“Right Plant, Right Place”

Back when Jim and I first starting dating, he lived in a little house with a big yard. No garden. His next-door-neighbor, though, had an amazing concept in gardening. He had plants littered around his yard, no perceivable rhyme or reason. That neighbor also spent his weekends moving plants from one spot to another – and another, and another. When I first heard the phrase “right plant, right place” I immediately thought of that neighbor.

So now I’m searching for the right place for blueberries. Last October, I bemoaned the fact that following The Acid Test, it became clear to me that my blueberries had no chance of thriving. Blueberries like a pH of 4.5 to 5. My soil, per Extension testing, was 7.5. No way was I ever going to be able to add enough sulfur to acidify my soil for blueberries.

But in looking at seed catalogs this year, I ran across a dwarf blueberry called Top Hat that can grow in containers. And I have two whiskey barrels where I’ve somewhat successfully planted annuals.

I ordered two Top Hats immediately. Then I started to worry.

These two whiskey halves are crying out for something permanent!

These two whiskey halves are crying out for something permanent!

The whiskey barrels had originally been filled with half potting soil, half rocks. Did the soil need to be sterilized? Did the rocks need to be removed? Would the barrels freeze in winter and kill my plants?

How does potting soil turn into clay?

How does potting soil turn into clay?

University of Wisconsin Extension to the rescue! Their article on growing blueberries in containers answered these questions and more.

I should be able to grow dwarf blueberries such as the already-ordered Top Hats in barrels, in a soil-less growing medium consisting of one part sphagnum peat moss and one part shredded pine bark. It looks like I’ll need to start smaller than those whiskey barrels, and use five gallon containers instead. As the plants grow, I’ll re-pot them in increasingly larger pots until they are big enough for the barrels.

And yes, I will also need to watch that they don’t freeze in the winter. A good layer of mulch on the top of the pot and some type of insulating cover for the pot itself looks like it will work. If the winter is extremely cold, I wonder if I can bring them inside.


Meanwhile, I removed the soil from one of the whiskey barrels and hand-picked the rocks to throw on my rock pile. That was a lot of work!

But I can almost taste those blueberries…


“Right Plant, Right Place” is a book written by Nicola Ferguson. I’ve included the link to Amazon.


6 thoughts on ““Right Plant, Right Place”

  1. Check out Dennis Patton’s response to a reader asking same question as you in the February issue of the KC Gardener… 😉

    • I will. I have to find what I did with the magazine… Thanks, Linda! Found it online!! Looks like I can use the insulate-water-pipes approach to insulating the whiskey barrels!

  2. I have never grown blueberries. I hope your berries taste as good as the wild ones we pick here. Of course we have to get them before the bears eat them 🙂

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