The Guide to Growing plumpy Blueberry bush the hydroponic way
The demand for blueberries has seen a boom in the past few years owing to their good properties of being antioxidant and rich in vitamin C. This has led to an increase in the area of cultivation needed. However, growing hydroponic Blueberries has solved this problem.
Why should you grow Blueberries hydroponically?
- In a hydroponic system, one can easily control the acidic soil requirements and pH, the temperature very easily.
- Growing the hydroponic way increases the yield considerably along with producing healthy plants and roots.
- The most delicious blueberries are the plumpest of the bunch!
- Another reason why blueberries grow well in a hydroponic environment is that blueberry fruit thrives well in wet and moist conditions.
- The hygiene of the plant can be maintained as there are few chances of getting infected by pathogens and diseases in a controlled indoor environment.
Health Benefits of Blueberry
Eating raw or mixing it with smoothies, salads, or baking them as a blueberry pie, form a great part of the healthy diet. However, growing blueberries is a sign of patience and effort. Apart from several challenges that you might face (which will be discussed as you read the blog), a fully grown blueberry plant will take about 3 years to grow. But the best thing is that they can keep producing the fruits for upto 50 years. Got some motivation now? Let’s see more on planting blueberries hydroponically.
Which types of Blueberries should be chosen for hydroponic growth
All the varieties of Blueberries can be grown hydroponically. However, there will be a minute variation in the temperature, water, and pollination factors. You can choose species like Bluetta, Puru, Nui, Duke, Earliblue, PBBB, and Sunrise.
Factors Affecting Hydroponic Blueberries
1. Spacing for growing blueberries hydroponically
A space of 2 feet is a must between each planet because once they grow into a fully established plant, they will be bearing a lot of fruit. So for the betterment of the plant and harvesting, keep an adequate amount of space.
2. Ideal conditions for growing blueberries hydroponically
Maintaining pH levels for hydroponic blueberries should be acidic, so a pH level of 4.5-5 should be ideal. Blueberries cannot grow in an alkaline environment as they won’t be able to absorb the nutrients.
A temperature of 72°F to 75°F, with 12-16 hours of light should be given daily Humidity should be around 70%. However, during germination high humidity and temperature is needed to fulfill growth. The ideal PPM needed is between 1260-1380.
3. Nutrient Requirement for growing blueberries hydroponically
Any hydroponic plant will need some amounts of sulfur which usually remains present in the nutrient medium. However, Blueberries need a higher level of Sulphur. You need to additionally add sulfur.
Adding Sulphur to Hydroponic Blueberries
The optimum range of Sulphur in water lies between 20-70 parts per million. However, blueberries have more demand. However, if you are thinking of adding sulfur to the water, you are going to make a blunder since sulfur is water-insoluble.
However, sulfur pills in sulfur evaporating systems are the method for fulfilling the sulfur deficiency in the plant. Apart from that sulfur salts like Magnesium Sulfate or Potassium Sulfate can also be added. The best-suggested salt would be Epsom salts but there are certain conditions to use them.
How to use Epsom salt for hydroponic blueberries
Before adding ounces of Epsom salts to your plant you need to balance the pH levels to prevent any havoc. Adding too much of the salt creates a foul in pH and can even make the roots dry. So you need to use a pHmeter and as you can see the pH going up, consider adding some vinegar.
4. Lighting Requirements for growing blueberries hydroponically
Using a high-intensity discharge lamp or HID fixture is the best option. A Mylar Reflective film can be used to optimize the availability of lights. 12-16 hours of light is needed on a daily basis
Steps for setting up the hydroponic environment
1. Nutrient Film Technique NFT for growing Blueberries Hydroponically
The NFT system uses a nutrient-rich water solution constantly flowing in a loop from the reservoir comprising the solution through a growth tray. The tray contains the roots of the plants suspended in air and they absorb the nutrients as they flow in the loop. The reservoir must be kept directly below the tray stand and must be filled with water and other nutrients.
2. Don’t use a flat tray
Use tubes or channels instead of the flat tray as the former makes it simple to set it at an angle such that the solution can flow directly into the roots. You can also use polybags or a 5-gallon bucket to grow blueberries hydroponically. Mix about 75% Perlite and 25% Vermiculite for blueberries.
3. Adding Aeration bubbler
Since the nutrient-rich solution has all the necessary nutrients, you need to oxygenate the water. So you have to add an aeration bubbler in the reservoir itself.
