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Grow blueberries in non acidic soil

Kris Minto


Joined: Sep 17, 2012
Posts: 130
Location: Ottawa, Canada -- Zone 4b/5a
    
    2
I love blueberries but I do not have any soil which is acidic and don't really want to worry about adding sulfate, coffee of pines since I am trying to make my forest garden self sustaining. My question is, has anyone been successful growing blueberries in mostly neutral with some small patches of more alkaline soil?

Thanks,
Kris
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6675
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
139
I have known several people who have tried to grow them in slightly acidic soil. Poor results.
By the way, used coffee grounds are NOT acidic. The acid leaches out into your cup of coffee.
Used coffee grounds will sweeten the soil way too high for blueberries to survive.

You may be better off trying Haskaps. They should do well in your area.
http://www.fruit.usask.ca/haskap.html
Shawn Harper


Joined: Mar 01, 2012
Posts: 227
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
    
    2
You could always plant a pine (several medicinal types, also can eat thier nuts) then in a few years plant blueberries around it and it will be self sustaining.


She changes everything She touches, and everything She touches changes.
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator

Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 1012
Location: Maine (zone 5)
    
  37
The blueberries really need that acidic soil. You can add wood ash and mulch with pine branches. Pick up discarded christmas trees, cut the branches and lay them under the bushes.


"You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result”

-Gandhi
Rich Pasto


Joined: Dec 13, 2011
Posts: 99
they not only need acidic soil, the need _ridiculously_ acidic soil. I actually planted mine under a pine that has been in this yard for almost 30 years according to our neighbor. 'Conventional wisdom' says that pine needles are acidic but then the folks selling pine straw online say that pine needles used for mulch has a pH of 6-6.5. So I tested my soil under this pine tree and it is about 7. My blueberries survived again this year, but they are not flourishing. Ive amended the soil to lower the pH hopefully by the spring.
blueberries are pretty thirsty, and mulching them is recommended. Pine straw wont hurt, but you could put down peat moss as well to nudge it more acidic.
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3982
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  84
Craig Dobbelyu wrote: You can add wood ash

I'm pretty sure wood ash is extremely alkaline.
Allan Babb


Joined: Mar 18, 2012
Posts: 61
Location: Greater New Orleans, LA, USA
Pine bark would do the trick. An unsustainable proven method has been to plant blueberries in straight pine bark and then fertilize/fertigate weekly. I'm trying a mix of pine bark/compost on my Camellia sinensis(50%/50% by volume). They seem to be doing alright, but only time will tell(Cameliia spp. require acid soil too). If you want to use pine bark as a mulch, I believe it can take as long as a year for the mulch to affect the pH of the soil(but haven't tried it). Also, mixing bark in with compost will probably deplete the nitrogen quickly. This is still very much under trial. I haven't had any luck whatsoever using peat moss to lower the pH of soil or a 50/50 peat moss/compost mix(plus peat moss/compost really needs something to add tilth..I ended up with a water logged mess and Camellias do not like wet feet).


USDA Hardiness Zone 9a
Subtropical/temperate, Average annual rainfall of 61.94", hot and humid!
Guy De Pompignac


Joined: Nov 16, 2010
Posts: 190
Location: SW of France
The cultivar "Sunshine Blue" can deal with soil with PH up to 6, and is the most drougth tolerant. I didnt triy it yet.

You can also plant blueberry flavored plants, like honeyberries, and some grape cultivars.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
High organic matter in the soil and LOW calcium are the most important factors for blueberry health. The acidity can be fairly modest if these factors are present.


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Kris Minto


Joined: Sep 17, 2012
Posts: 130
Location: Ottawa, Canada -- Zone 4b/5a
    
    2
Thanks for confirming what I suspected but wish was not the case. Unfortunately I do not have any more space in my yard for additional trees so I will have to decide if I want to amend the soil every year sure to have blueberries. In my garden plan I currently have two Haskap (Borealis and Honey Bee) I will be planting in the spring so I hoping this will satisfy my blueberry craving.
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator

Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 1012
Location: Maine (zone 5)
    
  37
Leila Rich wrote:
Craig Dobbelyu wrote: You can add wood ash

I'm pretty sure wood ash is extremely alkaline.


