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acidic soil and plants

 
Leah Sattler
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I have already planted peas, swiss chard, and potatoes in my likely acidic soil! what can I expect from these. also what would be a good cover crop that could handle acidic conditions. I don't expect to get it all planted in vegies this year and want to preserve the soil and crowd out opportunistic weeds for fall or next spring planting.
 
paul wheaton
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While there are folks that are experts at determining the acidity of the soil by looking at it or tasting it, or seeing what weeds grow there now .... I am not one of those.  I bought an actual pH meter to do the testing.  I figure that by the time I do a thousand tests, I might have a better idea of the story that the weeds tell.

So ... that said ....

Acidic cover crop:  sweet clover will tolerate almost any crazy soil conditions and leave behind a richer soil.  Buckwheat. 

If you pick a spot or two and plant comfrey, the soil around it will eventually shift to something more alkaline.

 
Leah Sattler
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clover and buckwheat, excellent thank you. Is comfrey one of those things that becomes pesky though?

it occured to me that I might finally be able to grow blueberries!! I refused to try and make them work in the old place, too much constant attention to keep the soil ph where they like it. maybe here  they will be trouble free!
 
Gwen Lynn
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When Paul mentioned clover, what I pictured in my mind grows in my lawn. It's very lush in the spring until the heat of summer. Then it literally burns up in the heat. The 1st pic is the plant I'm referring to. The 2nd pic is White Sweet Clover, definitely different. So I've learned something new today!
white1.jpg
[Thumbnail for white1.jpg]
250px-Melilotus_alba_bgiu.jpg
[Thumbnail for 250px-Melilotus_alba_bgiu.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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Comfrey is pesky to non-permies. 

Comfrey is an excellent permaculture plant.  It is a deep rooted calcium accumulator that is excellent feed for all animals, especially laying hens.

If you plow or till, all of the little bits of comfrey will become new plants.

 
Leah Sattler
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maybe I will give comfrey a try!

so, what about baking soda for acidic soil. is it cost prohibitive in relation to lime? doesn't work? would it work in a small area?

judging from the tomato plants left standing in the new garden from the previous year they had dismal results in that department. small, spindly plants, nothing like the thick stemmed  6 '  mater plants I am used to growing. I haven't got a soil test done yet, and I fear that I won't before the growing season really gets going. its in the 80's today, the soil is warming up and I can't live without all my tomato products ......I bought a bag of lime today that is pelleted and supposed to be "rapid release". it has instructions for a basic "correction of acidity"...........argh.....I'm too impatient....wrong or right I think I am going to use it when I go down tommorrow.
 
Brenda Groth
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a few recycling tips to help acidic soil (which we have)

wood ashes

crumbled leftover pieces of dry wall..

they will help a lot as will just about any compost made with leaves and grass..etc..the oak leaves and pine needles however just add more acid.
 
Susan Monroe
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Not baking soda.  It is basically neutral in itself, and it adds salt to the soil, which usually isn't needed except under certain conditions.

You would need something alkaline to offset the acidity. But more important, WHY is it acid, is the big question.

As long as you think it's acid, use the lime pellets at the recommended dose, which is one bag per 1000 sqft, I think, which is about 32x32 ft.  That is generally to raise the pH one point... I think.

Just remember when you send in your soil samples, send in untreated soil samples and if you want the garden area checked after you lime, tell them you limed in that spot.

One good thing about the Kinsey tests is that Kinsey says they are in the information business, and they are perfectly happy to answer questions before and after your tests.  It's part of the service.

YEA! on the blueberries!

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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I think I am going to stop by somewhere while in town (I'm at the library computer in ft. smith now) and pick up a very basic ph test. if it confirms acidity outside of acceptable range then I'll go ahead and lime. and do a more extensive test in the near future. thanks for all the info sue!
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Just thought I'd mention a lab recommended by Dave Boehnlein under a different thread on here: A&L Analytical Laboratories, Inc.

As a birthday gift for my sis, I paid for a couple soil sample tests through these guys. Turns out her soil wasn't nearly as acidic as she thought even/especially in the area she'd been mulching with pine needles! The customer service and turnaround is excellent.

You mail a cup of soil to them and for $16.50 they report on:
soil ph
buffer ph
phosphorus
potassioum
calcium
magnesium
sulfur
boron
copper
iron
manganese
zinc
sodium
soluble salts
organic matter
nitrate nitrogen
...plus some other "cation" measurements or calculations I don't understand
plus soil fertility guidelines for recommended soil amendments for both garden and tomato crops.
And, you can call up and ask a soil scientist any questions you might have about the results.
 
Leah Sattler
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thanks paul!

