blueberries from different farms and hope for the best?

I am trying a couple of things..one)  seeds taken from the fruit and dried and two) blueberries which got away from us and started to mould being stirred into some soil and left. After all, blueberries in the wild hardly get processed through a blender with water!.I suppose whatever applies to blueberries would also apply to strawberries? (except I think strawberries are self fertile).  I'm not sure if I should leave the soil enhanced blueberries outside in direct  rain and sun..they apparently need to go through cold stratification to sprout and come winter there won't be a problem supplying that. I am keeping the dry seeds aside until after that and then I will plant them next January or so in the house to get them going (hopefully), when I will also bring in the ones which have been in soil.

Comments? suggestions? voices of experience?
Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 398
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
  10
I tried growing several blueberry varieties from seed this winter and they all failed.  Not sure what I did wrong.  I also grew goji, aronia and seaberry from seed and had 99% germination.  So blueberries must be very picky.
jacque greenleaf
volunteer

Joined: Jan 21, 2009
Posts: 464
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
"After all, blueberries in the wild hardly get processed through a blender with water!"

No, but they do go through digestive tracts, including gizzards.

I don't know specifically about blueberries, but I do know that it is common for seeds to have mechanisms, physical and/or chemical, to prevent them from germinating "too soon" - in the wrong season or too near to the mother plant.

Philip Freddolino


Joined: Jun 02, 2010
Posts: 53
You can certainly grow blueberries from seed but they will not be true to type from the cultivar they came from. Also It takes a long time till your first yield. Root cuttings are much faster to yield and will be a clone of the parent plant/cultivar.
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
Philip Freddolino wrote:
You can certainly grow blueberries from seed but they will not be true to type from the cultivar they came from. Also It takes a long time till your first yield. Root cuttings are much faster to yield and will be a clone of the parent plant/cultivar.


Yes I am aware of that but to do that you need blueberry bushes, at least two for them to produce berries.. Around here those run about $15-20 per bush.  One blueberry holds many seeds several hold that many more. If I can get a whole bunch to sprout and grow the very least I will get will be some shrubs, possibly a a few which produce lots of lovely fruit.

Also, any seeds which are viable after coming through our winter might be a little tougher than imported bushes; we are right on the fringe of viable climates, even with windbreaks and such microclimates. We have Saskatoons here but they are trees and so harder for me to deal with so decided to try  to grow some blueberry shrubs which will be acclimatized to this  area as much as possible.  Right now space and time are in greater supply than $20 bills 

jacque g wrote:
"After all, blueberries in the wild hardly get processed through a blender with water!"

No, but they do go through digestive tracts, including gizzards.

I don't know specifically about blueberries, but I do know that it is common for seeds to have mechanisms, physical and/or chemical, to prevent them from germinating "too soon" - in the wrong season or too near to the mother plant.


True which  is why I have put some outside to go through the weather seasoning and dried some to try that way. Water will usually not contain enzymes and acids etc.  that act the way stomach acids in a bear would  or grind at the seeds the way a gizzard will. The question about closeness to the mother plant is one I hadn't considered but on You Tube I have seen seeds sprouting in quite close proximity to each other...the seeds are so small I'm not sure how you could avoid that entirely.

They weren't using dirt though but a sterile potting mix so maybe the seeds are susceptible to moulds and other beasties in the soil. I thought that perhaps those would substitute for the stomach acids and gizzards and so forth. Well..it is the best sort of experiment as it isn't costing anything but time.

I think that the business of them needing at least of month of freezing temps to stratify the seeds is what prevents them from sprouting in the wrong season. That's easilly supplied in this climate ! but apparently you can also stuff them in the freezer for a month or so instead.

jacque greenleaf
volunteer

Joined: Jan 21, 2009
Posts: 464
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
"I have seen seeds sprouting in quite close proximity to each other...the seeds are so small I'm not sure how you could avoid that entirely."

Yes, they will germinate and come up very densely, but few or maybe only one of them will survive the intense competition.

It's good to know what a particular species does in the wild, but gardening is manipulation of the plant's natural propensities in order to maximize production for human purposes.

If you don't have the money to buy bushes, are there people in your area growing blueberries who would let you take cuttings? Or try the resources swap on this forum or on other sites, such as GardenWeb. That would also be a good way to learn about blueberry reproduction in more detail, since people who are successful with cuttings have to be pretty knowledgeable about growing that particular species.
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508



jacque g wrote:
"I have seen seeds sprouting in quite close proximity to each other...the seeds are so small I'm not sure how you could avoid that entirely."

Yes, they will germinate and come up very densely, but few or maybe only one of them will survive the intense competition.

It's good to know what a particular species does in the wild, but gardening is manipulation of the plant's natural propensities in order to maximize production for human purposes.

