Heirloom Blueberry Cuttings, Part I, Background

Here at the old school, a dozen or so giant heirloom blueberry bushes line one edge of the property. These bushes produce amazing blueberries each year. We know there are at least two varieties growing here, but we are unsure of the specifics. One variety produces large, plump sweet berries, while the other is a little smaller, but not by much, and produces a sharper blueberry taste. The combination in muffins or waffles is amazing.

Most of the bushes themselves are about six to seven feet high and about as round. Some shoots are as high as eight feet. Fortunately, when the bushes are heavy with berries even these taller shoots are easy to pick.

However, these bushes were neglected over the decades and became overgrown with saw-briars, honeysuckle and various oak and pine trees growing up through them. Numerous dead branches and shoots had been choked off entirely by various vines and were littered among the good. In late 2014, a friend went through the bushes cutting back the dead wood and removing some of the vines and stray oak and pine saplings. She also cut back some of the larger shoots to make the bushes spread better. The scrap from this process was a huge pile of cuttings.

Not wanting to throw all this cutting stock away, we soaked the cuttings in a mixture of water, fertilizer and root stimulator hormone, then placed them in pots and a mixture of potting soil and local soil. We used a variety of planting pot sizes to account for the various sizes of the cuttings. Overwhelmed by the volume of material, we threw much of it away. Properly tended, this discarded material would have made several hundred transplanted cuttings, perhaps as many as a thousand. Unfortunately, we became distracted by other issues and all the cuttings we did process dried up and died in the next two years after a very strong start.

Early in February, 2017, we were again cutting back some of the parasitic vines and tree saplings when we accidentally cut down a seven-foot shoot. We decided to use this shoot as an experiment in a simpler cutting technique that we’ve had percolating since the original labor-intensive process. This technique is entirely experimental for us; you’ll see it unfold live and succeed or fail on its own merits. Rather than the labor-intensive original process, this approach is much simpler and easier to maintain. It also doesn’t use any growth hormones at all, but instead uses a blend of cutting techniques and aquaponics to get to the same end.

The materials:

One seven-foot heirloom blueberry shoot.
One 18-unit pressed fiber egg carton.
A few sheets of paper towels.
One six-quart plastic storage box.
Potting soil.
Liquid fertilizer.

The only tools used were a shop knife, garden shears and a spoon.

The first step was to obtain the egg carton and storage box. We had bought several storage boxes from Walmart months prior for another project, and we also had the pressed fiber egg cartons lying around. It just happened that the egg carton fits nicely inside the storage box, as shown below.

The potting soil we used was Scott’s Hyponex potting soil. What we were looking for is a fine, soft, loamy soil with as little sand as possible, and without big chunks of undigested splinters. The liquid fertilizer was a combination of two Miracle-Gro pourable fertilizers, neither of which contained growth hormones. We’ll get into more details about selecting the soil and the fertilizers in a future article, as well as the potting techniques, progress thus far, and what we could have done better.


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2 Comments on "Heirloom Blueberry Cuttings, Part I, Background"

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4 years 24 days ago

Looking forward to seeing how this goes.
We would love to have berries, of any kind, grow at our place but have so far been unsuccessful. Granted, we haven’t been as serious as we could have been because, life.

4 years 24 days ago
I’d like to thank you for a great article, as I’m a huge fan of blueberries and have been wanting to plant my own for some time now. A quick question from someone up north about planting and fertilizing: What do you use for this? I’ve seen sites where growers haven’t in fact planted saplings in soil at all, but instead in a mixture of pine bark and a few other things. The reason I ask is because I’m about to purchase a few saplings and want to start them out properly. I live in a Zone 5 area if… Read more »