Woops! I totally botched up a cut and paste there. Proof positive I'm a poor multi-tasker. Sorry for the screw up. Good catch Leila.
Rich Pasto


Joined: Dec 13, 2011
Posts: 99
in lieu of giving up, you could make a raised bed or use a large container with soil suitable for blueberries.
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator

Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 1012
Location: Maine (zone 5)
    
  37
The 2013 Fedco seed catalog recommends digging out the soil 10 inches deep. use half the soil to build berm around the bed. Then fill the bed with a 50/50 mix of peat and the remaining soil. Next, cover that with 2 inches of sand. Plant blueberries or low cranberries so that the roots are well into the soil/peat mix. If your soil is sandy then don't bother with the berm, Just mix all the soil with the peat.

I've also heard of using elemental sulfur.
Rich Pasto


Joined: Dec 13, 2011
Posts: 99
Kay Bee wrote:High organic matter in the soil and LOW calcium are the most important factors for blueberry health. The acidity can be fairly modest if these factors are present.



curious to know how you test for calcium (guessing Ca+?) and or/ how to adjust that then.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
Rich Pasto wrote:
Kay Bee wrote:High organic matter in the soil and LOW calcium are the most important factors for blueberry health. The acidity can be fairly modest if these factors are present.



curious to know how you test for calcium (guessing Ca+?) and or/ how to adjust that then.

Some soil tests will give you a readout on calcium, but mainly understanding what type of soil & base rock is in your area will provide a sufficient answer for starting materials. My area, for example, is considered low in calcium in the topsoil, with little to no calcium available in the subsoil. If a person lives in an area with a limestone base, it can be a very different story.

Since the roots for domestic blueberries are predominantely found in the top 6 inches of soil, they are actually one of the easier plants in terms of preparing a special bed. Enrich the top 6 inches of soil with compost. peat and/or rotten wood if you deem it necessary to increase the organic content and just avoid adding calcium rich materials to the bed over the plants life. One way is to maintain a separate small compost pile for the blueberries where no eggshells, leafy greens or other rich calcium sources are used in the piles preparation. Duff from under Doug fir is easy to come by in our area of the PNW and works great to provide a low calcium environment. I avoid oak bark or duff because it can be high in calcium.
Paul Gutches


Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 84
Location: Taos, New Mexico
    
    1
Guy De Pompignac wrote:The cultivar "Sunshine Blue" can deal with soil with PH up to 6, and is the most drougth tolerant. I didnt triy it yet.

You can also plant blueberry flavored plants, like honeyberries, and some grape cultivars.


And there's always serviceberry. I hear some cultivars have a blueberry like flavor.


Permaculture: The Edge is the New Center
Taos, New Mexico / Carson, New Mexico / 7000ft / zones 5,6 / Soil: Servilleta-Hernandez / Avg. 13" precip per annum
Paul Gutches


Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 84
Location: Taos, New Mexico
    
    1


I bought a sophisticated pH tester last year and tested just about everything I could think of while the sensor was still viable.

They only last a year or so.

I was testing the pine needle theory, coffee ground theory, and tea theory, plus lots of other stuff.

I'd mix the material with a small amount of water. I did not let it steep long, though in retrospect I probably should have.
Still, the differences in pH readings for these materials does suggest it was working.

Assuming the results are instructive, here they are.
Note in particular the corn-based kitty litter (unused). WoW. It blew away the sphagnum for acidity.
No idea how safe it is for growies, but a selling point on the product is biodegradability.
Note also the spent espresso coffee. Much lower than I'd anticipated.

You might also want to restrict your blueberry water source to (acid) rain.


Acidity

fresh black tea
6.7

fresh green tea
6.2

spent medium roast coffee grounds
6.4-6.5

spent espresso coffee from local coffee shop
5.75

fresh ground dark roast (unused)
6.9

fresh ground light roast (unused)
6.2

World's best ground corn kitty litter
4.4 - 5.2 (!!!)

