Don\’t be blue, little berry.


The other day, I discovered that much of the soil around \”the farm\” is acidic. While I intend to do some testing to get a little more information about this, I immediately thought… \”BLUEBERRIES!\”

Why do I love blueberries so? Well, for one, they taste great!  Their appearance and texture has always been so satisfying to me, The berries vary from white matte to shiny blue.  But also, we know they have a TON of antioxidants, minerals and B vitamins.

So immediately, I started looking for blueberry polycultures and am seeing some trends in responses on sites like  Squash and potatoes/sweet potatoes below the bushes.  Some people speak of pines (spruce, pine, cedar) in the overstory to lend their tasty slow release acids to the soil over time.  Some folks spoke of their Hugel Kultur experiments with various species on various cardinal sides.

Let\’s take some observations about blueberries… In the wild, they grow on forest edges. Sunlight.  They clump so let\’s think about what goes in between.  The various species that are available are taken from their wild places of various altitudes.  This is something to research, take note of and choose appropriate species.  Apparently, this berry is essential to the survival of some species including the black bear. While I don\’t hope or expect to attract black bears, I don\’t think this will be an issue where I live.  But from this, I know that they can be subject to predation.  Let\’s think about how to protect them. Blueberries thrive in moist, acidic soil conditions as previously mentioned.   They are insect pollinated.  Though their flowers enough may be enough to attract, some nearby nectary plants could be helpful.  Seems the plant could use some nitrogen fixation but probably doesn\’t need additional mineral accumulation.

Now, there are many discussions about, perhaps the myth, of coniferous acidification.  Some say yes, some say absolutely not, and some say \”it\’s complicated.\”  If the tests come back and our soil is perfectly acidic to begin with, perhaps this is a non-issue.  This article sites some species-specific research about pine effect on soil acidity over a period of 30 years.

Several sources suggest using conifer wood chips inoculated with mycelium of some delicious edible mushrooms of some sort.  On this, I\’m sold. Chanterelle?!

In any case, I now have one of my winter projects. Design a Guild for blueberries within the context of the land I\’m working.  I\’m open to suggestions. I have a dry hillside with poplar, maple and sassafrass trees and a lowland riparian area with black locust and Juglans to work with.  There are not a lot of pines on the property currently, but all the possibility of growing some if it works with the agroforestry plan!


0 thoughts on “Don\’t be blue, little berry.”

  1. Hi, how did you get on with this? I’m just considering blueberries again at the moment. I think they failed with me before because I did not have enough shelter and/or mycelium but my trees are growing well now, and I’ve got a spot in mind that is a bit damp and has a bit of shelter – our pH is fine, but the soil has been depleted over the years so I’m thinking of hugelkultur…..

    1. Thanks so much for writing! Truth is, I ended up thinking much bigger picture this year. I did, however, plant a few blueberries in zone 1 near the house. They are about to go dormant. I HAVE thought a lot more about it and I actually had the pleasure of filming at a location that had three HUGE blueberry TREES! I asked the landowner what he did to get them like that and he said that he takes all the coniferous droppings in the area and just mulches with them in that season (fall) . So, Pine needles and spruce cones, etc. On a somewhat unrelated note, I’ve been experimenting with my own version of Hugelkultr in the garden and with some of my plantings. One reason I do it is because I have lots of woody mass and not a lot of developed soil, so it raises the soil level in a nice way and builds soil. Another is because it really seems to work! In the areas where I’ve experimented with hugelkultr (not near the blueberries I’m sorry to say) I’ve experienced an increase in fungal activity, a beautiful mycelium web throughout the soil in that area and very drought resistant plants as I assume the wood is storing water and the roots are working their way into the decaying branches. Good luck and tell me more about your operations sometime!

      1. Thanks for reply – I’m quite keen on the hugelkultur concept, but lacking in direct experience and substantial branches. My soil is quite thin – between 6 inches and 36 inches over smooth rock! I have a windy site on the Isle of Skye. Hugelkulture – just as smaller raised beds – could be useful to raise the soil up over time. I have planted coppice trees for our wood fired range, and will have in time a fair supply of twiggy branches. I’m just thinking of trying to recreate the woody forest floor effect for the blueberries – we have plenty of water (especially just now!) You can check out my blog if you like – I’ve only been doing it a couple of years, but have nothing to sell!

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