Compost mulching (mentioned) seed starting

Following Standard Gardening Advice / Some Examples/And Why it Might Happen

Seed starting season is here and we’ll be transplanting to our gardens before we can catch a deep breath.

onion seedlings

If you’re a long time reader of TMG you’ve learned to save lots of time by not doing things that conventional wisdom dictates you “have to” do.

You already know if you work with nature you

  • don’t have to till,
  • don’t have to water,
  • don’t have to weed more than 5 or 10 minutes each day,
  • don’t have to add purchased fertilizers
  • and a lot of other stuff the “experts” say you have to do.

If you’re a new reader, you have a lot of surprises in store as you stay current with TMG and as you go back through the TMG archives and discover all the things you may have thought you had to do as a gardener, but don’t.

In going back through some files the other day I found a few articles I’d saved that reminded me again of some of the more common things you read and hear that you supposedly have to do.


I’m enjoying blueberry bars this week; made from my frozen berries. Thus, my eye quickly caught an article I had saved on blueberries. Sure glad I never paid any attention to it.

It goes like this:

Blueberries MUST have an acid soil with a pH factor of 4.5 to 50. If your soil lacks this acidity, mix in large quanties of peat moss or sulphur. Blueberries also need to be fed with an acid fertilizer, however, please note that the young plants require very little feeding and that heavy fertilization will kill the plants. They require watering on a weekly basis.”

Isn’t that interesting?

Want to hear something more interesting?

I have 8 bushes in the garden that have been there for at least 15 years. (This garden is 18 years old.) They produce an abundance of berries every year. Bill and I always ate half of each day’s harvest fresh and then I’d freeze the rest. Most years I have 3 or 4 gallons or more in the freezer.

  • Since I planted the bushes the soil has maintained a pH of 6.6 to 6.8.
  • I have never used sulphur on my soil.
  • I stated my case about peat moss here. The only time I use peat moss is to mix up a growing medium for seed in pots.
  • I don’t water my blueberries. Drought is normal in our area most years. The worst I remember was 10 weeks. My garden does fine anyway. (If I collect excess rain water in the spring that can’t fit in my two 25 gallon trash cans, I’ll sometimes empty it onto the blueberries or asparagus in the garden. Organic matter and mulch help hold it in the soil until times that it’s needed.)
  • I mulch my bushes with leaves and straw all year round. If I can get pine tags I’ll use those also. (And no – pine tags do NOT make the soil acidic. That’s a myth that seems to be promoted a lot.)
  • I have never “fertilized” my blueberries. They get all the nutrients they need from the decayed organic matter in the soil that comes from the leaves and straw.

Blueberry bushes in my garden loaded with berries.



It seems to me that most new organic gardeners come to “understand” that they absolutely have to make compost either in a “properly” made compost pile or from some purchased compost-maker gadget.

Over time, I’ve covered just about every aspect of that concept and have gone into detail about why it’s just not necessary for the average home gardener.

On the other hand, if you’re a market grower (of lettuce or whatever) and have beds in continual production and need to refurbish those beds with compost, it would pay to have a good sized compost pile(s).

Years back, a reader who had read of my easy composting method and had seen it first hand in my garden emailed me. She said her husband had purchased one of those barrel-like compost makers that one rotates ever so often. She indicated that he thought my way was not suitable because everything he read said that you need compost.

I was rather surprised that in all the information I had written that he did not understand that I was making compost – just in a much easier way. (And one that didn’t cost me a cent.)

Reasons for This Type of Response

I enjoy watching various things when I eat my meals. As you probably remember from past posts, I find encouragement and sometimes profound statements in the most unusual places. Yesterday, I found a maxim  from Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

When the episode started this flashed across the screen:

Searching for the truth is easy; accepting the truth is hard.

Wow! They sure hit that one! But it would even be more accurate if adjusted as follows:

Searching for the truth is easy; accepting the truth can be hard.

Of course, part of the reason that’s true is there is so much out there that is either incorrect or  filled with half-truths. We read or hear it over and over and it gets programmed into our brain. Then when something comes along that’s a little different (the truth for instance or an easier way) , we reject it in favor of what we’ve heard so many times.

