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Garden blueberry is a rather unpretentious plant in terms of care. Thanks to this property, its popularity among gardeners has greatly increased in recent years. However, when growing it, many were faced with the fact that for the normal development of this plant, special preparation of the earth is needed. If the soil for blueberries is not acidified in a timely manner, then the harvest may not be expected, and the bushes themselves may die.
What soil does blueberry like?
Blueberries grow in many regions of the country, but attempts to grow a wild plant at home have usually ended in failure. But the breeders did not give up their attempts to "cultivate" this berry, and their work was crowned with success. As a result, garden blueberry was bred - a cultivated variety that grows well and bears fruit abundantly when grown under artificial conditions.
One of the specific features of garden blueberry is its demanding soil. In a garden, it cannot be planted in a place where any cultivated plants had previously grown. The soil should be light, breathable, moderately moist, with good drainage. Blueberries will not grow in swampy areas. Another important feature of the soil for this berry is its acidic reaction of the order of 3.5-4.5 pH. This is the pH level of high-moor peat, it is these soils (peat-loamy sandy loam) that are the best for planting blueberries. To improve the properties, rotten leaves, coniferous litter, spruce or pine bark, and ground cones are added to it.
Why do blueberries need acidic soil
The need for acidic soil is associated with the peculiarity of the structure of the root system of garden blueberries. Unlike ordinary plants, it lacks the finest root hairs, with the help of which nutrients are absorbed from the soil. Their role is played by microscopic soil fungi that form a mycorrhiza with blueberry roots. Thanks to them, the plant assimilates water and nutrients. However, such a symbiosis can exist only in an acidic environment; other soil is not suitable for this.
How to make a soil for blueberries with your own hands
To give any soil the properties necessary for the normal growth of blueberries, you can add various components. And you will also need to artificially increase the acidity of the soil. The optimal substrate for growing blueberries is a mix of sand, high-moor peat (at least 50% of the total), fallen needles and sawdust. It is very good to add a layer of upper soil from under coniferous trees to the nutrient soil, since it contains a large number of necessary fungi.
How to determine if you need to acidify the soil
It is easiest to determine whether the soil under blueberries needs acidification by the color of its leaves. With insufficient acidity, they turn red. However, this method cannot be used in the fall, because at this time the plant begins to prepare for winter and the red color of the leaves is a natural reaction to a cold snap.
How to determine the acidity of soil for garden blueberries
You can also determine the acidity of the soil in other ways. Here is some of them.
- pH meter. A specialized electronic device designed to accurately determine the acidity of the soil. It is a probe on an insulated wire, which is stuck into the soil at the desired site. The readings of the device are displayed on an indicator with an arrow scale or digital values.
- Litmus. Litmus test sets can often be found in gardening stores. To determine acidity, a soil sample is poured with distilled water and stirred well. After the soil particles have settled, a litmus test is taken. The acidity level is determined by the color of the indicator and special tables. A green color indicates an alkaline reaction, but if the acidity level is high, the sample turns red.
Important! You can use only distilled water, only it has a guaranteed neutral acidity level and will not affect the measurement accuracy.
- An approximate estimate of the degree of soil acidification can be obtained from wild plants growing on the site. The presence of common and horse sorrel, plantain, horsetail is a sign of soil acidification.
- It is possible to measure the acidity of the soil if you prepare an infusion of currant or cherry leaves. A few leaves are poured with boiling water and allowed to cool. Then a piece of soil is dipped into the container with the infusion. If the infusion turns red, then the soil is highly acidified, blue indicates weak acidity, green indicates neutral.
- To determine whether the soil is acidic or not, you can use vinegar. It is enough just to water the earth with them. A violent reaction with the release of foam will indicate alkalization of the soil. Small bubbles are evidence of weak acidity. The absence of any effect indicates that the soil is highly acidified.
- You can find out the reaction of the soil by dissolving a piece of chalk or lime for whitewashing in a bottle of water, adding a little soil there and putting a rubber ball on the neck. If the soil is acidic, a reaction will begin, accompanied by the release of gas, as a result, the ball will begin to inflate.
How to acidify soil for blueberries
If the soil for blueberries is not acidic enough, then it can be artificially acidified. This can be done using various organic and inorganic acids, introducing their weak solutions into the root zone.
Preparing solutions containing acid is a rather dangerous job that requires care and attention. Contact with an acid solution of even a small concentration on the skin, in the respiratory system or in the eyes can lead to the most serious consequences. The use of personal protective equipment (rubber gloves, goggles, mask or respirator) when working with acids and their solutions is strictly mandatory. To prepare solutions for acidification, use chemically neutral dishes made of glass or plastic resistant to aggressive media. Metal containers must not be used due to a possible chemical reaction.
Important! When preparing acid solutions, acid is always added to water, and not vice versa.