I limed but not at the correction levels stated on the bag. I took the middle of the road on a guess. I also (shudder) tilled the soil  it was so weedy and roughed up from having a tractor drive through it while too wet that I had to do something and I was itching to get my asparagus in before it gets too hot which I did! 30 plants.... yum.  I haven't found a source of trash hay yet to lay down to protect it but I am working on it! on the bright side I found that the part of the garden I had worked my peas and such into was the worst part, I move up just a ways and the soil was fluffy and spongy so it is not as depleted as I thought. but still moss everywhere there wasn't other misc weeds.
 
Susan Monroe
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I don't think there's any way to incorporate lime into soil without tilling.  It actually needs to be mixed with the soil, not just laid on top.  And letting the soil fauna mix it in could take years.  You have to be realistic.  And even Bill Mollison says there's nothing wrong with initial tilling or plowing to get the soil in shape. 

Permaculture is a safer, more ecological way to grow a good bit of food for human and stock consumption, IT IS NOT A RELIGION!

Sue
 
paul wheaton
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Leah Sattler wrote:
thanks paul!


Um .... you're welcome? 

I think there is nothing wrong with tilling cement-like dirt.  Or tilling stuff into cement-like dirt.  But if the soil is really good - I would NOT till. 

But ... that's just me.

 
Susan Monroe
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You shouldn't HAVE to till good soil.  I have no argument there.  Tilling is undesirable because it exposes the existing nitrogen and microbes to the sun and air and destroys both.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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I know. I hate tilling. but I have no visqueen or straw or hay mulch right now and it was in the process of being taken over with misc weeds and there were huge trenches from a tractor and I just didn't have the back power right now to rake it all somewhat level without breaking it up some to make it easier and it worked the wheat bran and lime into it. after tilling I was able to go through and just level it out with a good rake. my abs had quite a workout even after tilling!!
 
                              
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    With the comfrey, make sure that you plant a sterile variety, otherwise it can self-seed. This would be quite a problem as it can grow from even small root fragments, and is reputed to survive well over a year when shaded owing to the energy stored in it's bulky roots, so getting rid of it is said to be very difficult. For this reason it is also important to make sure you put it in the right place -  like when you plant a tree - it's going to be there for a while.
   Bocking 14 is a sterile variety which is particularly good at extracting potassium from the subsoil and is therefore the most common variety for use as a green manure.
    Bocking 4 is also sterile and has a high protein content, and is therefore the best choice for use as animal fodder.
    Both varieties are only avalable as plants as they have to be propagated vegetatively. To save money you can just get a few to start with, as they can easily be propagated by division once they've grown some.
    One source claims that comfrey needs a lot of water, so you'd do well to put it in a shady spot if it's hot round your way. However, as it is extremely deep rooted, it will be more drought tolerant when established.

    I've never heared that it raises soil pH though. Do you know how it does this Paul? Yet another reason why comfrey is king.

Blue skies, Ben
 
Leah Sattler
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I'm curious how it works to raise the ph also. I suspect that the calcium must be part of the equation. but I can't see how it could create calcium and redistribute it where there is none to begin with? is it locked in the soil somehow and it is able to release it? sorry to put it in such a foo foo non tech way, I have no real idea how or if that is even possible. 
 
Brenda Groth
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well I'm finding that most of my garden plants actually prefer acidic soil..which is good cause my soil is acidic..

i do have one small area that is more alkaline..but my garden grows qite well for being acidic..and i'm planting blueberries and wintergreen this year and they won't grow unless your soil is acidic..

i do put lime on a few things..like my pears and such..but most do fine in my soil
 
Leah Sattler
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from my understanding acid soil is better than alkaline for most things which is why i didn't get carried away with the lime.  I love my new place but it is frustrating in that I am having to sit back and just watch so many things to see how they do before I can make any decisions.
 
Susan Monroe
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Preference for acidity is determined more by the DEGREE of acidity than just any.  Most plants prefer the 6.8 range, just below neutral. A pH of 5 is pretty acid for many plants, and they won't grow well.

My acidic soil has also had much of the calcium and magnesium leached out because of the rain.

Have you gotten any soil sample tested yet?  Once you get it, you can let it ferment a while in your brain while you decide where to go from there.

Sue
 
Brenda Groth
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i am very excited to see how things grow in your garden..i have friends all over the place that are in the same hardiness zones as I am ..but they can't grow plant i can and I can't grow plants they can..so it has to be other things like acidity, soil makeup, water needs, etc..

my acerage tends toward medium to fairly high acidity but also has pockets of fairly alkaline soil due to burning in the past..and husand also throws out carbon and ash from the woodburning furnace..

sometimes too much...which I need to keep an eye on as he has a head injury and doesn't think well
 
Susan Monroe
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Sometimes I don't think very well, and I can't claim any head injuries! 

Sue
 
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