Making acid soil for blueberries

14 years ago

How can I make soil acidic for 3-4 blueberry bushes?

This 8 x 4 foot area has a neutral pH and is covered with turfgrass. It is in zone 5 - Iowa.

The only idea I can come up with is to collect and compost massive amounts of pine needles on the area. Does anyone know what kind of "mass" I am looking at here and how long it will take to break down and acidify the area? (For sustainability reasons I don't want to use peat moss.)

Do any herbaceous plants naturally acidify soil?

Another thing rattling around in my head is whether or not I should even do this. If the area is not acidic to begin with, it seems as if I should find an alternative berry bush that will thrive on the site as it is; i.e. "use onsite resources" and "make the least change for greatest effect".


Comments (66)

  • joel_bc
    14 years ago

    Well, in my case, starting with soil testing in the range of 7.0 - 7.2, here's what I did. I dug out a fair-size hole for each plant. I took this soil and mixed it in awheelbarrow in the following mixture: 25% (in relation to the soil volume of the hole) of original soil, with 50% sphagnum peat moss, and 25% finished compost. Into this mixture, I added and stirred in a small amount of sulfur powder (flowers of sulfur) and finely ground phosphate rock and fine greensand. When I planted the blueberry plants into the holes, with this mixture, I topped it off with a sawdust mulch.

    Keep your plants' soil damp (and hopefully your undersoil is well drained).

    I use a pH meter, and I find the original mix (which was made 10 years ago now), plus the yearly addition of sawdust mulch breaking down, tends to keep the pH on the acid side. But if the pH rises to around 6.0, I apply a light layer of sulfur powder. Then I re-test the soil in that spot after about 10 days, to make sure the pH is below 5.5.

    Due to the constant breakdown process of the mulch, nitrogen tends to be bound up for a time - and you can have a nitrogen lag or deficit for your plants. So you may want to also annually add some nitrogenous material as a top dressing.

    These days people are often more conscious of the "draw down" of peat bogs, as a semi-limited resource. I relied on sphagnum to drop the pH substantially. The use of pine needles as a soil mix ingredient might be a good option. Or maybe you could find enough natural acid soil somwhere, bring it home, and mix it in. Or you could try a more substantial addition of sulfur powder than I have used.

    Good luck with the blues.


    Featured Answer
  • marc5
    11 years ago

    A casual search for the ph of pee shows it to be neutral. So, I wouldn't risk a ticket for public indecency. Plus, I have an electric deer fence around my bushes. You wouldn't want to contact those wires.

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  • blueberrier1
    11 years ago

    thetick, according to a MI blueberry nurseryman, the best thing to do for your blueberries in the midwest is to plant them high. He told me that when they consolidate test field varieties (moving plants with a Bobcat bucket!), they make sure that plants set on a ridge.

    My patch of 40 bushes has pH ranging from 4.5-6.5 and all bushes are doing well and are full of berries at this time. I spread about a handful of agricultural sulfur around each plant every three years. Am now searching for large wood chip chunks (not shredded) to add to the sawdust mulch. I try to spray the plants with Calcium 26 every few weeks, after the berries form and before they ripen.

    One NAFEX fellow in CO raises his blueberries in a giant bag of peat. Pic may still be on the web.

    With a 4x8 plot, you could easily make a raised bed and have delicious berries by 2010 if you plant now.

    Welcome to the blue addiction!

  • tasymo
    11 years ago

    I've got two blueberry bushes in a raised bed (2' by 4", 2' deep) I filled the bed with a mix of sand, peat moss, and bagged compost, and mulched the top with coco hulls. My bushes made it through their first Michigan Winter with the loss of only one small branch. They appear nice and healthy, with glossy, fresh green foliage and are bearing a small amount of fruit. The bushes were in one gallon pots and about 1 1/2' tall when I got them. I would say they have grown about 6" more since last Summer. I also put some strawberry plants in the same bed and they are producing like crazy this Spring.

