Preparing soil for growing berries

Asked November 7, 2015, 11:12 AM EST

I have a thriving vegetable garden of raised beds using leaf compost from the City of College Park as my soil. I would like to add some beds with that soil in order to grow strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. I realize that blueberries require acidic soil and I would need to test and then lower the pH. Will my approach using the compost as soil work for these four kinds of berries? If not, what would you recommend for affordable raised bed soil? The new beds are next to beds where I grow vegetables including tomatoes and eggplant. Is this a problem? The beds are about three feet apart. Do you provide soil testing? How would I do that? I live in Silver Spring.

Montgomery County Maryland

3 Responses

Begin by viewing our website and profiles on small fruits publication Getting Started With Small Fruits
Your approach for planting looks good. It is ok to plant near the vegetables. We have not heard of any negatives regarding using the leaf compost from that location.
The pH for planting blueberries should be amended before planting.

We do not test the soil. See the soil testing link below from our website. Begin by reading our soil testing fact sheets HG 110 “Selecting & Using a Soil Testing Lab” & HG 110a “List of Regional Soil Testing Laboratories”. You can also view our Video “How To Take A Soil Sample “and FAQ’s. Select a regional soil testing lab, download their forms, and submit your soil samples with a check to the lab. A cup of soil is needed for each garden area or bed that you test. You can use a ziploc bag to send in each soil sample. Results of the soil test will give pH, liming, and nutrient deficiencies. You can submit another question, if you need interpretation of the soil test results.

I have a question regarding preparing my soil (leaf compost) for blueberries. I learned that the compost I use for soil has a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. I was planning on adding powdered elemental sulfur, of 5.6 lbs per 100 square feet (rate of Backyard Berry Book for sulfur for loam). Would you agree?

From what I have read in The Backyard Berry Book, I shouldn't plant for at least 6-12 months after adding the soil amendment. Would you agree? That would mean I couldn't plant until mid-June at the earliest. Should I then wait until the fall 2016 to plant, since it will be almost summer? Or wait until early spring 2017?

Without soil test results and assuming your pH is between 6-7 here are some recommendations. Prepare your site and Incorporate into the existing soil with your organic matter 3lbs. of elemental sulfur and 10 lbs. of iron sulfate per 100 sq ft. You can do this now.
You can plant the blueberries in the spring.
Mulch and irrigation are essential for fast establishment, steady growth, and consistently high yields. Blueberry plants require at least one inch of water per week (65 gals./100 sq. ft.). You must supply supplement rainfall when necessary.
Pine bark mulch, rotted sawdust, and compost are good mulches. Apply them to a depth of 2 - 3 inches and replenish whenever necessary.

First year blueberries require no fertilization. 2 year - 2 oz. of 21-0-0 ammonium sulfate per plant during bloom and the same amount 3 weeks later. Scatter in a ring 15-18 inches from the plant. Increase by 1 oz per year until the 6th year, then use 8 oz per plant each succeeding year. Avoid fertilizers containing nitrates or chlorides. See our link on blueberries