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!