Well Water (700 feet down into the Taos Plateau)
7.6

Rain Water
5.5-6.0

Diatomaceous Earth
7.6

Sphagnum Peat Moss
5.2

Chopped pine straw
6.3

Wood Ash
10.00

Ace potting soil 7.5

Walmart Steer manure compost / topsoil
8.7 (Yow!)

kelp
5.6

worm castings
7.5


Paul Gutches


Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 84
Location: Taos, New Mexico
    
    1
Kay Bee wrote:High organic matter in the soil and LOW calcium are the most important factors for blueberry health. The acidity can be fairly modest if these factors are present.


That's a piece of information that is wholly new to me.

I was under the impression that accessible Calcium is considered perhaps the single most universal factor in all plant health. (see albrecht method of soil fertility)

That would have to be dead wrong for this to be right.

Perhaps blueberries are an unusual exception? If so, what is it about them that allows them to grow healthy without it?

Thanks for posting this bit!

Paul
William Bronson


Joined: Nov 27, 2012
Posts: 442
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
    
    2
I have one blue berry bush that was gifted to me, and by kids love it. It has been struggling, and I am looking for cheap amendment.
I have good source of oak leaves, are they considered acidic?
I have also been steeping all citrus discards in a 5 galleon bucket, rather than mix them with the rest of the compost. Do you think this will be a good source of acid?







David Rogers


Joined: Sep 04, 2010
Posts: 22
I have 30 blueberry plants growing in 7 pH soil. They have been there 25 years and each year we get a crop. I lucked out because they have enough water, the rotten
granite had fools gold--a iron sulfate and that they get a yearly application of wood chips. For a few years I gave them commercial chicken compost. An dose of ammonium
sulfate wouldn't be bad. They need magnesium more than calcium. The Patroit berries are as big as a nickel. They produce for 4 to 6 weeks.

Now I have planted a row of ten in another place and half died. I did as Nourse Nurseries suggested dig a hole and mix up 1/2 soil and 1/2 peat. Don't have a clue to
what is wrong. I tried last year to give the ferrous sulfate on the ground and magnesium sulfate foliarly. hasn't helped as of yet.

I planted another plot just in soil, not as wet as the first place, and they all took. But did not grow as well as the ones on top of rotten granite.

Best of luck,

Dave Rogers
Paul Gutches


Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 84
Location: Taos, New Mexico
    
    1
David Rogers wrote:I have 30 blueberry plants growing in 7 pH soil. They have been there 25 years and each year we get a crop. I lucked out because they have enough water, the rotten
granite had fools gold--a iron sulfate and that they get a yearly application of wood chips. For a few years I gave them commercial chicken compost. An dose of ammonium
sulfate wouldn't be bad. They need magnesium more than calcium. The Patroit berries are as big as a nickel. They produce for 4 to 6 weeks.

Now I have planted a row of ten in another place and half died. I did as Nourse Nurseries suggested dig a hole and mix up 1/2 soil and 1/2 peat. Don't have a clue to
what is wrong. I tried last year to give the ferrous sulfate on the ground and magnesium sulfate foliarly. hasn't helped as of yet.

I planted another plot just in soil, not as wet as the first place, and they all took. But did not grow as well as the ones on top of rotten granite.

Best of luck,

Dave Rogers


Fascinating.... you think you know a plant... and then?

Did you test your pH before or after adding the ammonium sulfate?

I believe the fools gold is iron pyrite. The sulfate has a blue-green color.



molly jones


Joined: Apr 09, 2013
Posts: 5
Very interesting! I'm going to do 2 blueberries in pots in my city lot and I've just discovered that my soil is around 7+ so I've been worried about how to cheaply lower the PH. I live on the coast so maybe I'll try adding a good amount of dried kelp and old cornmeal to the soil when I go to pot them.

Molly



Paul Gutches wrote:

I bought a sophisticated pH tester last year and tested just about everything I could think of while the sensor was still viable.

They only last a year or so.

I was testing the pine needle theory, coffee ground theory, and tea theory, plus lots of other stuff.

I'd mix the material with a small amount of water. I did not let it steep long, though in retrospect I probably should have.
Still, the differences in pH readings for these materials does suggest it was working.

Assuming the results are instructive, here they are.
Note in particular the corn-based kitty litter (unused). WoW. It blew away the sphagnum for acidity.
No idea how safe it is for growies, but a selling point on the product is biodegradability.
Note also the spent espresso coffee. Much lower than I'd anticipated.

