Constructing a Pinelands Garden, Soil Question


Jun 16, 2003
Boston, MA

It's been awhile since I posted here. I've been living away from the Pinelands for almost 5 years now. I do get back every once in awhile as family is still there. But now I'm up in Boston (been here for a year) and I have the luxury of having a fairly big garden space that currently has flowers, ivy, and some vegetable plants. So, in order to remind myself of home, I wanted to create an NJ Pinelands style garden. I've already acquired two Jersey Blueberry bushes from a propagation nursery up in NH (they have small sections of Pine Barrens as well). I also plan on getting some other native plants from some nurseries in Southern NJ when I go back to visit at the end of October for ground cover, ornamental grass, etc. I'm still deciding on what to use from this list from the PPA:

So while I have my plant selection pretty well picked out, there's one question that remains: soil construction. I want to replace the current soil with sand so as to keep the Pinelands plants happy with an acidic, low-nutrient, and well draining medium. I was searching around to find out information because I'm thinking that just buying bags of white sand and dumping them in there wouldn't be the best idea. There has to be some other mediums besides straight sand. I know portions of the barrens can have clay shortly below the surface. And I've seen the word "peat" tossed around.

So besides a sandy top layer, can anyone suggest what I should use below or some material to mix in with the sand? I could be wrong and maybe it's best to just use all sand.

I also plan on constructing a mock cranberry bog. It may or may not work out, but it will be fun to try.



Jul 20, 2003
millville nj
I may be wrong but I believe in order to grow cranberry your going to have to keep the roots wet and use acidic water.I have seen cranberry growing in straight sand along creek banks where peat cannot build up due to current.I don't think peat would be necessary unless you plan on growing pitcher plants,I have even seen sundew grow straight out of the sand.I think straight sand with a proper PH water would allow you to grow most wetland plants ,then again you have harsher winters up there(mother in law is from attleboro mass,she told me)so some of our plants on their northern fringe may not surviive the winters.I once grew a pitcher plant in a pot full of spagnum moss and swamp water for two years so they don't seem to be hard to raise.
I don't know what the proper ph is but i know it's on the acidic side of nuetral.
there are some awesome pine barren areas on cape cod.I wouldn't advise taking plants from there because it's a national seashore but it's closer for you to do some research.


Jul 14, 2007
Cranberries can grow well in pure sand or in peat or in a combination of the two. Massachusetts cranberry growers tend to use peat; NJ growers don't. There are growers on the West Coast who use sawdust. An advantage to using peat or some other organic matter below a top layer of sand is that it increases the availability of nutrients. Al's right about acidity, you should monitor the pH of your soil and water. That's the most important aspect. Between 4 and 4.8 is ideal, although there's some leeway in both directions.

Cranberries do NOT do well with wet root zones, as they're susceptible to Phytopthera cinnamomi root rot. Keep the soil moist, but well-drained.