If you don't have the money to buy bushes, are there people in your area growing blueberries who would let you take cuttings? Or try the resources swap on this forum or on other sites, such as GardenWeb. That would also be a good way to learn about blueberry reproduction in more detail, since people who are successful with cuttings have to be pretty knowledgeable about growing that particular species.

If they will germinate then I am in business..I think. The ones in soil are likely to get pretty stressed as I just stuck the whole berries in there so  IF they germinate they will have to be dealt with early and ruthlessly but the dried seeds can be mixed at perhaps 5% ratio with something else..even fine sand, so spread out a little more.

Cuttings are a good idea but 1)I don't know anyone in the area growing blueberries  and 2) I want to see if  blueberries started from seed will be hardier, so a good reason to try to get a lot of plants. Then I can select out those which  cope best with our climate and also bear well, to take cuttings from them. I bought some hazelnut bushes and some hedge cherries this year and intend to take cuttings from them next year after they have become well established .

I don't know if there is any such thing as Garden Web in Canada and the  Canada/US border is a significant barrier to plant material other than seeds.

jacque greenleaf
volunteer

Joined: Jan 21, 2009
Posts: 464
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
There are several Canadian forums on GardenWeb, including an exchange - http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/excan/
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
Thanks for the link.  I was going to join Garden Web but they want too much info; I get too much crap coming in now both by phone and email from places that buy email lists! I don't join ANYTHING that requires information which makes me personally identifiable to the world. I know that anyone can get any info they want anyway but why make it easier than you need to? Otherwise it looks like a great site.  oh well.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Hi all,

I bought a half-dozen blueberry plants in pots two years ago. Last year, only two of them fruited, and the berries were nice and huge, but the overall yield was piddly. I am keeping an eye on the soil acidity, but I think what I am going to do is go to some clear-cuts that my family and I frequent when in central Ontario where we go blueberry picking. I'm going to simply keep a third to a fifth of all the berries we gather (we sometimes take entire days, and those 4L milk jugs and water containers, fill up as many as we can) and maybe some cuttings, too. If I had chickens, I'd paddock them where I want the blueberries and feed the berries to the chickens until there were no more berries and until the chickens stop shitting. I was thinking then I'd get as much of the same sort of pine duff as I find in their natural environment, and probably some mushroom slurry from the chanterelles we usually find in the same place. I figure apeing their natural environment will do wonders. I figure any problems anyone is having with blueberries can be solved by sourcing genetic material from the clearcuts in which they thrive. Sure, they'll be tiny, smaller than peas, but to me, the taste of wild blueberries beats the pants off the larger cultivars.

-CK
Ivan Weiss


Joined: Dec 19, 2009
Posts: 157
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
I have had two gnarly old blueberry bushes on my place for almost 30 years. Last year I kept the weeds down, watered them more frequently, and pruned off considerable dead wood, and they rewarded me with a bumper crop and sent up plenty of new growth. Last week I took 16 softwood cuttings with at least three buds apiece on each of them, twist-tied them together, dipped them in a bucket of willow water for 24 hours, then stuck each of them into a 1-gallon pot filled with homemade potting mix, and hoped for the best.

All my books and the web sites I have consulted say this is by and large the easiest way to propagate blueberries. We'll see.


Pastured poultry, pork, and beef on Vashon Island, WA.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Thanks Ivan,

What's up with willow water? How do you make it, and how does it work? what else will it work on?

-CK
George Lee


Joined: Mar 15, 2011
Posts: 528
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
You can try from seed,but I believe you'd be better served buying reputable
young seedlings. Unless you have a really nice hoophouse, or light kits with nice seeding tray/pod situations..They're very tough to grow in numbers. I have a source for 1.50 shrub seedlings.


Seed Swap via Letter | Livingwind.tumblr.com | sustainable seed co
Craig Dobbelyu


Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 955
Location: Maine (zone 5)
    
  31
My property has a lot of small patches of low bush blueberries scattered about the field. I'd like to get them to spread so that they all merge into one big patch. Of course the space between the patches is currently various field grasses and small black cherry trees (3-4 ft tall). I was thinking that they would spread on their own since they grow very well in the wild here. Is that a fair assumption as long as I continue to discourage the grass and weeds?



"You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result”

-Gandhi
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Hi All,

Craig, were it possible for you to graze livestock on the patches and if you seeded the grazed area with nitrogen-fixers and accumulators, I think you could accelerate what you're trying to do. I would be careful, though, to make sure that you have a ground-cover layer and that you keep it away from monoculture by encouraging fruiting shrubs, and possibly those black cherries you already have. Just for disease control, you understand.