  • rlargaespada
    10 years ago

    RE: Making acid soil for blueberries

    clip this post email this post what is this?
    see most clipped and recent clippings
    " * Posted by blueberrier1 6 (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 9, 09 at 21:32

    thetick, according to a MI blueberry nurseryman, the best thing to do for your blueberries in the midwest is to plant them high. He told me that when they consolidate test field varieties (moving plants with a Bobcat bucket!), they make sure that plants set on a ridge. "

    When you say "ridge" do you mean a manually (like hilling up a row) raised row or a naturally occurring high part of the land?? I also live in Michigan also and it is pretty flat all around.
    I am also going to plant a few blueberry bushes in a couple weeks and need to add to the soil to acidify it.

  • yukkuri_kame
    10 years ago

    coffee grounds from coffee shop and urine should both work. If you aren't comfortable peeing in public or near an electric fence, put your compost pile in a discreet place and pee on the pile then wheelbarrow it around to your plants at a later time. Sawdust & urine make great compost.

  • blueberrier1
    10 years ago

    rlargaespada, the ridge is a slight mound/raised bed 6-8" above rest of adjacent soil. I make it about 15" across for new 2 year old one gallon sized plants. I make my ridge continuous from one end of a row to the other. My large patch has a slight southern slope, even so, after 6" of rain yesterday, the blues are sitting pretty.

    I manually constructed the ridges a few years ago. I have a garage sale concrete spreader (imagine a regular rake with a long blade where the teeth are) that made the job more efficient than a std hoe. I also use this tool to make the 12" tall soil mounds for great sweet potato crops in a 6' wide raised bed.

    My blues are now overloaded with berries, and as soon as the soil dries a bit, I will walk thru the patch every few days and thin the berries by rolling them off between my fingers. A horticulturist friend who worked with NJ folks hybridizing blues said that it was commonly done by them. Any thin and new branch was stripped completely of berries, but left for the leaves to provided nutrients. Large clusters were especially tip thinned. Scarry as it sounds, thinning results in fewer, but much larger berries. The first time this friend visited my patch in MD, he automatically reached out and began thinning. My heart pounded until he explained himself! I especially thin my favorite pollinator and BB muffin berry, Friendship. This is a very productive wild berry, native to WI, that does not require much stooping to harvest. It has always grown four to five feet tall for me. Good luck in this berry delicious addiction!

  • rlargaespada
    10 years ago

    Thank you "blueberrier"! I hope I can ask some more questions later. Are you in Mi. or Md.???

  • mrnglry
    10 years ago

    Remember that blueberries rely on mychrozoae on their roots to absorb nutrients, let the soil dry out and the mychrozoae will die. But don't keep them soggy either. Perfect drainage is key. Blues were originaly a bog plant, but not one that grew in the water, rather above it with soil that was constantly wicking water up and therefore always damp but never soggy.

  • Brian Tremback
    10 years ago

    I think mrnglry has got it exactly right. I know of several stands of native highbush blueberries near where I live in Vermont. All of them are on sandy soils in near-wetland conditions. By near-wetland I mean growing on hummocks that are 6" to 12" above the surrounding forested swamp.

    I've grown highbush blueberries in acid, sandy, but dry soils and, although I had blueberries every year, I wouldn't say they were thriving. It may have had something to do with our neutral pH tap water.

    To maximize your chance of success and minimize the amount of work you'll have to put in, it would be a good idea to assess your soil and water conditions before committing yourself.

  • flowerpatch
    9 years ago

    I planted two blueberry plants in June and happily they have not died, but they have not grown either. I tried the coffee ground thing without any change. My soil is very black and extremely sandy as I live across the street from Lake Michigan in southeastern WI. I'm thinking I don't need to raise the plants up as the drainage is very good. I water often because of that. What should I try next? Thanks.

  • cookingofjoy
    9 years ago

    Thanks for the recommendation for the Friendship berry. I found them offered at backyardberrydotcom. Has anyone used this nursery - or recommend another?

  • blueberrier1
    9 years ago

    cookingofjoy, have not heard of backyardberry source. I bought my Friendships BBs (only 2) over 20+ years ago from Jung-a WI mail order co. I have 'subdivided' these two bushes often for my patch and for other 'addicts.' It seems that all my other blues have increased production when a friendship is no more than three plants away. When I lived in MD, I placed one between two Elliotts and was truly astonished at the heavy huge production. The 10 year old patch of 35 blues had over 350# of fruit. At that time I had 5 or 6 of the Friendship. With their small berries, those Frienship had 4-5# per bush.