You might also want to restrict your blueberry water source to (acid) rain.


Acidity

fresh black tea
6.7

fresh green tea
6.2

spent medium roast coffee grounds
6.4-6.5

spent espresso coffee from local coffee shop
5.75

fresh ground dark roast (unused)
6.9

fresh ground light roast (unused)
6.2

World's best ground corn kitty litter
4.4 - 5.2 (!!!)

Well Water (700 feet down into the Taos Plateau)
7.6

Rain Water
5.5-6.0

Diatomaceous Earth
7.6

Sphagnum Peat Moss
5.2

Chopped pine straw
6.3

Wood Ash
10.00

Ace potting soil 7.5

Walmart Steer manure compost / topsoil
8.7 (Yow!)

kelp
5.6

worm castings
7.5


Varina Lakewood


Joined: May 15, 2012
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
    
    1
Part of the problem with growing blueberries in alkaline soil is that the microflora that helps them flourish doesn't naturally occur in alkaline soils, or at least in far smaller numbers. If you can grow azaleas you can grow blueberries, but I wouldn't recommend planting them on a spot that used to be prime tomato soil. I know someone who keeps blueberries sorta alive with massive doses of iron every year, but that's not a solution that I'm interested in. I am looking into replacing the soil where I grow them and somehow providing a permanent barrier to keep the alkaline from contaminating the soil too massively.
nustada adatsun


Joined: Mar 05, 2013
Posts: 39
What I am going to try is to use homemade sauerkraut juce as a fertaliser. It already has a low PH of about 4 (from what I read) and it has live bacteria in it that will turn any loose sugars into acid. Plus I make a mushier sauerkraut by using less salt, and I believe most the salt gets "sucked" into the cabbage itself.
David Buchan


Joined: Mar 26, 2013
Posts: 11
Location: Gent, Belgium
    
    2
William Bronson wrote: I have one blue berry bush that was gifted to me, and by kids love it. It has been struggling, and I am looking for cheap amendment.
I have good source of oak leaves, are they considered acidic?
I have also been steeping all citrus discards in a 5 galleon bucket, rather than mix them with the rest of the compost. Do you think this will be a good source of acid?


Hi William, I remember reading an elemental analysis of oak tree parts in whcih it was shown that oak really accumulates a lot calcium (and other 'basi cations') in their bark, so probably in the leaves too. And if i'm not mistaken, some biodynamic growers even use oak bark to 'activate' calcium availability in certain organic amendments or preparations. So I think it's fair to say oak leaves won't decrease your pH, although enough organic acids from decomposing wood, and maybe tannins too, will tend to lower or at least buffer the pH of more basic soil. Citrus waste will yield high amounts of organic (citric) acids, however during decomposition the pH tends towards neutrality or above even (think of compost) and I don't think they will lower the pH by much. This is suggested by the fact that citrus trees growing on Mediterranean limestone soil do not change the the Ca-dominated chemistry of these neutral-basic soils to a great extent. But concentrated in small space and mixed with other suitable organic materials..maybe?

Being trained as a soil scientist, I'm a bit sceptic about the impact of oak bark in little amounts on calcium chemistry, but I'm very intrigued about how to create the right soil conditions for growing blueberries even when you don't have the acidic type of soil they naturally grown in! Of course i'm referring to the smaller low-growing European blueberry, but as far as i can see, they have the same preferences in term of soil. We are located on a moist neutral-basic clay (didn't check fully), and tried planting some chokeberries (Aronia) with a fair amount of compost but they all failed to establish themselves..shame, I would have liked to taste! And of course I'm curious to know how your experiments turned out!

greetings,

Dave


"Be the change you want to see in the world" Ghandi
David Buchan


Joined: Mar 26, 2013
Posts: 11
Location: Gent, Belgium
    
    2
molly jones wrote:Very interesting! I'm going to do 2 blueberries in pots in my city lot and I've just discovered that my soil is around 7+ so I've been worried about how to cheaply lower the PH. I live on the coast so maybe I'll try adding a good amount of dried kelp and old cornmeal to the soil when I go to pot them.

