A Journey to Grow a Little Food Close to Home

Monday, April 11, 2011


Late last week I came home to thisand I was super excited!

I ripped open the box and found these 4 sleeves

What was in them?

TopHat Blueberriesare a dwarf variety (everybody knows how much I like tiny things!) that can be grown in pots on a deck or porch.

When I found out about them (they are relatively new), I had to have some.

Here are the little guys out of the protective sleeves

Now...here's the thing with blueberries - they need something special for their soil.

Back in August last year, we talked about growing dirt. One of the things that we didn't get too in-depth about was soil ph. Ph refers to the amount of acid (or lack thereof) in the soil. Most veggies and flowers like a rather neutral soil (i.e an average amount of acid) of 7.0 on the ph scale. Blueberries, on the other hand, like LOTS of acid. They like ph levels of 4.5-5 (yes...the lower the number, the higher the acidity). If this high acidity is not maintained, the plant will not look very healthy and may even die.

So...how do we know what the acidity level is and how do we correct it (i.e. lover the ph)? Test and amend!

First, always start with high quality soil.

Look at how full of organic material that is!

This is actually a mix of organic compost and a heavier soil. I wanted the heaviness to the soil because this is a bush and will move around a lot in the wind. The roots need something heavy to grip into.

So, with this soil ready to go, I needed to test it. At most garden centers, you can pick up a soil test kit for just a couple bucks.

I really only needed the ph test but the nitrogen and phosphorous and soforth were included as well. Follow the directions on the kit and you'll get the ph of your soil in just a few seconds. Mine, as predicted, was a neutral 7.0.

Knowing that blueberries like a ph level 2-2.5 points below this, I needed to lower the ph level by raising the acidity.

I didn't have a peat bog handy to plant my blueberries in (peat is quite acidic) so I used an age-old trick - sulfur!
This stuff is an elemental sulfurwhich means that it is very pure. Other options are ammonium sulfate and aluminum sulfate. They work faster (3-4 months as opposed to almost a year for elemental sulfur) but are harsher on the plants. I'd rather take the long term option and use a temporary fix for the remainder of this year (like Miracle Grow for Acid-Loving Plants).

After following the math on the bag, I knew that I needed about 1.5 lbs to lower the amount of soil that I had by 2 ph points.

There was no doubt that I was working with sulfur - the smell of rotten eggs was everywhere!

Once mixed, though, I was ready top plant. When you pull plants out of the pots that you buy them in, make sure to massage the roots apart just a little if they are root bound like these It helps the plant to grow better.

So... here they are all potted up!

Now, I just have to cross my fingers that they'll grow well!

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