    Here in KY, the mason and bumblebees are thrilled with all the blues. This spring I noted a few honey bees and even saw a few the first of Nov on some perennial daisies. No one within two miles of this site has hives...but there may be a honey-house in some hollowed tree in the woods. I have used a few drops of roundup on the poisonivy in a fencerow, but otherwise maintain an organic approach.

    good luck!

  • wanttheblues
    9 years ago

    blueberrier1, just found this website, and I think we are near each other on this wonderful planet. I live in no ky and am looking to plant some blueberry plants next spring. I just sprinkled some sulfer where I plan to plant them, and I was also looking to get some pine needles spread out on that area. It sounds like you use raised beds for yours~~mine will be in a well drained area, but I am concerned that they may not get enough water naturally, so I am going to have to water, but from reading the previous posts, it seems that perhaps the tap water in this area is probably not the best, so I will try to also capture the rainwater for using for this purpose. I notice you recommend an Elliot variety. Where do you purchase yours from? How close are you to No Ky? Could I perhaps get some from you in the spring? Let me know. Thanks!

  • somcprt697_yahoo_com
    9 years ago

    I wouldnt imagine that coffee grounds would dramatically change the pH of your soil. Typically all the acid goes into your cup, and the coffee grounds are pretty neutral.

  • jolj
    9 years ago

    eric in japan, YES! The cedar is a CONIFER, family of softwood,cone bearing, evergreen trees, including pine,spruce,fir,juniper,hemlock.cypress,REDwood,& cedar.

  • s_f_walton_ntlworld_com
    9 years ago

    I planted 3 blueberry bushes 4 years ago in an alkaline area, so incorporated lots of ericaceous (acidic) compost when planting. I regularloy add coffee grounds and tea leaves.

    Year 1 - a few berries (only to be expected)
    Year 2 - A goodish crop for the first real year
    Year 3 - Lots of berries but all very small

    This year is the decider - small berries again and I change the crop to an apple tree - be warned bluebery bushes!!

  • atresidder06_wou_edu
    9 years ago

    I have always put my used coffee grounds under my blueberries and they produce very well. The first bush was planted in red clay soil (I never checked the ph) and the second batch in rich black farm soil but under a sequoia tree. Both plants have done very well and I attribute it to the coffee grounds... Any one have a similar tale?

  • arugula
    9 years ago

    joelj- Can you say more about cedar? Is the acidity level identical to pine, or if not, how do they differ?

    I'll be trying blueberries this spring, and I'm curious why so many here seem to avoid using sulphur. Is it expensive or problematic for organic gardeners?

    I don't drink coffee, but if it's cheaper to use the grounds, I'll just buy them or beans and throw them in the planting hole/soil unused, then use them to dress the plant areas. I imagine they'd be more acidic usused too, yes? S

    Here is a link that might be useful: Hardy Eco Garden

  • dennyzeske_charter_net
    9 years ago

    I am for the first time planting blueberries this Spring as soon as the frost leaves the ground. I live in an area where wild blueberries are found around wet marshes and near different varities of evergreens. I am going to dig out some of the soil where these berries thrive and mix it with my existing garden soil. Don't know if this will work but it's worth the try.

  • blueberryhillsfarm
    9 years ago

    Arugula, sulphur isn't expensive and there are sulphurs that are approved for organic production. The problem with sulphur is that it changes the soil ph not through a chemical reaction but a biological one, as such it is quite slow. It takes 6 months to a year to get the effect and doesn't do anything in cold, frozen soil. So, you either have to prep the soil much earlier or do something else. Adding peat will provide a suitable pH now and sulphur can be used to maintain that pH, as will pine needles or pine bark or oak leave to mention a few alternatuves.

    Using a low pH soil from another site will also work. But pH maintainance will also be required. As another writer noted, well water is naturally higher in pH and will tend to raise your pH over time. The surrounding soil will raise the pH. City water is especially high pH. They typically raise the pH to 8.5 or higher so the water won't dissolve metals in the pipes.

