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lowering soil ph

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Post  jazzycat 6/7/2013, 9:30 pm

So I searched the site and couldn't find much in the way of this, except for one thread that said, use sulfur.

My mix is highly alkaline. I think that may be one of the reasons why my tomatoes have been having so much trouble. I read somewhere when researching this that when soil is too alkaline, the plants can't take in many of the nutrients. How do I go about lowering the ph, since there is already stuff planted in it?

Thanks bunches.
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Post  yolos 6/7/2013, 10:07 pm

Just wondering how you know it is highly alkaline.
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Post  donnainzone5 6/7/2013, 10:08 pm

I think that sulphur takes a long time to take effect.

Actually, I'm struggling with this issue, too, for my berry beds and shade garden.

I've been told to add a bit of sawdust/wood shavings to those beds.

In addition, you might want to chop up some pine straw and use it as a mulch.

Did you initially have enough peat moss in your mix? Did you use any existing native soil?
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Post  jazzycat 6/7/2013, 11:24 pm

yolos, I have a moisture meter that also reads ph. Tomorrow I will actually do a homemade test, using vinegar/baking soda and see how that reads. But the meter was reading around 8, and I know that's very high for most plants. And it could actually be higher than that. That's as high as the meter goes. I was thinking of going and getting some ph strips to test it.

I used peat and coconut coir, not just peat, and combined it for 1/3 of my mix. I know the peat is very acidic, and that probably balances out the compost. I'm not sure about coconut coir though.

I didn't use much manure in my compost mix. I did use a lot of worm castings. I wonder if that threw off the balance.

We do have pine trees here. Do you think adding cut up pine needles, along with some used coffee grounds, might help?
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Post  RoOsTeR 6/7/2013, 11:40 pm


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Post  llama momma 6/8/2013, 7:49 am

Jazzycat
Worm castings are shown to be a "pH of 8 and higher", as stated in the book, Worms Eat My Garbage.
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Post  camprn 6/8/2013, 7:55 am

+1
Home style pH meters and test kits are notoriously inaccurate. The best, and truly the only way to know the exact pH and what is in your mix, is lab analysis. If you are going to start tinkering, knowing what is and isn't there is necessary. For Mel's mix is a soilless mixture, choose the greenhouse soilless mixture test order form.

http://soiltest.umass.edu/ordering-information

Additionally, used coffee grounds are a relatively neutral pH.

Jazzy, when you write 'highly alkaline' do you have a number?

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Post  Janas 6/8/2013, 9:31 am

Research based info on coffee grounds from Wood’s End Research Laboratory in Maine is at the link below. Although highly acidic on their own, coffee grounds become neutral when used as an ingredient in compost. This might suggest that you would see a boost in acidity only initially if you add coffee grounds to your mix, since it will turn neutral as it melds with other components of your soil. This confirms Camp's post.
http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=793
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Post  brainchasm 6/8/2013, 12:02 pm

If you use iron sulfate, you can amend your pH much more quickly than just using sulfur. Since the sulfur is already in an ionic form (sulfate), when dissolved in water and added to the MM, it provides acidifcation pretty much immediately. Plus, the iron will promote darker greens all around.

Be sure to follow instructions!

http://www.greenhousegrower.com/article/3858/understanding-plant-nutrition-fertilizers-and-micronutrients

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Post  RoOsTeR 6/8/2013, 12:29 pm

So far your extension agent is the only one who has given a professional opinion according to this thread:
https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t15833p15-tomatoes-are-looking-bad
What have you done so far to pinpoint/narrow down the problem?

This:
@camprn wrote:
+1
Home style pH meters and test kits are notoriously inaccurate. The best, and truly the only way to know the exact pH and what is in your mix, is lab analysis.

And This:
@camprn wrote:
If you are going to start tinkering, knowing what is and isn't there is necessary. For Mel's mix is a soilless mixture, choose the greenhouse soilless mixture test order form.

http://soiltest.umass.edu/ordering-information


Jazzy, when you write 'highly alkaline' do you have a number?

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Post  jazzycat 6/9/2013, 12:13 am

The man at the extension office that I spoke with said it appeared to be nutrient related or root rot. I haven't ripped one out to look at the roots because I don't believe it's root rot. They haven't been saturated with enough water at any time for that to have occurred, and according to every description I've read, it doesn't sound anything like they look. However, the nutrients might not be getting to the plants if the ph is too high.

So far this is what I know. I did a basic home test using vinegar, and it was neutral (didn't fizz). I used some pool test strips to test for alkalinity, and it registered around 7.2. The meter that I have registers up closer to 8. Yes, I know, not the best options, but it's what I have available right now. I was going to go buy a test kit, but when I looked at some reviews of them it appears most of them are very unreliable. I think I'm going to spring for the expensive kits from La Motte at some point. But for now, since the alkalinity is probably somewhere between the 7-8 range, and some nutrients can't be accessed when ph is above 7, I think I need to just give them some organic fertilizer until I can get an actual soil test from the extension office (which, isn't using the MM formula supposed to take care of not having to do that?).

In reading about this issue, what I've learned is most nutrients (especially micronutrients) need a ph of 6.5 - 6.8, and that calcium, phosphorus and magnesium have a hard time if the ph is above 7.5. So the availability of nutrients in the soil probably isn't getting to the plants (if that's what the problem is, a nutrient issue, it could be something else).

Can anyone suggest what I should use? Would fish emulsion and epsom salts help? Or should I go straight for some kind of tomato fertilizer? Or... something completely different?
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Post  camprn 6/9/2013, 9:05 am

@jazzycat wrote:

Can anyone suggest what I should use? Would fish emulsion and epsom salts help? Or should I go straight for some kind of tomato fertilizer? Or... something completely different?

Does your mix have a magnesium deficiency? If not then you don't need the Epsom salts.

Does your mix need more NPK? If not then you don't need the fish emulsion or the tomato fertilizer.


Again you are going on presumptions and this action lends absolutely no value to resolving the actual problem. Again, I recommend send a sample out to UMASS. The turnaround time is about a week when you get the printed results. THEN you will KNOW what the story is and may act with confidence that your intervention will actually do some good, if you need to intervene at all.

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