Pine Needle Mulch for Blueberries
I recently got a great gardening tip for growing blueberries. It came from a friend who grew up in Maine, who said that her mother always covered the ground around her blueberry bushes with pine needles. When it comes to advice on Lobsters, LL Bean or Blueberries - I'll trust someone from Maine any day.
Gardening advice is so interesting. I'm learning more and more every year about soil nutrition, pests and diseases, and more, and much of that comes from other gardeners. I find some techniques are backed up by science, some things are questionable and some are just things passed down from generation to generation without much backup. So, even though I trust my Mainer friend, I wanted to dig a little deeper to find out why someone would put pine mulch around their blueberry plants.
The first (and most prevalent) reason I found on the endless pipeline of info that is the Internet, was that the pine needles are an organic way to lower the pH (raise the acidity) of the soil. Blueberries need soil with a fairly low pH - lower than most other things I have growing in the garden. Blueberries like a pH around 4.5 to 5.5.
Upon further research, it seems like pine needles may not actually lower the pH of the soil.
But that didn't stop me from telling lots of people that pine needles lower pH. See....this is how gardening rumors get passed on.
However, pine mulch isn't a bad thing and may be a good way to keep the weeds at bay. According to "Decoding Gardening Advice" by Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard, pine needles may contain chemicals that keep seeds from germinating. (So don't put pine needles near seeds you want to germinate.
I only have one container with a couple of small blueberry plants. I got them to sort of "experiment" to see if I could grow them. (I'm always up for a challenge!) They didn't give me any berries last year (the first year), and this year I had a few flowers that turned into blueberries you can see in the picture above. There aren't many of them.
So, where to find pine needles? I don't have any pine trees. Luckily, my neighbor has an enormous pine tree. This thing is so big, we all look out our windows the morning after a big storm to (hopefully) still see it standing there. Thankfully, my neighbor was more than happy to have someone take away some of the millions of needles that fall from this thing.
By the way, if you still need to lower the pH of your soil, you can use an organic acidifier, like the one from Espoma.