4. Connect the tubes and pumps
Your need to connect the reservoir with the tray using a fill tube and a drain tube. The purpose of the fill tube is that it attaches the system to the pump and regulates the water flow up in the tray. The drain tube pulls the water back into the reservoir after flooding the great for reusing water. Thus a lot of water is saved in this method.
It is always advisable to cut blueberries rather than use seeds. There are a lot of issues when seeds are used. They need to be very small with very specific conditions needed for growth. If you are hoping for seeds, buy the seeds only from some reputed source. It can take about 3 weeks to 1 month for the first seed to germinate, and the entire process may take about 2-3 months.
6. Setting up light
If your hydroponic system is in your lawn, then good to go, else you need to use LEDs or bulbs. If using LEDs then keep them at a distance of 6-10 inches from the plant since they don’t produce heat as much as the bulbs. In case if you are using bulbs, lace them at 24 inches apart.
7. Pruning Hydroponic Blueberries
Like any other plants, blueberries need to be pruned to improve their flowering, planting density, fruiting, controlling the size of the plants, and preventing any damage to the quality of the fruits.
In hydroponics, the growth rates become more than soil farming as a result pruning is a must.
Around 30 % of the plant should be pruned away. Consider removing any dead stems, discolored leaves and low growth stems as well.
However early pruning is a tough thing to do, i.e removing berry buds and the flowers right in the first year knowing that it would harvest into deliciously rich colors of blueberries. However, it is done so that the nutrients can concentrate more on the foliage and produce surplus fruits.
8. Hydroponic Blueberry Pollination
Blueberry plants can be simply pollinated by hands. It is a very time-consuming process. So it’s very advisable if you can keep your setup in your backyard or lawn so that it can undergo insect pollination. If you don’t have a lawn then consider setting up a fan to aid wind pollination.
9. Dormancy and undergoing a cold season
A cold season is a must for blueberries for proper fruiting. Avoiding this will lead to a growth of such a plant lacking lush vegetation and surplus fruits. Blueberries need around 500-600 hours below 45°F during their cold season. So during the cold season, you need to put them outside if the climate favors them and bring them back indoors once the season has gone.
When it is time to bloom, blueberries come with bell-shaped flowers, starting off with light green, then deepening to reddish pink which looks too attractive, and then into the final indelible blue color. The first crop may not ripen all at the same time. Also, they may not harvest until the second bloom. However, do not be disappointed with it because this is how blueberries grow.
The berries must be harvested only when they reach the deep blue color. Harvesting is one of the most fulfilling tasks of growing blueberries. You can observe that ripe blueberries have a rich aroma and full flavor. Since they are very fragile and soft, they need to be carefully handled and consumed soon after harvesting.
Additional Challenges that you might face while growing hydroponic blueberries
Avoiding Root Rot In Hydroponic Blueberries
Hydroponic Root Health supplements or horticultural peroxide can help you remove Root rot, so will. You can also go for the least expensive route i.e common household bleach. YOu need to add 5 – 7 drops per gallon of water twice a week.
Cleaning the Hydroponic system
One of the important steps while growing a hydroponic system is to maintain the cleanliness of the system. This is done to keep away from pests and diseases. Firstly the system must be completely sterilized, Thereupon the reservoir has to be emptied and filled up halfway using a diluted bleach solution.
This will ensure an effective clean with no traces of solid material building up in the tubes. Reservoir cleaning should be done every 2-3 weeks. To avoid clogging, valves can be opened and cleaned on a weekly basis. Maintaining a healthy growth environment is absolutely important while it comes to growing blueberries hydroponically.
Nutrient deficiency is depicted by the yellowing of the leaves and veins. Apart from that leaf tips will turn yellow and curl downwards, there is stunted growth and less branching. During such situations, sulfur prills or Epsom salts wi\hile maintaining the pH level must be maintained.
How long does it take to grow blueberries hydroponically?
Ans: It can take you around 3 years to get a fully grown proper blueberry plant producing bountiful and abundant fruits.
How long does this plant last?
Ans: Once grown into a fully established plant, blueberry plant can bear fruits upto 50 years. All you need to do is wait patiently and take care of the plant for 3 years.
Do blueberries need a lot of water?
Ans: You need to keep the soil moist but not soggy. During the fruit ripening process they need more water . However, too much water can lead to large, bland fruit.
Do I need 2 blueberry bushes to get fruit?
Ans: Blueberry is self-pollinating to some extent but can grow larger if cross pollination is favoured.l