Molly



Paul Gutches wrote:

I bought a sophisticated pH tester last year and tested just about everything I could think of while the sensor was still viable.

They only last a year or so.

I was testing the pine needle theory, coffee ground theory, and tea theory, plus lots of other stuff.

I'd mix the material with a small amount of water. I did not let it steep long, though in retrospect I probably should have.
Still, the differences in pH readings for these materials does suggest it was working.

Assuming the results are instructive, here they are.
Note in particular the corn-based kitty litter (unused). WoW. It blew away the sphagnum for acidity.
No idea how safe it is for growies, but a selling point on the product is biodegradability.
Note also the spent espresso coffee. Much lower than I'd anticipated.

You might also want to restrict your blueberry water source to (acid) rain.


Acidity

fresh black tea
6.7

fresh green tea
6.2

spent medium roast coffee grounds
6.4-6.5

spent espresso coffee from local coffee shop
5.75

fresh ground dark roast (unused)
6.9

fresh ground light roast (unused)
6.2

World's best ground corn kitty litter
4.4 - 5.2 (!!!)

Well Water (700 feet down into the Taos Plateau)
7.6

Rain Water
5.5-6.0

Diatomaceous Earth
7.6

Sphagnum Peat Moss
5.2

Chopped pine straw
6.3

Wood Ash
10.00

Ace potting soil 7.5

Walmart Steer manure compost / topsoil
8.7 (Yow!)

kelp
5.6

worm castings
7.5




Hi,

I wouldn't underestimate the influence of how long you steeped the materials in water (and whether you shaked or stirred the mix), how finely ground and/or dried the materials were, and in what ratios water was mixed with (dry) material. As long as you relied on an approximately equal treatment for each material you tested, then I think at least the relative scale you found is quite reliable, and it mostly seems quite right. The pH of the kitty litter may indeed seem very low, but here there are acid rain-rinsed sandy soils that have pH values in the same range!

I'm above all amazed by the pH of warm castings, given most of their casts are organically-enriched and processed soil, it means they are hyper-accumulating calcium in their casts, which is great news for most soils!

greetings,

dave

ps: what kind of pH tester did you use? (Now that i can no longer make use of university laboratory facilities, I would like to find affordable home-scale devices for some measurements, pH is probably the most useful!).
David Buchan


Joined: Mar 26, 2013
Posts: 11
Location: Gent, Belgium
    
    2
sorry molly i meant to quote the original post only! but by the way, i think kelp will not be that acidic or help you lower the pH, as most things that come from the sea contain a lot of calcium.

greetings,

dave
Cesum Pec


Joined: Jan 17, 2012
Posts: 8
Location: Florida
Have you considered fruit juice as an acidifying agent? (chart is unverified but hey, it was on the Internet)

Orange Juice - 4.35
Lemon Juice - 2.75
Grapefruit Juice- 3.65
Lime - 2.88
Apple Juice 3.35 - 4.00
Apricot Nectar 3.78
Grape Juice 3.4
Pineapple Juice, canned 3.30 - 3.60
Prune Juice 3.95 - 3.97
Guava nectar 5.50

I have wild citrus so that's an easy choice for me, but you probably have something near by and if you convert it to vinegar, you can get the Ph into the low 4 range.

Note, I have not tried this and don't know what unintended consequences may be. I'm planting Blues later this year in sandy, hi Ca soil and I am using hugelculture and composted sludge to improve water holding capacity and tilth. I plan on trying juice from sour oranges to lower the Ph. I assume the sugars in the juice should be good for encouraging microbes.


