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Established Tree: Apple Planting Bush: Blueberries Goal: not damage apple tree root system Question: How do I plant a blueberry bush under an apple tree without damaging the roots of the apple tree?

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So, it sounds like you're attempting to set up a guild around a mature tree? When you're setting up a guild, you really have to think about how all of the plants will interact, and what role the plants will each play in the guild. Other than your fruit tree, the plants you choose should either repel pests, attract beneficial insects, suppress weeds that would compete with the tree, either in the way they grow or because you can cut them down as mulch, or help accumulate nutrients. Some plants will fill more than one of these functions.

If you think about the blueberry and how it will fit into one of those roles, you'll realize that it won't. The blueberry will be demanding, and it will need different nutrients than the apple, so it would be competing rather than contributing.

So that means you need to think of different plants to go in your guild. One option for a shrub would be a goumi berry. It will give you fruit (which is why you'd chosen the blueberry, I assume) and it is a nitrogen fixer, so it will fit in the accumulator role. It is also vigorous and can take the shade of the tree. As others have mentioned, you can't safely plant it under the tree, but you could plant it just outside of the drip line. That will be close enough for the apple to take advantage of the extra nitrogen and it will decrease the chance of harming your tree.

  • Is there a list of plants that work well in a guild together? – black thumb May 9 '16 at 15:16
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    Sort of. The plants you choose for a guild are highly dependent on the conditions of the land you are planting, so there is no nice, neat list of plants you should use to build a guild. That said, you might want to check out the book "Gaia's Garden" by Toby Hemenway. He does have a sample guild you can follow, and lists plants to include for each role. You could also google "apple guild" for ideas. – michelle May 9 '16 at 15:39
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You can't - if you want to plant close to a tree, it has to be done when you first plant the tree, at the same time, in other words. You could plant near the apple tree, but not under the canopy.

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    Agree with bamboo, this is a bad idea. You can't do it without damaging the apple's root systems, the apple will shade the blueberry, and they'll both compete with each other for water and nutrients. Also blueberries typically like really acid soil, more so than other fruits. Put the blueberry somewhere else. – llemay May 8 '16 at 21:39
  • Blueberries in shade produce little if any fruit - and acid enough for blueberries is WAY too acid for apples. Blueberry plants should be in as close to full sun as you can get (happiest ones I know are above treeline on a granite mountain) – Ecnerwal May 8 '16 at 23:30

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