Another part of that is that some cannot benefit from the experience of others which could save them lots of time. They have to find out for themselves by doing it the hard way.

Many times that’s due to not knowing who to believe or trust.

And oddly enough that wisdom must often come from following bad advice enough to know the good advice when you come across it.

Related Posts:

Secrets to Seed Starting Success – A Sneak Preview

Blueberry Bushes – Growing Blueberries

Blueberries – What They Need

Growing Blueberry Bushes – Conventional vs. the TMG way

Compost – What It Is and Methods Used to Get It

Composting – The Whys and Why Nots

Soil Fertility – Without Manure or Compost

Peat Moss – Do You Need It In Your Garden?


All content including photos are copyright by  All Rights Reserved.


  • Timely talk on blueberries for me since last year was not good at all. My bushes were only planted 3 years before and had produced the year before. I wondered about acidity since my soil is close to neutral but now I think I’ll wait and see and pay more attention to details around them.


    Ray Kent

  • I admire your blueberry bushes so much, Theresa. They are nothing like the lanky weaklings that only produce a handful of berries in my yard.

  • About blueberries? The last couple years I have had the first berries look to be ripening early,only to find a larva hole on one side.Turns out a tiny fly lays an egg in the flower.I have noticed the fly all around the gardens, but it doesn’t seem to bother other fruit.The berries coming on later in the season don’t seem to be as affected.I didn’t think anything bothered blueberries!?!Any help will be welcomed.Thanks
    About pine needles:We have alot of white pines here in western NC, and they shed in the early fall.I get a couple leaf-bags full along the road since I know they haven’t been there long enough to be contaminated by cars.
    About wood mulch:I get my electric power from my co-op that chips up trees as they maintain the power-line-right-of-way.I call and get on the list, and they will dump a load when they are in my area.He said they are always looking for places to dump.
    I always enjoy your posts. Thanks

  • Ray, sure sorry to hear of your bad luck with your blueberries.
    I have no proof or scientific basis for the following thoughts — but if your soil pH is almost 7 (neutral)
    that would make me a bit “antsy”. Just a gut feeling but my insides tell me that’s pushing it too much towards neutral.
    Probably the “scientific” reason (can’t think of what else to call it) that my berries do so well is because when soil is rich in organic matter plant needs can often be met in spite of pH levels that they usually don’t do well in.

    I can’t remember for sure but I think Richard Parnes (scientist) addressed this in his book Soil Fertility that I mentioned in this post:

    I like your idea of paying more attention to details around the bushes.

    Remember too that they hate root competition.

    Also I’ve seen one bush that was only 3 feet from one growing like gangbusters, be stunted and remain at 18 inches tall for almost a decade and then start growing. Go figure!

    For what it’s worth, I read several reports of coffee grounds doing wonders (over time) for blueberry bushes that were doing poorly. The grounds are close to pH 6.5 to 6.8. Folks I read about just laid them on top of the soil and covered with straw etc. Worth a try if you have the coffee grounds. Certainly can’t hurt since it’s just more good organic matter.

    Keep me posted. I’ll be anxious to know what you discover and hoping they’ll surprise you with a great crop this year.

    Sandra, I was so excited to see a comment from you. You’ve been so much a part of TMG over the years and added so much to various posts. You’ve been missed! Thank you for taking time to comment again.

    I don’t have any idea what that fly could be. I have all kinds of little flies and other insects in the garden, but nothing seems to bother the blueberries except the birds. 🙂

    Glad to hear that you’re able to get some good mulch! That’s always exciting.

    If you find out what that little fly is, let me know.

    Sorry I could not be of more help.


  • Thanks for the coffee grounds tip. I’ll try them.
    I think my blueberries are planted too close to the white pines. I’m going to try moving them inside the big garden fence as soon as I know the soil has been prepared long enough to benefit them. It’s a slow process when you only start with a couple of inches of poor clay soil before hitting a solid rock ledge!
    I’m still excited about what I have been able to accomplish, with the grandsons helping during the summer!
    Betty Dotson

  • Blueberry maggots. They can also affect bramble fruits. I tented my three little blueberry bushes with spunbonded insect fabric last year in order to escape them. Cost money and made picking more of a chore. But it was worth it. Wormy crops, yeccch!

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