For years we have purchased blueberries from some friends, Mark and Kelly Smith. This year we thought we should put in a row of our own and see how it goes. With luck and in time we may be blueberry independent. We had 2 inches of rain the night before so working on mulch was going to be the only work I could accomplish in the morning.
Now, I know blueberries in central Illinois may not qualify as sustainable as our soil is anything but acidic. They are something of a guilty pleasure. I’ll have to work to keep the acidity up. But we like them, they will provide a little color in the fall, and a windbreak for our garden. Also, the line we are planting is at the very edge of the parking lot/driveway and will give us a clear border.
I began by laying out some lines that were square with the buildings. Please note the recycled bailer twine. I also had a 6″ deep line of aged wood chips and sawdust in place for the last week or so in preparation for planting.
Then I began digging. I knew my grandpa collected rocks but I had no idea. I plan to put up a post in the near future about making sure your short-term goals (preventing your tractor from getting stuck) won’t be in the way of future generations…considering the consequences of your vision.
The goal is to dig a hole 1 foot deep and 2.5 feet in diameter. I stopped mining rock before I got to my goal on the last hole..
Because I took so much rock out I had very little soil to put back into the hole. I put in a mix of several things to give my plants a good start. First I put in a few shovels full of unsifted compost.
Then I added in about half a bag of peat to bring up the acidity. Now, if given the choice between peat and coco coir I would choose the coco coir but this is a special situation. I bought a greenhouse from a nursery that was going out of business. He also had a pallet of peat. Rather than send the peat to the landfill I brought it home. This isn’t a choice I make every day but I think, in this scenario, you understand.
Next I add a few shovels of rabbit manure mixed with sawdust. I realize not everybody has rabbit manure but you have to understand, I don’t have soil in this hole. I’m using the rabbit manure to replace the missing soil mass. Bear with me here. I’m not presenting an ultimate solution, I’m just trying to make lemonade.
Then I mix the components and add some water.
Now I replace my string, measure my space between plants (with a 4′ tool handle) and place my plant in the hole.
I’m still short on soil so I continue surrounding the plant with rabbit manure and top it all off with a bit of horse manure. Yeah, I know…not everybody has horse manure laying around either. I’m trying to bring up the acidity after mining out a bushel basket of limestone.
Finally, I cover the row with a fresh 4″ of composted sawdust. As that sawdust breaks down it will provide a weed barrier and raise the acidity of my soil. Also it will sponge up moisture and provide soil structure as blueberries want to be moist, not wet.
I have done a lot of work over a couple of hours to plant a measly six plants. As they grow they’ll tell me what they need. I may have to make some changes or at least a few tweaks before they really take off. I don’t know. It is the unknown unknowns (Thanks Talib) that make gardening exciting.
Special thanks to our friends Nathan and Aimee for lending a hand with the mulch. They thought they were just coming for lunch…
Do you have a pH meter? It’s really helpful for me. My girlfriend sells them at her sustainable living store if you want one.
I don’t have one and might be interested. Let me know how much.
Oh, also, I really like the location. It will look good and all the rock put on the drive over the years should help with the pH.
I’m glad you like it. We spent a lot of time considering our options and were leaning strongly toward putting a blueberry patch on the South edge of the pond by the swimming area. That hasn’t been entirely ruled out yet but in an effort to contain costs and still gain experience we started small.