  • iamthefeenix_yahoo_com
    9 years ago

    I'm scared to plant my pink blueberries, from reading all of the posts it seems tricky, time consuming and potentially stressfull... I just love, love, love blueberries and pink is one of my favorite colors! Any first-time, simple planting suggestions?

  • afmoore40_msn_com
    9 years ago

    put a continer under your drain pipe that goes to your roof and catch water that way.Works for me try it you'll like it as you will save on water bill. this is my first year growing blueberries put compost in hole first before planting which contained eggs shells coffee grimds and banana skins will let you know how I make out only one problem this is a mid season varity and don't know if i'll see anything till next year asi don't know age of plant.

  • blueberryhillsfarm
    9 years ago

    Stephanie, I think the method used by joel_bc (Sun, Jan 15, 06) is pretty good. The addition of the 50% peat pretty much guarantees that your starting pH will be good. If your soil is already sandy, you can omit the sand, otherwise it helps loosen the soil which the blueberries like. The compost and peat add great organic matter. The hole should be at least 24 inches across, preferably 36", but doesn't have to be real deep, 12-16 inches is fine. They like full sun, and well drained but constantly moist soil.

  • zapadenko_yahoo_com
    9 years ago

    That a look at this video. It tells you what you need to do to grow blueberries!

  • loraine_onemain_com
    8 years ago

    In response to Eric's question re: cedar bark & leaves vs. pine: It's my understanding that all conifers are not created equal. While they may impart acidity to soil, the tannins in cedars are similar to those in redwoods. They'll not readily break down, and can be quite toxic to some soil organisms (and humans).

  • mvpbcs
    8 years ago

    I just joined so I can't remember which forum the subject came up on, but I want to comment on Service berries. I have some. They are thriving despite my outstanding failures on blueberries and my inattention to the service berries themselves. I now have volunteers which have spread out from the main bush and have beautiful healthy leaves. I live in an area with heavy clay soil and alkali soil and water. I've been reading all these posts regarding blueberries and can't say I'm feeling encouraged. But back to the topic of Service berries. They *look* like blueberries. They may be related. But to me, a lot of the similarity stops there. The flavor is not similar. I do not know whether the nutritional values are similar. I wish I did know. I paid an IMO horrific price for the intial bush at a local nursery but now, given the mortality of the blueberries I've tried, it may be turning out to be a bargain. I've been working on my garden soil and need to focus more on these very good, native berries, and capitalize on what can be expected to be very successful. The flavor is mild, not like blueberries. But as long as people aren't expecting blueberry flavor, that shouldn't be a problem.

  • zuni
    8 years ago

    Use of peat is not sustainable, and neither is any effort to change the pH of soil. If you MUST have blueberries, grow them in large pots which you can fill with a special soil mix.

    On the subject of pee: this is a heavy dose of nitrogen, which typically creates lush foliage at the expense of fruiting.

  • einhverfr
    8 years ago

    Regarding pH of soil and blueberries, I have been considering growing them in my (alkaline) soil by simply placing them near a huge spruce tree which sheds large numbers of needles ever year. These needles make it difficult for more alkaline-loving plants to do well. Generally speaking the alkaline soil I have seen has tended to be poor in humus and rich in minerals, while acidic soil has tended to be more mature (for the most part--- not always).

    I disagree with the poster who said that acidifying the soil is not sustainable. I think that in general the question is how you can harness biological systems to do the work for you.

  • Foodtomax
    8 years ago

    Hi everyone Thanks for your dialogue. You have taught me some good things. When I had my soil tested the PH was 4.3 but blueberries still didn't grow well until I realised the soil structure- clay- was wrong.

  • MensaBarbie
    8 years ago

    I live in Hollywood Hills. I planted three different varieties of blueberries, one of which was a Southmoon highbush. They did ok in my clay soil, putting out a few berries. I found this blog when I was trying to determine what they needed to be optimized. I pulled them out, mixed the clay with perlite and sphagnum moss and potted them. Two of the three plants are doing great, putting out new leaves like crazy. The third is putting out a few new leaves. I will pull it and reduce the amount of clay in the soil, adding sand and perlite for drainage and see how she does. thanks for all of the tips.

