The Best Mulch For Growing Blueberries In Michigan

The Best Mulch For Growing Blueberries In Michigan

Planting and growing blueberries in your home garden is a great way to enjoy homegrown fruit. Blueberry plants grow well in Michigan’s climate and soil. With the right combination of care and materials, you can enjoy your own blueberries for years to come.

Why You Should Mulch Your Blueberries

Mulching blueberries can provide several benefits to the plant, including:

  1. Moisture retention: Mulch helps retain moisture in the soil, which is especially important for blueberries since they require consistently moist soil.
  2. Weed suppression: Mulch helps to suppress weeds, which can compete with blueberries for nutrients and water.
  3. Temperature moderation: Mulch can help moderate soil temperatures, keeping the soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, which can help blueberries thrive.
  4. Soil improvement: Over time, organic mulches can break down and add organic matter to the soil, which can improve soil health and fertility.
  5. Pest and disease control: Certain types of mulch, such as pine needles, can help deter pests like slugs and snails, and some types of mulch can also help prevent certain fungal diseases.

In general, mulching blueberries can help promote healthy growth and improve fruit production.

(Featured Image: Planting Blueberries With Mulch by Bruce Dupree/Alabama Extension)

What Is The Best Mulch For Growing Blueberries?

The best kind of mulch for growing blueberries is an acidic, organic material that is able to retain moisture well. Here are some popular mulch options for blueberries:

1. Pine Needles

Pine needles are a popular choice for blueberry mulch because they are acidic and provide good weed suppression. They also break down slowly, which means they can be used for several years. Pine needles are also a great addition to increase soil ph if you have slightly alkaline soil.

Pine Needle Mulch by Alan Levine

2. Wood Chips

Wood chips are another good choice for blueberry mulch, as they are able to retain soil moisture well and break down slowly over time. However, it’s important to avoid using natural cedar chips or other types of wood that are high in tannins, as these can be harmful to blueberries. Pine mulch is a good option for blueberries.

Wood chips being used as mulch around a freshly planted blueberry bush in Michigan.

Wood Chips by G. Kahn

3. Sawdust

Sawdust is a good choice for blueberry mulch because it is able to retain moisture well and is also acidic. However, it’s important to use sawdust that has been aged for at least a year, as fresh sawdust can rob nitrogen from the soil.

Sawdust collected from pine wood that will be used as fresh mulch around a Michigan blueberry bush.

Sawdust Pile by Sam Wilson

4. Compost

Compost is a great option for blueberry mulch because it is high in nutrients and organic matter. However, it’s important to use compost that has been aged for at least six months to a year before using it as mulch.

Compost by Normanack

Ultimately, the best mulch for blueberries will depend on your specific growing conditions and preferences. It’s a good idea to experiment with different types of mulch to see what works best for your blueberry plants.

Is It OK To Let Grass Grow Around The Base Of A Blueberry Plant?

It is not recommended to let grass grow around blueberry bushes as it can compete with the blueberry plants for water and nutrients. Grass also has a shallow root system that can intertwine with the roots of the blueberry plants, making it difficult for them to absorb nutrients and water effectively.

Furthermore, grass can attract pests and diseases that can be harmful to blueberries. For example, mice and voles may make their homes in tall grass and chew on the bark of blueberry plants, which can damage or even kill the plants. Grass can also harbor fungal diseases that can infect blueberry plants.

To ensure the best growth and health of blueberry plants, it’s recommended to keep the area around the plants free of grass and other weeds. Using organic mulch around your blueberry bushes will help with weed control and will prevent the growth of grass.

How To Apply Mulch To Blueberries

Here are some steps to follow when applying mulch to blueberry plants:

  1. Wait until the soil has warmed up: It’s best to wait until the soil has warmed up in the spring before applying mulch to blueberry plants. This will help prevent the soil from staying too cool and damp, which can be harmful to the plants.
  2. Clear the area around the plants: Remove any weeds, grass, or debris from around the base of the blueberry plants. This will help prevent the mulch from trapping moisture against the plant’s stem, which can lead to rot or disease.
  3. Apply a layer of mulch: Spread a layer of mulch around the base of the blueberry plants, making sure to leave a few inches of space around the stem to prevent it from being covered. The mulch layer should be about 2-4 inches thick.
  4. Reapply mulch as needed: Over time, the mulch layer will break down and become compacted, so it’s important to check on it periodically and add more mulch as needed. Generally, it’s a good idea to add a fresh layer of mulch each spring.
  5. Don’t overdo it: It’s important not to apply too much mulch around blueberry plants, as this can create a thick, soggy layer that can lead to root rot or other problems. Stick to a layer that is 2-4 inches thick and avoid piling the mulch up against the plant’s stem.

By following these steps, you can help protect and nourish your blueberry plants with a layer of mulch.

A blueberry plant ready to be planted in Michigan. Once it is planted, pine needle mulch will be applied around the base of the plant.

Planting Blueberries by Bruce Dupree:Alabama Extension

Basic Steps For Planting Blueberries

Here are the steps to follow when planting blueberry bushes:

  1. Choose a good planting location: Blueberries prefer acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5. They also need well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Choose a planting location that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day and is protected from strong winds.
  2. Prepare the planting area: Clear the area of weeds, grass, and debris. Dig a hole that is twice as wide and as deep as the blueberry plant’s root ball.
  3. Amend the soil: If the soil pH is too high, add sulfur to lower it. Mix in compost or other organic matter to improve soil quality and drainage. Avoid using fertilizer or lime when planting blueberries, as this can harm the plants.
  4. Plant the blueberry bushes: Remove the blueberry plant from its container and gently loosen the roots. Place the plant in the hole, making sure the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Fill in the hole with soil, gently firming it around the plant.
  5. Water the plants: Water the blueberry plant thoroughly after planting, making sure the soil is moist but not waterlogged. Keep the soil consistently moist throughout the growing season, but avoid overwatering.
  6. Mulch around the plants: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the blueberry plants, leaving a few inches of space around the stem. This will help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil quality.
  7. Prune the plants: After planting, prune the blueberry plants to remove any damaged or diseased branches. This will help encourage healthy growth and fruit production.

These are the basic steps for planting blueberries to show when mulch should be added. If you would like a more in-depth guide on planting and growing blueberries, check out our Blueberry Growing Guide.

How To Grow A Successful Blueberry Crop

Blueberries are native to Michigan and will thrive in our conditions here as long as they are set up for success. While they do take some time and attention in their first season, they will have a good yield in future years if given the chance to get well-established. 

Make sure you shop around your local garden center for different varieties that do well in your region. Once you’ve purchased your new plants, evaluate the soil conditions of your garden. Blueberries prefer sandy soils, which are common here in Michigan. You may need to add peat moss or acid fertilizers to lower the pH of your soil if it is not acidic enough. This is a very important step!

​Take note of the time of year you plan to plant your blueberries. In Michigan, we need to start blueberry bushes in late spring or early summer at the latest. Young plants need the full summer season to get established before our harsh winters. 

Lastly, invest the time and money into a high quality fertilizer. Blueberries need vital nutrients to become well established. The best fertilizers are organic and contain all natural ingredients that yield better crops. After fertilizing, add a good mulch from the list of options above to help the soil retain moisture and nutrients.

Start Your Own Berry Patch This Year!

Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow in Michigan. We have the right conditions for growing a variety of berries. Whether you’re growing large bushes in the ground, or only have room for compact varieties that grow better in patio containers, there are many berry options that you can grow right in your own backyard! Check out our other articles on growing berries in Michigan: