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Conifers and acid-loving fruit bushes?

Steve Furlong


Joined: Nov 10, 2010
Posts: 40
This thought just occurred to me. I've recently moved into a house that has two dwarf Leyland cypresses beside each other in the garden. Now, I have a vague notion that conifers acidify the soil, and I also know that blueberry and cranberry shrubs do best in more acidic soil. So I'm wondering, have I got a potential for some companion planting here?
Brandis Roush


Joined: Apr 16, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: Central Minnesota
I have no help for you, but I would also like to know more about this. I have avoided planting blueberries because I was told it took a year of soil conditioning to get proper acidity, and I just haven't gotten around to it. But my property is surrounded on three sides by really large conifers of some sort (not exactly sure what kind, I used to think Spruce but now I'm not so sure), so I have literally any microclimate (full sun, no sun, some sun, good drainage, less good drainage, top of a hill, bottom of a hill... you get my idea) near conifers. Is this true, and if so do all conifers acidify the soil? I mean I guess it makes sense because I just read that you're NOT supposed to put evergreen needles into your compost or mulch because they are two acidic, so it would make sense that where they have been naturally falling and breaking down the soil would be more acidic... perhaps I'll just break out the soil test that's been in my cupboard for a year and try it out

Needless to say, I'm waiting on the answer to this as well.
Brandis Roush


Joined: Apr 16, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: Central Minnesota
FWIW my super low tech soil test said the ph of the soil under the conifers in one place is 6.5... slightly acidic, but not ideal for blueberries. I am going to try a few more spots, as different places seem to get different concentrations of needles.
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 747
Location: Northern Italy
    
  18
They're talking about the same thing over here:
http://www.growfruitandveg.co.uk/grapevine/feeling-fruity/blueberry-bush-under-conifer-hedge_62697.html

Might have problems with water (and light) according to them.
W
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
sure, test the soil and see if it is acidic enough..then you could put in a combination of any acid loving shrubs such as rhodies, azaleas, blueberries, cranberries, wintergreens..etc.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Steve Furlong


Joined: Nov 10, 2010
Posts: 40
Yeah I was going to test the soil, but I figured the expense of a kit didn't justify only ever using it once. I just wanted to see if anyone else had tried the blueberry/conifer idea.
Mary James


Joined: Mar 18, 2011
Posts: 140
Location: NW MT Zones 4/5 Rollins Mt
    
    2
Puppies,
We live in an area filled with evergreens, the soil is still on the alkaline point.We have blue berries growing here in their 4th year.Where I live I know the soil would be way to hard to change over to an acid based for them even using the recommended pine needle mulches ,sulfur, peat, sulpher etc..
Blueberries will grow as an understory shrub very nicely with filtered light.That is what ours get. Ours are also planted in containers(reused bathtub) which we can control the soil in.They are planted in a mix of peat,2yearold sawdust, pine needles.We fertilize them a mixture of sulpher epsoms, and a good slow release acid based organic fertilizer along with compost tea..Because of their root structure they utilize more water then many of the other plants as well..Having evergreens surrounding them would be a big competition for water..
I did see an interesting planting technique for blueberry a while back, not exactly a permie way,,,, They simply dug a hole big enough for a bale of peat,, put holes in the bottom of the bag, put it down in the hole opened the top planted straight into it..By using the bag as well it retains more water that way..
Mary
of the Happy House
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 747
Location: Northern Italy
    
  18
Here's the method Mary James alluded to. Not sure I'd want to bury plastic, but you know, whatever that floats your boat....

other website wrote:
1.
Dig a big pit, about one-and-a-half spade depths.

2.
Line the bottom half of the pit (half a spade depth) with plastic sacks. No matter if the sacks are not watertight or if you have to overlap two or three to cover the bottom of the hole - but as long as they cover enough of the soil and come halfway up the sides of the hole, to slow the drainage.

3.
Fill with an equal mix of compost and ordinary garden soil.

4.
Plant blueberries.

5.
Water very heavily with rainwater.

-

The idea is that several inches down, the drainage will be impeded, so the soil remains heavy, which in turn, absorbs acidic atmospheric gases and behaves just like acid rain.

The upper level not being lined with plastic sacks allows overflow of excess water (to prevent drowining) and allows some air access for the roots to not suffocate.

The blueberries can then find the ideal wetness and acidity for their roots to work best. In addition, the very heavy/boggy soil deeper down takes a long time to dry out, so the blueberries don't need much watering.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3109
Location: woodland, washington
    
  58
pH comes up a lot with regard to blueberries. my experience is that it isn't critical. if maximum production is very important to you, pH is worth paying attention to. otherwise, just try to incorporate a lot of organic matter into the dirt.

the reason plants prefer a particular range of pH has to do with which ions are in solution at each point on that scale. the nice thing about really good dirt is that there's a lot of buffering going on that keeps ions in solution at a wider pH range than would otherwise be expected.

so adjusting pH is one way to make the necessary ions available to a plant, but improving the dirt is another and frequently easier option.

we have slightly acidic soil here (6.5-ish), and our blueberries are doing well.


as far as conifers or conifer needles lowering pH: I'm not convinced they do. a lot of conifers grow where soil is already acidic, which may have given rise to the assumption that the conifers are responsible. that said, quite a few Vacciniums evolved to grow in conifer forests, so planting them near conifers could work well.


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William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 747
Location: Northern Italy
    
  18
tel jetson wrote:
the reason plants prefer a particular range of pH has to do with which ions are in solution at each point on that scale. the nice thing about really good dirt is that there's a lot of buffering going on that keeps ions in solution at a wider pH range than would otherwise be expected.

so adjusting pH is one way to make the necessary ions available to a plant, but improving the dirt is another and frequently easier option.


Oh my goodness, that is awesome!
Now I have something to reply to those people religiously amending their soil before planting (and telling me I can't put a blueberry down without first investing in mineral concoctions.)
William
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3109
Location: woodland, washington
    
  58
William James wrote:
Oh my goodness, that is awesome!
Now I have something to reply to those people religiously amending their soil before planting (and telling me I can't put a blueberry down without first investing in mineral concoctions.)
William


the catch is that it will usually take longer than the quick fix/buy-it-from-the-garden-center solution. the bagged amendments will typically need to be regularly replenished, though, so I think you'll come out ahead.
 
 
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