  • andy9999
    8 years ago

    Use ammonium sulfate as fertilizer-it will immediately lower pH ,use garden sulfur -it will take few months to lower Ph, than use pine bark

  • capoman
    8 years ago

    If you are concerned about using peat, composted pine bark and sawdust work well, especially in a raised bed. Pine bark drains very well and will last a long time. Pine bark doesn't retain water well, but the sawdust will help. A bit of compost mixed in doesn't hurt, but not too much as it will raise the pH. Blueberries don't need rich soil.

  • dexterdog
    8 years ago

    Hi Folks,
    Perhaps some could learn from my mistakes? I dug 75% peat into a 4x8 raised bed last year and added litres and litres of coffee grounds from my local starbucks as often as I drove through (a lot, ahem :). This spring two are dead and the rest are sad looking. Totally puzzled, I bought a test kit and wouldn't you know it, the ph is over 7. I have no idea how that is even possible with all the peat (and yes, it's real bad-for-the-bogs-peat). Here I was, overconfident that I had put the right ingredients into the batter, so to speak. The moral of the story? a) PH test often, b) plan to amend frequently and c)IMHO, be open minded to the conventional fixes. Yes, you can try to keep it going a la mother nature, but after the $$$ I spent on plants and other, I'm sold on the $10 box of Al Sulphate/sulphur, as plan 'A' failed me. Seems like the pee/eggshells/peat/bark is more in the name of trying to do things 'organically', or 'naturally'...Me personally, I'd rather have berries. Good luck all :)

  • Ixchnel
    8 years ago

    What about adding ashes from a woodburner or a charcoal grill?

  • dvmac
    8 years ago

    I love blueberries also and tried to plant two Sunshine a few years ago when they were less available on the promise that they did well in the heat and handled alk soils better. I put them in the ground, which is red sand a 1000 feet deep, and used 15 gallon black nursery containers which I buried at ground level and filled with peat. What I found is that you definately need to treat the water in these alk areas because even if you start with an acidifided soil, it will be alklinized via water. Mine did very poorly and I gave up however, what I decided from the experience is that if I were to try it again, I would probably use old half whiskey barrels to help maintain the acidity and definatly treat the water which I used on them.

  • irenka
    6 years ago

    instead of trying to grow blueberries, try honeyberries they
    taste between blueberries and raspberries. they look like an elongated blueberry. they are extremely hardy (from Siberia) and they do not require acid soil.

  • bowmag803
    4 years ago

    If I get blueberry seeds, is that the same as a different variety. The reason why I think this is because of the DNA I would be a little different

  • fcivish
    4 years ago

    Most people here seem to be afraid of elemental sulfur. It is one of the best methods of acidifying the soil, yet it is surprisingly gentle and is usually considered to be an organic gardening practice. I buy it in 20 pound bags on Amazon.

    Yes, you should use pine mulch, compost and similar things, when available. You should also try to amend you soil to try to get a sandy loam. However, once you have done all of that, you probably will STILL need to acidify the soil more.

    Blueberries like a pH of 4.0 to 5.5 or so. This is definitely an acidic soil and is very close to the acid level of apple cider vinegar. Meanwhile, most people have neutral soil, in the range of 7.0 to 7.5, and, if you live near mountains/hills or lakes/rivers that contain limestone, your pH for both soil and water will probably run in the range of 8.0 to 8.4. Blueberries might possibly barely survive, but will never do well in such soil. So, you must acidify it.

    ONE POUND of yellow, elemental sulfur powder mixed into the surface inches of 100 square feet, will drop the pH by 1.0 points over a period of about a 1 year. It works because the action of soil bacteria, along with moisture and warm temperatures, allows the soil bacteria to gradually convert the elemental sulfur to sulfuric acid, and this acid is never really free, but it neutralizes the limestone and alkaline components. So, 4 pounds of sulfur in an area of 10 x 10 will often drop the pH from 8.0 to 4.0 in a year or so. But the soil, and water, will push back, especially if the soil is derived from a moderate amount of limestone. The limestone contained in the soil continues to dissolve and will work to bring the pH right back up. Around here, we need to use 5 to 10 pounds of elemental sulfur in such an area, in order to get the pH down to an adequate level.

