Blueberries are delicious and healthy, so growing them at home is a fantastic way to use them in your daily meals to make use of their antioxidant benefits. However, if the blueberries you’re growing taste tart instead of sweet, you might wonder what you’re doing wrong.
You need to improve your soil to grow sweeter blueberries, which involves making the soil a bit more acidic, as acidic soil contributes to a juicer yield of berries. You should also ensure the soil is warm but well-draining.
In this article, I’ll explore the above and other tips to help you cultivate sweeter blueberries that won’t make you wince when you bite into them.
1. Adjust the Soil pH to Between 4.5 and 5.5
Test your soil to be sure that your blueberries are grown with the right pH. If your soil isn’t acidic enough, it can negatively affect the berries’ growth and even kill them off. The ideal soil pH for blueberries is between 4.5 and 5.5, as Michigan State University reports.
Use a soil pH tester to check your soil. I recommend it because it measures soil pH and moisture while providing a clear reading display to make it easy to see the results. It’s designed with a single probe, so it’s easy to put into the soil.
If your soil doesn’t have enough acidity, you can resolve this by adding pine needles, pine bark, or peat moss to it to increase its acidity.
However, soil can also be too acidic for blueberries. If you’re interested in learning more, don’t miss my other article: Can Soil Be Too Acidic for Blueberries?
2. Plant Blueberries in Warm Soil
If your berries taste more tart than sweet, the problem could be that their soil isn’t warm enough. Blueberries need to be planted in soil that gets full-sun conditions for at least three-quarters of the day.
If your blueberries grow in the shade, it will affect their growth and cause them not to sweeten. So, avoid planting blueberries close to larger plants and trees that will produce a lot of shade and compete with the blueberry plants for nutrients and water. They’ll also disrupt the air circulation around the plants.
3. Give Your Blueberries Mulch To Preserve Soil Moisture
Although sunlight-hungry, blueberries don’t want to be sitting in water. Since blueberry plants have shallow roots, they need their soil to maintain enough moisture, but the soil needs to drain well.
If you’ve never tested the drainage of your soil, you can do this by digging a one-foot (0.3 m) hole and filling it with water. See how long it takes to drain. If it takes very long, you should enhance the soil drainage.
To improve how well your soil drains, add four inches (10.16 cm) of peat moss to the top 12 inches (30.48 cm) of the soil. This will work double-duty by enhancing soil drainage and adjusting your soil pH.
To ensure the blueberry plant’s roots get enough water from the soil, apply two inches (5.08 cm) of mulch around the plant. This will prevent its roots from becoming too dry.
If you’re growing blueberries in a raised bed, ensure you water them twice a week instead of giving them one inch (2.54 cm) of water per week. This will keep the soil moist without allowing it to become soggy for multiple days at a time.
4. Nourish the Soil With Organic Matter
Organic matter helps blueberries to grow and thrive while also improving how they taste when harvested. Three inches (7.62 cm) of compost-enriched organic matter should be added to six inches (15.24 cm) of soil to ensure the soil gets enough nutrients.
5. Fertilize the Soil
Fertilizing the blueberry plant’s soil will encourage its roots to grow and enhance its fruit production, as West Virginia University reports.
You should apply small amounts of fertilizer in three separate applications:
- The first application should be made when new growth appears on the plant in spring.
- The second application should be made six weeks later.
- Finally, the third application should be made after you’ve harvested the plant.
When choosing the most effective fertilizer, any type of fertilizer that works for rhododendrons or azalea plants will also work for blueberries.
6. Plant Blueberries in Sandy Loam Soil
Blueberries want to be planted in loose soil. It should be sandy loam. This type of soil contains sand as well as a bit of clay and silt. It’s such a great choice for blueberries because it naturally drains well.
If you’re not sure if your garden has sandy loam soil, you can test it by following these steps:
- Take a fistful of dry soil in your hand.
- Carefully drizzle water on it with your other hand.
- Work the water into the soil with your hand so that it becomes like dough.
- Hold the soil and squeeze it.
If the soil feels gritty, that’s a good sign the soil is sandy loam. Another indication is if the soil can be squeezed between your thumb and finger, forming a ribbon.
You can make your soil sandy loam by following these tips:
- Apply two inches (5.08 cm) of organic matter to the soil. Ideally, do this during autumn. You can use organic matter such as dried leaves, grass clippings, and compost.
- Water the organic matter until it’s very wet.
- Allow it to rest during the winter.
- When spring arrives, work the organic material into the soil. Make sure that it is worked to a depth of about seven inches (17.78 cm). You can do this effectively with a rototiller, but you can also use a garden fork or spade.
To learn more about improving soil for blueberries, you can check out my other article: How to Improve Soil for Blueberries: 6 Easy Methods
7. Nourish the Soil With Nitrogen
Blueberry plants are quite low-maintenance because they don’t require soil that’s filled with lots of nutrients. However, they perform well when given organic mulch as this nourishes the soil when it disintegrates.
You should also boost the soil with a bit of nitrogen by applying alfalfa meal, soybean meal, or cottonseed meal once every year. Alfalfa meal is an excellent way to add more nitrogen to your soil. It increases the rate at which organic material in the soil decomposes.
8. Prepare the Soil Correctly for Planting
Once you have the right soil for your blueberry plants to grow and thrive, bear in mind that you must follow some important tips so that you plant them properly.
- Give the roots enough space. Dig a hole for the plants that’s deep and wide enough for the roots to have enough space to expand. This is beneficial to the growth of the blueberry plant because when the roots spread into the soil, they’ll grow faster.
- Amend the soil around the plants. When amending the soil for your blueberries, make sure you don’t solely concentrate on their planting holes. You should amend the soil up to two feet (0.6 m) around the plant so that you accommodate for how its roots are going to be spreading outward from the plant. This will give the blueberry plant roots enough access to the acidic soil they crave.
9. Consider Raised Beds for Unhealthy Soil
If you don’t have the correct soil in your garden to grow blueberries or it’s too much work to amend it, you should consider planting blueberry plants in raised beds. This makes it easier to control the soil pH and other elements so that you give your blueberries everything they require to grow healthy and bear sweet fruit.
When planting blueberries in a raised bed, make sure the bed provides enough space for them to grow and spread their roots. It should be eight-10 inches (20.32-25.4 cm) in height and 2-5 inches (5.08-12.7 cm) in width to accommodate the plants and their roots.
While you can use garden soil in your raised bed, you will have to amend it so that it becomes sandy loam to nourish your blueberry plants and encourage them to grow juicier berries.
Growing more delicious blueberries requires the correct type of soil. Some things to ensure include the following:
- Well-draining soil.
- Acidic soil with a pH of between 4.5 and 5.5.
- Adding organic matter to the soil.