The Best Soil For Growing Blueberries

The Best Soil For Growing Blueberries

Growing Blueberries in Northern Michigan

Blueberries are a popular fruit that can be grown in northern Michigan, including the Traverse City region. However, blueberries have specific soil requirements that must be met in order to thrive. In this article, we will discuss the best soil for growing blueberries in northern Michigan and how to prepare it for planting.

(Featured Image: Blueberry Bush by Martin Stone)

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5 Tips For Healthy Soil:

1. Test The Soil pH

Blueberries require acidic soil with a pH between 4.0 and 5.5. The soil in northern Michigan is typically alkaline, with a pH above 7.0, which is not suitable for growing blueberries. To lower the pH of the soil, you can add sulfur or peat moss to the soil. Sulfur can be added to the soil at a rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet to lower the pH by one unit. Peat moss can also be added to the soil at a rate of 2-3 cubic feet per 100 square feet to lower the pH.

We recommend using a pH meter that is specifically designed to test soil, this will ensure the most accurate measurement. A 3-in-1 pH meter like this one can test for moisture and light as well as pH, giving you a multi-use tool for your garden and container planters.

A pH tester being used to test soil in a green bucket.

pH Tester by Susan A Secretariat

2. Identify The Soil Type

Ninebark is a unique shrub that boasts several features to earn year-round interest! Starting in the fall, this shrub’s foliage will turn a beautiful goldenrod to orange. Simultaneously, red berry-like blisters start to grow where the expired blooms once rested.

Finally, once all of its leaves have fallen to the ground, the unique bark of this shrub will start to peel layer by layer – revealing a different hue of reddish orange with each reveal. This is where it gets its name! Ninebark is an easy-to-grow shrub that can reach 6-8’ tall in the right conditions.

A hand trowel with soil for planting blueberries.

Hand Trowel With Soil by Image Catalogue

3. Utilize Soil Nutrients

Blueberries require specific nutrients to thrive, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, too much nitrogen can cause excessive growth and reduce fruit production. To provide the right balance of nutrients for blueberries, it is recommended to use a fertilizer specifically designed for blueberries, which typically has a low nitrogen content and higher levels of phosphorus and potassium.

Several large, ripe blueberries shown on a mature blueberry plant with bright green leaves.

Ripe Blueberries On Plant

Photo by Nadia Prigoda-Lee

4. Prepare The Soil

To prepare the soil for planting blueberries in northern Michigan, follow these steps:

  • Test the soil: Test the soil to determine the pH and nutrient levels. This will help you determine how much sulfur, peat moss, and fertilizer you need to add to the soil.
  • Add sulfur or peat moss: Add sulfur or peat moss to the soil to lower the pH to between 4.0 and 5.5. Work the sulfur or peat moss into the top 6-8 inches of soil.
  • Add organic matter: Add compost or aged manure to the soil to improve the soil structure and fertility. Work the organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil.
  • Add fertilizer: Add a fertilizer specifically designed for blueberries to provide the right balance of nutrients. Follow the recommended application rates.
  • Plant blueberries: Plant the blueberry bushes in the prepared soil, spacing them 4-6 feet apart. Make sure the root ball is level with the soil surface and water the plants thoroughly after planting.
A pint of blueberries perched on a window sill in a teal blue cardboard container

Blueberry Pint

Photo by Mr.TinMD

5. Maintain Healthy Soil

To maintain healthy blueberry plants in northern Michigan, it is important to regularly test the soil and provide the right nutrients as needed. Here are some additional tips for soil maintenance:

  • Mulch: Add a layer of mulch around the base of the blueberry bushes to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Pine needles, wood chips, or sawdust are good choices for mulch.
  • Water: Blueberries require consistent moisture, especially during fruit development. Water the plants deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather and soil conditions.
  • Fertilize: Fertilize the blueberry plants once a year with a balanced fertilizer designed for blueberries. Follow the recommended application rates.
  • Prune: Prune the blueberry bushes in late winter or early spring to improve air circulation and sunlight penetration, which can reduce the risk of disease.
Blueberry shrubs in raised garden beds in Northern Michigan.

Blueberry Shrubs by Linda N

Start Your Own Blueberry Patch!

Blueberries require specific soil conditions to thrive in Northern Michigan. Fortunately, the climate is well suited to grow this type of berry. With the right soil conditions, blueberries can be a very successful crop to grow for many seasons to come!

Bright Lane Gardens is a plant nursery located just 20 minutes west of Traverse City that has a wide selection of berry plants sourced specifically to thrive in Northern Michigan. Carrying blueberries, raspberries, elderberries, strawberries and all soil and amendments needed to start your berry patch, Bright Lane Gardens is your one-stop-shop for everything berry related!