    In addition to the above mixture of sulfur with surface soil, if you soil is on the alkaline side, like ours, mix TWO whole cups (1 pound) of sulfur with the dirt in the planting hole, at the same time as you plant the blueberries.

    Please note that these instructions are for using ELEMENTAL SULFUR, which is generally a bright yellow powder, AND, it takes time to work (a year or more), AND you need to keep reapplying sulfur to the top of the soil at a rate of 1/2 pound to 1 pound per 100 square feet, every year or two.

    I also went online and bought some simple electronic pH testers for around $20 or $25 dollars each. When I want to test my soil, I mix some soil with DISTILLED water (available at most grocery stores) and use the tester on the resultant runny mud mixture.

  • Dennis Bartlett
    4 years ago

    I have about 500 blueberries in an area not typical for growing them . Soil is neutral , 7.1 so used 1/3 sand 1/3 pine shavings and 1/3 compost (horse manure) . built berms about 1 1/2 feet high and 2 ft wide . Building berms is an excellent way to manage your soil because you're cutting down on the square footage you're fertilizing . Then side dress each year with pine shavings .

    Normally starting the previous year with soil prep is much the preferred way . I use organic sulfur , acts a bit faster than the others I've used and of course organic .

    I also go against the norm in my requirements for ph . I want my soil 5.5 to 6 but absolutely no higher for production . These are highbush , 5 different subspecies and all are doing well . Also recommend litmus paper to test . Once established they are a snap ! Don't rush it .

  • Xtal in Central TX, zone 8b
    4 years ago

    Pardon me for not reading every posting. I've got just one question. Assuming that you did a soil test, I'm guessing that your soil must be alkaline. So, what is your water? Our water must be alkaline here. If you water with a garden hose, won't it be alkaline water, too? It's just something that had made me believe that I can't grow blueberries here either. Good luck.

  • dirtygardener73
    4 years ago

    I planted mine in 10-gallon pots in 50/50 peat moss and pine fines. This year, I grew my tomatoes (also acid loving) in 50/50 potting mix and pine bark. I fertilized them with Miracid.

    I was told to use aluminum sulfate for blueberries in the ground, but I never put them in the ground.

  • Josh Heyneke
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Hi All, interesting thread. I was wondering if anyone here has tried planting their Blueberries in 100% rotted bark? I've got some bark which has mulched down into a rich black soil like medium. It's not yet proper soil but it's pretty close. Would my blueberries like to be planted out in this?

  • jolj
    3 years ago

    No but a friend plant grape vines in 100% rotten leaves.

  • Campanula UK Z8
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Not only do blueberries require a highly acidic soil (4.5-5-5ph), they also require bog conditions. I managed to grow a few bushes by planting in ericaceous soil and placing the deep pots underneath the runoff which would normally be directed to my waterbutts (tapwater as hopeless as lime-y soil...and usually connected, especially if water is obtained via aquifer). On the whole, it is much easier to change the ph to an alkaline soil than to artificially maintain an acid soil by lowering ph...unless starting with relatively neutral soil. Starting with an alkaline base means using containers - no other long term solution possible.. Also, because something is brown and friable, it does not mean it is acceptable as a soil substitute without extensive monitoring and feeding. Soil includes minerals which affect the cationic and anionic balance for well as a base for myccorhizae. It is a complex, living substrate.

  • jolj
    3 years ago

    I have 50 or so blueberry plants & never had them in bog condition.

    I only watered them the fisrt 3 year, now they get water my other fruit trees get from Heaven.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    3 years ago

    I am more than a little amazed at the amount of erroneous information about how to acidify soil that is being tossed around here!!

    First, soil acidity is NOT created by decomposing plant material regardless of source. It is determined by the underlying mineral content of the native soil and the amount of rainfall - high rainfall areas tend towards acidity; low rainfall or arid regions tend towards basic or alkaline soil. The repeated use of synthetic fertilizers like ammonium sulphate or ammonium nitrate will also have an impact. Pine needles (or any other conifer needles), oak leaves, coffee grounds, even wood bark will not significantly alter soil pH. Used coffee grounds are virtually neutral AFA pH is concerned and once the other plant materials dry and start to decompose, they become virtually neutral as well. The acidic ions they leach out during theis drying/decomposing process are really insignificant. And it would take HUGE quantities of them to have any measurable effect on pH. This is an extremely well documented topic so do some research if you have questions.

