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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - December 31, 2008

From: Seagrove, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Soils, Shrubs
Title: Further information on soil pH for growing blueberries
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Thank you for your reponse to my question / comment. You were exactly right about soil pH. Here is what Clemson University Extension has to say about growing blueberries in North and South Carolina. (I "borrowed" the following directly from their web sites) The soil pH value is a measure of soil acidity or alkalinity. Soil pH directly affects nutrient availability. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 as neutral. Numbers less than 7 indicate acidity while numbers greater than 7 indicate alkalinity. Plants thrive best in different soil pH ranges. Azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries and conifers thrive best in acid soils (pH 5.0 to 5.5). Soil pH Adjustment: Have a soil test taken in the fall before planting in late winter or early spring. If the pH is above 6.0, select another planting site. If the soil pH is below 6.0 but above the 5.5 limit, apply wettable sulfur (90 percent sulfur) or aluminum sulfate. A very low soil pH caused by excess sulfur can be detrimental. Some soils in the Piedmont are very high in manganese. When growing blueberries on these soils, keep the pH above 5.0 to avoid problems with manganese toxicity. Any sulfur applications should be made at least three months prior to planting because it takes several months for sulfur to reduce the pH. Check the pH once or twice during the first growing season to determine if still more sulfur is required later in the season. Sometimes, the impatient home gardener will insist on planting without a soil test. In this case, mix 1 cubic foot of peat moss with an equal amount of sand. It is important to use a sand that has not been limed or that does not contain a liming material. Most builder’s sand, referred to as “sharp” sand, does not contain liming materials.

ANSWER:

And thank you again, for the information. We frequently refer back to previous questions (and answers) when we are asked a similar question. Your information may help another gardener later, or at least discourage trying to grow blueberries in alkaline soil.

 

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