Cesum
Rick Freeman


Joined: Jan 08, 2012
Posts: 102
Location: NW Montana, Hardiness Zone 4b
I think Kay Bee has it right. Humus creates buffering systems that tend to reduce the need for input, acid or base. As far as Ca and the Albrecht method, it's not so much the "most important" cation as its proportion of base sat. needs to be around 69% but in balance with Mg... and K and Na. http://www.permaculture.org/nm/images/uploads/Cation_Anion_Process.pdf


Rick Freeman

Interface Forestry, l.l.c. http://interfaceforestry.com
rick@interfaceforestry.com
James Colbert


Joined: Jan 02, 2012
Posts: 249
    
    8
You should consider growing Serviceberries as someone has already mentioned. The plant is like a small tree so you get a large yield and the flavor is like the best blueberry you have ever had. They are super easy to grow, yield heavy, and taste as good or better than blueberries. I'm not against creating favorable conditions for an exotic but if all you want is a bunch of delicious blueberry flavored berries, and you want to do it with ease grow Serviceberries.
Paul Gutches


Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 84
Location: Taos, New Mexico
    
    1

Hi David

While the methodology was probably not up to the rigors of true science, I think it was likely consistent enough to not skew the results too dramatically.
Similar water/material ratio. Same source of water. Similar soaking and mixing times. The biggest difference was in granularity. Chopped pine straw for instance
was not as fine as the coffee grounds.
Tester was cleaned and calibrated according to instruction after each test.

This was the model I used:
http://www.coleparmer.com/Product/Oakton_Waterproof_EcoTestr_pH_2_Pocket_pH_Tester/EW-35423-10?referred_id=5576&sku=3542310



David Buchan wrote:Hi,

I wouldn't underestimate the influence of how long you steeped the materials in water (and whether you shaked or stirred the mix), how finely ground and/or dried the materials were, and in what ratios water was mixed with (dry) material. As long as you relied on an approximately equal treatment for each material you tested, then I think at least the relative scale you found is quite reliable, and it mostly seems quite right. The pH of the kitty litter may indeed seem very low, but here there are acid rain-rinsed sandy soils that have pH values in the same range!

I'm above all amazed by the pH of warm castings, given most of their casts are organically-enriched and processed soil, it means they are hyper-accumulating calcium in their casts, which is great news for most soils!

greetings,

dave

ps: what kind of pH tester did you use? (Now that i can no longer make use of university laboratory facilities, I would like to find affordable home-scale devices for some measurements, pH is probably the most useful!).
Steven Feil


Joined: Feb 16, 2013
Posts: 225
Location: South Central Idaho
    
    4
We have quite a few blueberries planted on the side of a hill here in South central ID. Did the 50/50 thing with peat and they did pretty well for the first couple of years. Last year was a total crop failure but I may not have watered them enough.

This year I have started planting Saskatoon Blueberries. I guess this is the same thing as the service berry. Have one bush that put berries on this year and are excited to see what they taste like.

Got some new ones this year and took out a few of the blues that were doing really bad. I noticed that there was NO sign of the peat that I had put into the hole. I also noted that the root ball had stayed VERY tight to the original that existed in the pot. No growth at all.
Villiam Jones


Joined: Apr 11, 2013
Posts: 9
My soil ph is roughly 6. I got an incredible crop this year. I get a good crop every year but this year the bushes had so many berries they were bent to the ground.. I have harvested 3 gal so far and have hardly made a dent in them. I recently planted a dozen more blueberry plants. May be too much of a good thing. I'm in Western NC in case your interested watching my garden drown.





Kris Minto


Joined: Sep 17, 2012
Posts: 130
Location: Ottawa, Canada -- Zone 4b/5a
    
    2
I currently have haskap, service berries, currant, crimson passion cherry and gooseberry but I guess it was enough so I finally got a blueberry after my wife kept bringing it up. I got it for $5 so if it doesn't survive, it's not a big loss and it will also show my wife why I did not want to get one (having to amend the soil every year).

Kris
John Fritz


Joined: Feb 23, 2010
Posts: 17
I was incredulous when a county extension office functionary told me that the ph of the mulch applied to a soil has NO effect on the ph of the soil. I inquired about pine needles, hard wood mulch etc. and he said such amendments will not change the ph of the soil, that I need to add sulfur. Has anyone else ever heard of this? It just doesn't make sense to m.
Adam Klaus
pollinator

Joined: Apr 16, 2013
Posts: 851
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
    
  50
John Fritz wrote: the ph of the mulch applied to a soil has NO effect on the ph of the soil


Zero is a mighty small number, so in essence not true. Everything has an effect on everything else.

