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Sustaining acidic soils

 
Rob Sigg
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Location: PA-Zone 6
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Hey all,
I come from an area with fairly nuetral PH soil. I plan on planting things like blueberries that need the acidic soil. I know that we can put pine byproducts on the ground, but I was trying to find a way to keep it sustainable without having to amend the soil all the time. One way would be to plant dwarf pine trees IE. Mugo, since I dont have the space but I was wondering if dynamic acumulators could be used to do this? I am not positive but I think that sulfur in the soil makes it acidic, is this true? If it is, does it make sense to plant accumulators of sulfur in that bog area to keep it sustainable? Any thoughts are welcome!
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i guess planting things that would do that nearby might make sense as long as they didn't rob the nutrients from the soil around the blue berries..esp water.

fortunately  i have fairly acid soil..but i have built up the beds in the blueberry area with things like pine needs, bark, sawdust, etc..and because we heat with wood and have pine trees, i can renew these items as they rot into the soil.

i guess you can just save those items that are acidic and use them on the soil in the areas where blueberries are..i believe coffee grounds are if you have them available..too.

would be helpful i guess to find a list of acidic soil additives that might be very easily available to you readily
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
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Location: Oakland, CA
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Broom is a fun plant. The pods pop when you brush against them, and they bloom a lot.

They are very frugal with water, and are nitrogen-fixers. I've read that they acidify soil. Some varieties are difficult to get rid of, but apparently chickens love the seeds, and are the method of control chosen by even pro-herbicide types. I think the plants can also be harvested before the pods develop fully, & hung near a chicken run to dispense seed as they mature.

I've read they don't like wet feet, but this El Nino winter has been good for some I have growing in heavy clay.

Might be worth considering.
 
rose macaskie
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    Joel hollingsworth,The house of my husbands family in the mountains is in a broom heath and so i got to know broom a bbit and can add another good thing about it is that it smells good in spring, the scent my mother used, she only used scent for parties, was called "vent verte" it was nice, perfumed but not sweet and i just thought green wind was a funny name until i was in the country when the broom was in flower and then i new what vent vert smelt of broom.
  Those soils are  sandy, granite sand. Maybe, as they say sand makes poor soils because rain runs through it so easily carrying nutrients away with it, the fact that what grows there is a a plant that fixes nitrogen is revealing, this fixing nitrogen business really works, it allows plants to live in a place they normally could not live in.
    I was told by a local that the cows do eat it but not how much or if too much is dangerouse and such. Cows somtimes need a bit of woody matter anyway. Mostly they seem to eat the grass at its feet. I include cows in the broom in the snow this is in Barajas in Avila high on the gredos mountains. It is maybe an unessecary photo, Ávila is a beef producing region they are rounded up with cowboys. agri rose macaskie.
1vacas.jpg
[Thumbnail for 1vacas.jpg]
 
rose macaskie
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  Looking at the photo reminds me the broom can be burnt and regrows from its roots . I was thinking how small the bushes were and that reminded me that the old way of treating the heath was to burn bits occasionally clearing it for the cattle for a while and that is why the bushes here are shortish, they are regrowing. agri rose macaskie.
 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Broom is a fun plant. The pods pop when you brush against them, and they bloom a lot.

They are very frugal with water, and are nitrogen-fixers. I've read that they acidify soil. Some varieties are difficult to get rid of, but apparently chickens love the seeds, and are the method of control chosen by even pro-herbicide types. I think the plants can also be harvested before the pods develop fully, & hung near a chicken run to dispense seed as they mature.

I've read they don't like wet feet, but this El Nino winter has been good for some I have growing in heavy clay.

Might be worth considering.


Broom is a beautiful plant.   Some types can spread extremely fast and affect native plants.
http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/PHPPS/ipc/weedinfo/brooms.htm

Flowers and seeds of brooms contain quinolizidine alkaloids and can be toxic to humans and livestock when ingested. Foliage may be mildly toxic and is unpalatable to most livestock, except goats.


 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
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Interesting. I looked up some of the alkaloids in broom, and at least two of them have pharmaceutical uses, in one case used as a nicotine addiction treatment (I guess similar to methadone).
 
Rob Sigg
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I had read that sulphur adds is what helps makes the soil acidic. Does anyone know if there is any truth to this?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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It can help, yes: it decomposes to form sulfuric acid. It can be problematic, though, for a variety of reasons: it's easy to overdo it, it takes some cation nutrients with it as it washes away, it isn't as renewable as some might like, etc.