How to acidify blueberry soil with vinegar
Acetic acid is food grade and is sold in grocery stores as an essence with a concentration of 70% or a ready-to-use 9% solution. To acidify the soil, it is the second option that is needed. 100 ml of food vinegar (apple cider vinegar can also be used) is diluted in 10 liters of water, after which the soil of the root zone with an area of about 1 sq.m. is shed. This acidification method can only be used as a one-time short-term measure. Vinegar kills many beneficial bacteria living in the roots, plant nutrition is disturbed, and productivity decreases. In addition, vinegar in the ground decomposes rather quickly, so this method, as a rule, is not enough even for 1 garden season.
How to acidify the soil for blueberries with citric acid
Citric acid is more gentle for blueberries. However, it also does not differ in persistence. To acidify the soil for blueberries with citric acid, take 5 g of powder for 1 bucket of water (10 l), dissolve and water the root zone.
Colloidal sulfur for acidification of blueberries
Sulfur must be crushed into a fine powder. The average rate of its consumption per 1 sq. m is 15 g. Before using colloidal sulfur for blueberries, the root zone is watered abundantly, then the powder is carefully and evenly sprinkled with a thin layer. Usually this substance is used to acidify the soil in early spring, as well as in autumn, during planting.
How to acidify the soil for blueberries with electrolyte
The electrolyte that is poured into acid batteries is a sulfuric acid solution. It can be used to acidify the soil. To prepare the solution, only 30 ml of electrolyte is needed, it must be diluted in 1 bucket of water (10 l). This is quite enough to process 1 sq. m of the root zone of blueberries.
Important! It is impossible to use electrolyte from used batteries, as it contains a large amount of lead salt. To make the soil acidic for blueberries, only fresh, clean electrolyte should be used.
How to acidify the soil under blueberries with oxalic acid
Oxalic acid is a common ingredient in many cleaning products. It is effective and reasonably safe for the environment. Unfortunately, you can find it on the shelves of hardware stores less and less. To prepare an acidifying solution, it is necessary to dissolve 5 g of acid powder in 10 liters of water. With this composition, the soil is shed around the blueberry bushes.
How to acidify blueberries with powdered sulfur
Powdered sulfur is almost insoluble in water, so it is introduced into the root zone in a dry form. It is necessary to scatter it in a thin layer around the bush, after which you need to gently mix it with the top layer of mulch. Gradually dissolving, sulfur will constantly acidify the surface layer in which the blueberry roots are located. For 1 adult bush, 15 g of powder is needed.
Other agrotechnical measures to increase the acidity of the soil
You can increase the acidity of the soil for blueberries using conventional organic matter. The best helper in this is upland and downstream peat. Fallen needles, rotten spruce branches, sawdust give an acidic reaction. Well acidifies the soil and rotted compost from leaves, sphagnum moss. These biological acidifiers are the safest for plant health, they work for a long time and significantly improve the well-being of blueberries.
Some fertilizers also give an acid reaction, for example:
- ammonium nitrate;
- ammonium sulfate;
- potassium sulfate.
If you use these fertilizers for feeding blueberries together with, for example, citric acid, it will acidify the soil even more.
How often to acidify blueberries
The need for acidification of the soil on which blueberries grow is determined by the appearance of the plant. If it has stopped growing, the leaves have acquired a reddish tint, then acidification is necessary. If signs of chlorosis appeared on the leaves (the leaf plate became pale green with clearly visible green veins), then this is a signal that the acidity of the soil is higher than normal.
There is no definite frequency of acidification of the soil under blueberries. The acidity is brought to the desired level before planting by adding colloidal sulfur to the nutrient substrate. Be sure to monitor the soil pH level after winter. The rest of the time, the best indicator is the state of the blueberry.
How can you mulch the soil under blueberries
The best blueberry mulch is to mimic the natural forest floor. This is a mixture of rotten leaves, dry and rotted needles, peat, small sections of their bark of coniferous and deciduous trees. Such a pillow protects well the surface roots of blueberries from damage and winter cold, and is also an additional source of nutrients to the soil. And mulch also acidifies the soil, acts as an insulating layer that prevents the soil from drying out in the root zone and blocks the growth of weeds.
For mulching the root zone, you can also use ordinary dry high-moor peat. You can add small sawdust, dry hay or straw to it. Some components of the mulch rot rather quickly, so the condition of the root zone must be monitored. The thickness of the mulch layer should be 5-10 cm.
There are many ways to acidify the soil for blueberries. However, drastic measures such as using vinegar should be avoided whenever possible. This acidification has a short-term effect and has many side reactions. Instead of watering blueberries, for example, citric or oxalic acid, it is much more correct to use biological materials that have a long-term effect and do not have a negative impact on the environment.