The Q&A Archives: Preparing a blueberry bed

Question: I am planning on adding a blueberry patch (three plants in a row) to the yard and need advice on how to best prepare a bed to plant them in. I am in a new subdivision where all but 2" of topsoil had been scraped from the ground. What is under that is very hard clay-like (but too sandy) ground with a fair amount of small stone. The ground has enough slope to provide reasonable drainage. A pick axe is the tool of choice for digging a hole in it. Once dry it breaks easily in my hands. I would like to build a raised bed (about two landscape timbers, 7") in which to plant the blueberries.

What is the best way to create the desired acidic soil?

Also for long term nutrients should I put an well aged manure at the bottom of the bed for the plants to feed on in the future?

Do I need to make the bed deeper such as three timbers, 11", to provide more or the correct soil? (I am afraid of making it to high for fear of it drying out too fast.

Ron Valtin

Answer: It sounds like you are on the right track with raised beds; be sure to break up the subsoil below them and then fill with a soil mix well amended with plenty of organic matter such as compost. Be sure to make the beds plenty big -- blueberries can grow to be either large or quite huge depending on the variety. These plants need a humusy soil with a pH of about 5. While they appreciate a moderately rich soil, use only well-rotted manure. Plan too on using a good organic mulch since they are shallow rooted and appreciate the cooler root run as well as the weed suppression mulch provides. With regard to ongoing fertilization, the best advice is to run some basic soil tests regularly and fertilize or amend the soil based on the results. Your County Extension (tel. 461-1000) should be able to help with the tests and with interpreting the results.

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