    The recommended and most efficient way to increase soil acidity is to incorporate agricultural sulfur. But it takes time for the reaction to occur so must be done well in advance of planting. And it is not permanent - most soils have a buffering capacity that will resist long term changes to pH and will revert back to the native pH in time unless attended to routinely. Incorporating peat moss in the planting area can help as well, as it is highly acidic (4.0). And there is a limit on how much soil pH can be altered. Attempting to change a neutral or alkaline pH to the degree of acidity necessary to grow blueberries well is likely an exercise in futility. Remember that the pH scale is logarithmic - a move from 7.0 to 6.0 is a 10 fold increase; from 7.0 to 5.0 is a 100 fold increase!!

    If your native soil is neutral to alkaline, you may never be able to successfully amend to the degree of acidity necessary to grow blueberries in the ground and you should think about utilizing raised beds or containers, where you can tailor the soil and its pH to best address the berries' requirements.

  • jolj
    3 years ago

    gardengal48, you must have wrote this post on many threads & all this is on most site that review soil pH. Thanks for one more.

  • mvpbcs
    3 years ago

    Can anyone recommend a good potting mix formula for blueberries? I will need to continue to add elemental sulfur I believe, because our water is alkalai

  • Don Blume
    3 years ago

    I grow blueberries both in the ground in raised beds (5 plants in the ground for five years) and in sturdy black plastic plant containers (5 plants in 4 to 7 gallon containers)--that I picked up cheap from a local nursery. Two years ago, I harvested over four gallons of blueberries. Last summer the container plants were a bit of a bust as a late 90 plus heat wave after I'd cut the watering back resulted in the container plants having a very poor crop, but I still harvested nearly four gallons of berries from the plants in the raised beds. They are picked and put into gallon freezer bags and popped into the chest freezer. I don't even wash them, as I use no pesticides on them.

    I removed my clay soil in 2'x2'x15" deep sections and built the beds up to about six inches above ground level with a mix of 3 parts sphagnum peat moss, 1 part leaf compost my town produces, and 1 part of the clay topsoil. I reused the rest of the clay in another part of my garden. The container mix is simpler: 2 parts sphagnum peat, 1 part leaf compost. The beds have not needed additional soil or peat in five years. I mulch the beds with pine needles (not for the acidity as they don't actually contribute any, but for the fact they contain no weed seeds to speak of). I use bark mulch as a mulch in the containers--it stops squirrels from digging in them and weeds from growing. I use drip irrigation with city water at a pH of about 6.5 or so, and fertilize with Ammonium sulfate every spring, which also keeps the acidity level up.

    Fafard makes a sphagnum peat moss based acidic soil mix, so that's an option if you can get past the sphagnum peat moss issue. If you're only growing enough blueberries for you and your family, you are not really going to need a lot of the stuff. It's worth noting that for every person who thinks sphagnum peat moss is not a renewable resource, there's likely another who thinks the opposite is true. Here's what I know: In the US, our ubiquitous Canadian sphagnum peat moss comes from a country that has a lot of it and only harvests a small amount of it, and reseeds the harvested areas with ... sphagnum peat moss, which in the university greenhouse collection I help maintain grows quite quickly--I frequently have to cut it back to keep it from overwhelming our carnivorous plants that grow with it. In North American bogs, the moss grows several or more inches a year. The harvested bogs won't be replenished soon, but they aren't exactly turned into parking lots either. Then too, the harvesting process is not very carbon intensive in the scheme of things.

    You can read more about this perspective on the topic here:

    and here:

  • mkirkwag
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    When I created a my hugel beds I added wood shavings. Although I live in an area with pretty acidic soil, the soil I put into those raised beds was pretty close to neutral. Now it's 6.1 - more acidic than the surrounding yard. So, that's one way to do it. To be fair, that shouldn't have done from anything I know about pH, but all I can say is, "it did."

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