Ask Alys: can I grow blueberries without peat?

I grow fruit and vegetables organically in my front garden in boarded raised beds. I would love to grow blueberries, but I know they need an acidic soil. How can I create a bed for them without using any peat-based products?
Peat-free soil for acid-loving plants does exist, but you might not be able to get it from every garden centre you visit. The best one I’ve tried is made by Melcourt and is called SylvaGrow ericaceous compost – this is the bee’s knees, although I’d say that about all of this company’s composts. You can get hold of it online and it’s also available from a number of good garden centres: visit melcourt.co.uk for a list of stockists.

A maximum pH of 5.5 makes for ideal growing conditions for blueberries to thrive, so mulching around your blueberry bushes with a thick layer of pine needles will also help keep the soil acidic. I’ve also had good results with blueberries grown in tubs by regularly adding the ends of the coffee pot to the surface of the compost. Blueberries love nitrogen, which coffee grounds are high in, and their acidic nature helps gently to keep the soil at the lower end of the pH scale.

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