The Q&A Archives: Planting Blueberries

Question: I am planning on planting four blueberry bushes in my back yard. I have acidic soil and the area is generally a dirt and sand combination. However, it also sits in a region where there are some very tall pines (over 200 feet) The pine needles would provide good mulch for the bushes and the trees are tall enough where a good amount of sun gets in. Would the fact that these trees are all around serve to suffocate the roots of the bushes?

Answer: Blueberries thrive in acidic, well-draining soil, in full sunshine. They'll also appreciate a mulch of pine needles. It's difficult to say whether they will grow in the area you have in mind. Tree roots don't especially like competition, and since they're bigger than any roots of a blueberry shrub, they will win the battle for water and nutrients. Why not try a little on-site investigation prior to planting? Dig a hole where you want to place your new shrub and check the soil. How many roots are there? How wet or dry is the soil in comparison to soil in other areas of the garden? Fill the hole with water to see how quickly it drains. If the water is sucked up immediately, or if it sits for a day or more, the drainage probably isn't what your blueberries will need. If there are many roots, or if the soil is quite dry, it's not a good planting place, either. You may decide to find another sunny location for your new shrubs after doing a little testing. Once you're convinced you've found the right planting site, dig a hole larger than the root mass of your new shrub to loosen the soil, place a mound of soil in the bottom of the hole to drape the roots over, place the plant so it's growing at the same level it was growing in the container, and then backfill, gently tamping the soil down to eliminate air pockets. Then water well and plan to supply about one-inch of water per week to your new shrubs.

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