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.

Image Credit: http://www.cherrylanenursery.com.au/10/granite-belt-gardening

Image Credit: http://www.cherrylanenursery.com.au/10/granite-belt-gardening

Pine mulch on my blueberry plants

Pine mulch on my blueberry plants

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.

My neighbor's GINORMOUS pine tree.

My neighbor's GINORMOUS pine tree.

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.  

My blueberry plant after a rain storm.

My blueberry plant after a rain storm.

I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).

I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)

This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.

In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself. 

With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix  DMC-ZS15 compact camera.) 

I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.    

Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!

- Catherine