-CK
Craig Dobbelyu


Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 955
Location: Maine (zone 5)
    
  31
Chris Kott wrote:Hi All,

Craig, were it possible for you to graze livestock on the patches and if you seeded the grazed area with nitrogen-fixers and accumulators, I think you could accelerate what you're trying to do. I would be careful, though, to make sure that you have a ground-cover layer and that you keep it away from monoculture by encouraging fruiting shrubs, and possibly those black cherries you already have. Just for disease control, you understand.

-CK


Great Idea! Perhaps I can finish a batch of meat chickens in the blueberry patch after I've filled my freezer with berries. Last year I got about 30 quarts put up. In the same area I have some wild roses, wild strawberries, some blackberries and mixed grasses. Hopefully I could get the chickens to clear the grasses out while they eat leftover berries. Would clover be a good cover?
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
I love clover. The only bad thing I've ever heard is that consumption of Red Clover has been linked to infertility in sheep. So as long as you aren't grazing sheep...

The other thing you might want to consider (and not knowing much about your specific situation) is to see if black locust might grow in your area. From what I gather from Paul's podcasts, you can, if the purpose of planting them is chop-and-drop and not lumber purposes, keep them trimmed as small as they will tolerate, or whatever you feel would work best, but I like the idea of having a tree or shrub you cut back for mulch that fertilizes through corresponding root zone die-off.

But it sounds like with little effort, you have the groundwork for a full food forest. If the soil is acidic, which the blueberries suggest if they got there naturally, then I would suggest you look at what self-pruning conifers live in your area. For me it would be white pine in really good soil, red pine in poor, and probably a variety that fit the bill. I would innoculate the root zones of the seedlings with culinary species of mushroom spore that grow naturally in your area, or one that is specifically suited to a species of conifer you are planting. In my case, I'd be looking at some type of chanterelle. I would bet, though, that by putting in solid building blocks of the system that naturally support the blueberries' optimal growing conditions, and those of the other fruiting species you mentioned, your overall productivity will go up.

-CK
Craig Dobbelyu


Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 955
Location: Maine (zone 5)
    
  31
Chris: Thanks for the input. I'm located on the mid-coast of Maine. I took over an abandoned fruit farm that's been neglected for at least 20 years. The previous owner let all the trees grow tangled with grapes and the berry fields were bush hogged as recently as 3 years ago for aesthetics while trying to sell the property.

I waited and watched with great patience for the last 2 years to see what would/could be salvaged. So far I've managed to harvest respectable amounts of blueberry, blackberry, grapes, raspberry, apples, plums, wild strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and a few mushrooms. We have a lot of Ash, Maple, Oak, Black Cherry, Apple and Hawthorn trees. Almost all trees are only a few years old. Eastern white pine and Eastern Hemlock grow easily here. I've located a Beech tree that produced nuts last year but the squirrels found the tree before I did.
There's a lot of potential here and the only limiting factors are Time and Money... as always.

Considering that the Blueberries that are growing right now are still overrun with grasses and weeds, What can I do Before the shrubs begin to flower to increase yields for this coming summer? It's too much space to hand weed (3/4 acre) and I won't begin with chickens until later this spring. Could the shrubs handle a vigorous raking early in the year to clear out debris and make room for seed germination of clover? Maybe I can divide the plots into experimental areas and try a few different things?

Deb Stephens


Joined: Dec 03, 2011
Posts: 219
Location: SW Missouri
    
    7
This is a good video and should help answer your questions. We bought seed from this guy but haven't planted them yet. I'll let you know how it turns out.

http://youtu.be/HCMKfXdRiV4

Just ignore the stuff about fungicide and the Miracle Grow product placement in video 2. Also... his version of a light watering kinda tells me why he needs fungicide!
scott pratt


Joined: Mar 04, 2012
Posts: 2
This is somewhat random, and doesn't answer the starting question but does anyone here know of companion plants for blueberries? So far I have clover, and have thought about putting strawberries near by, and some other flowering plants to attract bees. Is there some type of plant that is blueberries's true companion like corn and beans, or tomato and marigold?


Banjo Pratt

Get off your butt and on your feet
out of the shade and in the heat
we're going to pick some banjo!
Mike Guillory


Joined: Oct 16, 2011
Posts: 26
I transplanted 12 root cuttings from some 30 year old bushes that were on my dads place. They have literally taken off and I do believe that all of them are going to make it. They were transplanted in Nov. along a ditch and mulched heavily with pine straw. Digging the root cuttings was easy. It shouldn't be hard to find someone that would be willing to let you dig some up.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
I'm not understanding why blueberries should be so hard to start. They are, in the areas of Ontario where I go to pick wild blueberries, a primary successor species in coniferous clearcuts. They get there somehow, and as logging roads are a physical barrier to root system propagation, I'm guessing that starting from seed in such an area is critical. And it happens by itself following disruption caused by logging activities. Even in an undisturbed area, when an opening is made in the canopy by a fallen tree or two, the blueberries pop up in the sun spot. It is no surprise that you've had great success using pine straw, Mike. Tell me, have you noticed any mushrooms growing out of your pine-mulched area? I'm guessing that fostering all the sub-soil life that supports the blueberries would greatly improve matters, as in your case, but I'm just guessing about the mechanism at work, besides increased acidity, behind the pine straw mulch.