But in practice, the actualy measurable effect on soil pH would be negligable. There is just so few molecules in a mulch that are actually making it into the soil. And so many molecules in the soils whos pH needs to be changed. Math says minimal impact.

FWIW, sulfur is without a doubt the most effective way to counteract excess alkalinity in the soil. Sulfur binds with all the alkaline salts in the soil (magnesium, calcium, and potassium) to drive down soil pH. Check out Neal Kinsey's book, 'Hands on Agronomy'. He explains the chemistry behind soil pH in a very clear and thorough way. My experience has been that sulfur is the only way to effectively lower my alkaline soil pH. I already have excellent humus levels (above 5%), so the standard 'add more carbon' advice isnt really relevent. Sulfur has been the solution, with the added benefit that it ties up magnesium and makes the soil much more crumbly.

Still not quite brave enough to try blueberries in my fertile alkaline clay. But getting there...


Bella Farm, a Biodynamic Farmily Farm-

Brown Swiss Raw Milk Dairy - Heritage Meat and Egg Chickens
French Intensive Market Garden - Diverse Permaculture Fruit Orchard

https://www.facebook.com/BellaFamilyFarm

struggle - hustle - soul - desire
Steven Feil


Joined: Feb 16, 2013
Posts: 225
Location: South Central Idaho
    
    4
Adam Klaus wrote:sulfur is without a doubt the most effective way to counteract excess alkalinity in the soil.


But quite temporary, correct? And what do we do if the system breaks down and we can't get sulfur? What is next best? Has that been covered and I just forgot?
Adam Klaus
pollinator

Joined: Apr 16, 2013
Posts: 851
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
    
  50
Steven Feil wrote:But quite temporary, correct?


Not temporary. I mean, everything is temporary in some sense, but the effect of sulfur on soil cation balance is a long term one. The sulfur actually takes several years to fully metabolize into the soil. So assuming you are not adding alkalinity, such as through poor irrigation water or excess wood ash, then the acidifying effects of sulfur would last for many years, if not a decade or longer. Do check out Neal Kinsey's 'Hands on Agronomy', he explains in much clearer terms than I.

I know there is a strong Permie bias against soil testing, cation balance, and mineral ammendments, but my experience is that no single tool has improved my soil quality more than using sulfur to help push magnesium out of my soil. The results have been more available calcium, which then has a knock-on effect of making almost all trace minerals more available. Less magnesium in the soil solution, which makes the soil less sticky and more crumbly. And a reduction in soil pH from 7.8 to 7.2, which is a huge difference.

Many other tools are effective in improving soils, such as cover cropping, chop and drop, biological innoculants, compost mulching, and crop rotations. But chemistry is a stubborn thing, and sometimes it takes something more direct to get the most significant results. Go sulfur!
Lm McWilliams


Joined: Jul 11, 2013
Posts: 49
Location: USDA Zone 5
    
    2
molly jones wrote:Very interesting! I'm going to do 2 blueberries in pots in my city lot and I've just discovered that my soil is around 7+ so I've been worried about how to cheaply lower the PH. I live on the coast so maybe I'll try adding a good amount of dried kelp and old cornmeal to the soil when I go to pot them.

Molly



>>>
World's best ground corn kitty litter
4.4 - 5.2 (!!!)
>>>


Hi Molly, If you are growing in pots, it should be relatively simple to acheive and maintain the pH you want for particular plants.
When amending a planting bed, the overal pH of the surrounding soil tends to dominate whatever amendments one adds (except
maybe sulfer or magnesium sulfate).

By the way, 'World's Best' cat litter is made of ground corncobs, not the corn kernal itself. I have no idea what the pH of cornmeal
is, but I doubt that it will be the same as the test result shown above. (I suspect it will be much closer to neutral, or even a little
basic/high in pH).

Best of luck with your container grown blueberries! They can be very attractive, as well as productive, plants to have around an
urban or suburban home.


LM McWilliams
Farside Farm, New England
John Fritz


Joined: Feb 23, 2010
Posts: 17
Very interesting! I'm going to do 2 blueberries in pots in my city lot

What size pots are you using and do you anticipate that they will have to be transplanted to bigger pots at some point?
 
 
subject: Grow blueberries in non acidic soil
 
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