Question ...

I was wondering if you can help me. My father has just bought some blueberry plants. The instructions say that the plants need to be put into an acid soil. He would like to know what organic materials he can use to make his soil acid for these plants.

Answer ...

As you quite rightly say blueberries do need acidic conditions - a soil pH between 4 and 5.5 to be specific. We recommend you test your soil to see what the pH is. There are various kits available from local garden centres or contact the Organic Gardening Catalogue on 0845 130 1304 or go online at Next step:

If the soil is acidic you can simply plant directly into the soil, mulching with composted bark or pine needles. Use rainwater when watering in plants if possible as this is acidic.

If the soil is not acid (i.e. neutral or alkaline) then we suggest your father uses containers where the appropriate acid soil conditions can be controlled and maintained with little work. Again, use composted conifer bark and pine needles as a mulch. The reason for this recommendation is that it will take major soil modifications to attain an acidic soil in your garden - it will take regular testing and further modifications to keep the soil acidic (plus more expense). At Garden Organic we advise members to work with the soil they have, planting species that are suited to those conditions - not to struggle with it or fight against it.

Garden Organic members can see our expert factsheets for further advice on organic gardening. Access to factsheets requires a members' password.