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Permaculture Q&A: Michael Judd’s Blueberry Soil Mix

As Permaculture Month continues throughout May, some of our expert authors are answering questions submitted by our readers. Here, Michael Judd reveals his special recipe for blueberry soil mix that imitates the plant’s natural forest edge habitat.

For more do-it-yourself projects to turn your landscape into a luscious and productive edible Eden, check out Judd’s book, Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist.

And, browse these previous posts from the “Permaculture Q&A” series for answers to questions about design patterns, nutrients, invasive grasses, and more:
Permaculture: An Economic Perspective
Eric Toensmeier on Aggressive Grass and Partial Shade
Toby Hemenway on Soil and Natural Patterns
Ben Falk Talks Nutrient Cycling

Danielle from WA asks:
I planted four blueberries bushes last year. They got a lot rain, so I did not water them for a few weeks, but now I see a few of them are brown. These bushes get lots of sun. Any thoughts on how to stop the browning?

MICHAEL JUDD: Hi Danielle, challenges with blueberries generally stem from the soil prep and pH. Blueberries are naturally a forest edge species which means that they like a very rich and loose soil that comes from a leafy compost-like medium. This is usually imitated with peat or sphagnum moss mixed with compost and soil, but I try to avoid pulling material from distant ecosystems, especially sensitive bog areas where peat comes from, and instead create my own blueberry soil mix. My recipe is 50% fine pine bark, 25% compost, and 25% top soil with sulfur pellets mixed in to lower the pH to 4.5-5.5. Mix them well into a generous sized hole before planting the blueberry. Mulch well with a pine bark mulch for the added long term acidity and moisture retention. Blueberries are shallow rooted so keep the mulch on and other plants/weeds away from their base and be mindful to not water with a strong stream that knocks the mulch and soil away exposing the roots.

Though blueberries are generally disease resistant they benefit from good air flow, full sun and spacing. If you make the soil balanced your plants should be healthy.

Hope that helps. Happy fruiting!


Generosity as Activism, and Other Homesteading Principles to Live By

“Like everyone I know, we occasionally find ourselves faced with a decision to which there is no obvious answer,” says Ben Hewitt, coauthor of The Nourishing Homestead. “Do we borrow money to build a bigger barn, or do we keep getting by with what we have? Do we spend our meager savings on trees and […] Read More

Pass the Walnut Syrup?

Everyone knows and loves maple syrup, and in some states (like Chelsea Green’s home state of Vermont), it’s big business. However, it’s a widespread myth that maples are the only trees that can be tapped to produce sap, according to Michael Farrell, sugarmaker and director of Cornell University’s Uihlein Forest. Sap can also be collected […] Read More

4 Books for Growing Food in Winter

Don’t let cold weather stop you from producing and enjoying your own food. For many, the coming of winter simply means cultivation moves indoors or under cover. Small farmers, homesteaders, home gardeners, and commercial growers can extend the growing season with techniques outlined in these essential books. There’s no need for urbanites and small-space dwellers […] Read More

A Simple Way to Grow Fresh Greens Indoors This Winter

Just because the temperatures have started to drop doesn’t mean you have to live without fresh greens until Spring. Author and gardener Peter Burke’s innovative method of growing soil sprouts indoors can help you grow nutrient-dense greens all year long at a fraction of the cost of buying at market. Burke’s book, Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening, is […] Read More

In Remembrance: Toby Hemenway

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Toby Hemenway, a beloved teacher, author, and permaculturalist. In October of 2015, Toby was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Despite treatment that seemed to be working, the cancer returned this fall, and eventually Toby signed up for home hospice on December 16, 2016. He died […] Read More
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