-CK
Craig Dobbelyu


Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 955
Location: Maine (zone 5)
    
  31
Blueberries NEED acidic soil and a lot of sun. Pine straw is a great idea.

Like Chris, my area is almost overrun with wild blueberry fields. To rejuvenate the plants and make harvesting easier, blueberry fields are burned every few years by the growers here. This removes old dead material, grasses, seeds and pests. The blueberries are shortened to a "manageable" height for the harvesting rake and will produce a crop 2 years after being burned. Small fields can be mowed but the mower damage is more detrimental than burning so I've heard. I'm interested to see how things go with running chickens on the berries after harvest this year.

I'm willing to bet that the trouble most people are having with starting the plants is that they are too attentive to them. I'm beginning to get the impression that blueberries need a moderate amount of "abuse" to do well. In a kind way of course. Seeds need to be treated as if they've been through a birds gut I guess. I notice that the places in my area that have new berry shrubs also have trees that the wild birds perch themselves on just overhead.
Ivan Weiss


Joined: Dec 19, 2009
Posts: 157
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
@Chris Kott:

Willow water has been known for years to be an effective rooting medium. This link provides a good overview, but it only mentions in passing the value of the willow as a fodder crop, which is considerable. My "bible", "The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation," says: "Cuttings should be placed upright in the willow extract and allowed to absorb for 24 hours and then stuck."

The Reference Manual, which by and large recommends commercial rooting hormone preparations, warns that results of using willow water "are not always reproducible," but says that it works quite well for certain species (it does not specify) and says that "apparently most willow species work with equal effectiveness."

I note that the Reference Manual is mostly a guide for professional nursery operators and horticulturalists, for whom any margin of error, if one exists at all, is very slim, and therefore the certainty of a commercial rooting hormone is preferable. As for me, I have a big 35-year-old weeping willow in my front yard, and I use it to root all cuttings. In addition, it provides plenty of valuable fodder for my cattle in the dry summer months. I hope this is helpful.
Rion Mather


Joined: May 31, 2012
Posts: 644
    
    1
I am trying to grow from seed two types of blueberries. One is the Northsky and the other is a mystery dwarf strain from a farmer. I am interested to see if this works. I have received input that this is a 3 year process. The experiment will be fun.


http://donkey32.proboards.com/
Rick Roman
pollinator

Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 442
Location: Pennsylvania Pocono Mt Neutral-Acidic Elv1024ft AYR41in Zone 5b
    
  25
Hi Rion, I'm very interested in your blueberry seed germination. Keep me abreast and Good luck. I have 20+ types of blueberries (not from seed) planted over the past 9 years. This spring I'm going to try to start more from cuttings. Like BB seed propagation, it's not easy, they take a long time to root and need a lot of care. One of my plants I believe is a wild variety. It was found growing in a field near a fire pit. I read the low bush wild BB propagates from rhizomes and the native American Indians did controlled burns to encourage propagation. BBs like fire. Also, In a Euell Gibbons field guide he recomends finding areas that have had recent fires to look for BBs. I plan on looking for burnt areas here in Pa this summer in search of the wild BBs....Maybe dig up a few and bring home. They have the most robust, sweet flavor of any berry I've every tried, possibly equal or even better than the amazing flavor of the wild strawberry.
Rion Mather


Joined: May 31, 2012
Posts: 644
    
    1
Fire is always good for a forest.

Have you grown any other types of berries? We are in berry country.
Rick Roman
pollinator

Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 442
Location: Pennsylvania Pocono Mt Neutral-Acidic Elv1024ft AYR41in Zone 5b
    
  25
Hi Rion!!! Sure, I grow several varieties of straw, elder, huckle, sun, goose, rasp, black, etc. The problem "is" we live in a berry area, a wild berry area, which has spread disease due to drought to my cultivars (raspberries and blackberries) Grrrrr. So over the past 3 years yields have been low and not so tasty. So, I'm allowing the wild R & Bs to take over again. The natives taste just as good if not better then the cultivars.
Rion Mather


Joined: May 31, 2012
Posts: 644
    
    1
I would love to know more about your process for growing the wild raspberries and blackberries since I have no clue.
Rion Mather


Joined: May 31, 2012
Posts: 644
    
    1
Currently I have 4 Northsky Blueberry seedlings. Even getting one seed to germinate was a grand surprise!
 
 
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