From what I've read, it seems like granite and some other sorts of mineral are an intriguing possibility, if they're locally available. I don't know if they've been applied successfully to that purpose, but I know some widely-dispersed varieties of stone ultimately make for acidic soil when they weather.

Joel Hollingsworth wrote:I've read they don't like wet feet, but this El Nino winter has been good for some I have growing in heavy clay.


I had misidentified the plant in my garden! It only gets to be about a foot tall, has white flowers, and does OK in very moist soil. If it is a type of broom, it isn't among those listed in Wikipedia.

In my defense, it does seem to be a legume, the only leaves are in the lower 3 inches or so (most photosynthesis seems to be the stems or pods), it is somewhat woody, and the pods do pop open given the slightest excuse. Now I wonder what it is.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Conifers do a good job of acidifying the soil.  You could plant a conifer and then plant your acid loving plants near the conifer.

 
Rob Sigg
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Thanks Paul, that thought did occur to me. The issue I run into is only a quarter acre lot so I dont want big conifer trees or oversized bushes. I thought about planting dwarf mugo pines in there, but I think what makes it acidic is the fact that needles drop off and do something to the acid in the soil. Ive been researching this topic more and more.

Ive read a few places that acid happens for 4 reasons.
Heavy rain/leaching-From what I understand a lot of rain will wash away the basic elements in the soil that prevent acidity from happening
Organic material decay-This is where I think the pine needles fit in along with coffee grounds etc.
Soil that has been formed from granite areas
High yielding crops-Interesting enough places with high harvest yields of alfalfa seem to be a big culprit.

What I don’t understand just yet is why adding sulfur to the soil makes it acidic other than something is happening with decomposition on a bacterial level. Thus my theory on planting a lot of garlic with the blueberries. More to come!


 
Brenda Groth
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maybe a living mulch of creeping junipers around your blueberries..the branches lie on the ground quite a way away from the trunk, and they don't get very tall, so the branches could lie as a mulch around the blueberries?

another might be a small hedge of yew behind them as a windbreak, if you kept it very small by pruning..maybe a dwarf variety? and then there are the sky pencil junipers as well that grow narrow and upright.

there are also some very small dwarf or miniature varieties of pines avail at specialty nurseries

maybe also creeping wintergreen or creepign cranberries or bearberry as a ground cover
 
Rob Sigg
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Location: PA-Zone 6
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Thanks Brenda, do you think the wintergreen would provide acidity though? I have some wintergreen planted and it needs somewhat acidic soil because of its native habitat, so Im not sure if it actual decomposes as acidic matter.
 
Al Loria
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Location: New York
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In a current edition of Grow magazine (vol. 4 2010,) it is suggested to put in peat moss at the time of planting to raise the acidity quickly.  Sulfur, Pine needles and most other amendments take a year to start to become effective.

" If your soil acidity is not correct, your plants will die quickly."  This was stated by Matt Waters of Waters Blueberry Farm in Smithville, Missouri.  I don't know if this is an accurate statement or not, but why chance it.

Other parts of the main article included using sulfur and aluminum sulfate as an amendment.

I know using peat moss is not a sustainable practice, but it might get you a good start to work some in for now.  This will buy you some time for a sustainable acid production system to mature and take hold.

Good luck,

Al
 
                              
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coffee grounds acidify soils.  You could start a coffee grounds and christmas tree recycling program for you area.
 
Larisa Walk
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Location: South of Winona, Minnesota
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Back when I worked as a soil consultant I got asked about blueberries a few times. It's quite easy to grow them in even a slightly alkaline soil (GASP, HERESY!) if you boost your soil's micro-nutrient levels. When you hear about plants needing acidic soils that usually means that they have a hard time supplying their needed levels of micros for various enzyme processes. I'm unsure if this is due to overly weak acid secretions from their roots or the need for specific fungi in the soil to help them obtain nutrients. A good soil test will show you your levels of iron, manganese, zinc, copper, and boron, and all can be amended to bring the levels up. The specific form to use depends on the balance of the other soil nutrients, soil texture, rainfall, etc. Elemental sulfur pellets can acidify a soil easily and quickly but if your soil is low in magnesium, the sulfur will leach more of it downward in preference to calcium. Around here we have the opposite problem. Farmers use the cheapest, most local lime, which is dolomite. This brings magnesium up so high that clay almost turns into concrete, necessitating the use of sulfur to bring things back into a biological and chemical balance for crops.

For more information about this, try our web page at http://www.GeoPathfinder.com/15601 .

Bob Dahse, formerly of Underfoot Soil Consulting.
 
Rob Sigg
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That is great info, thanks!
 
Kay Bee
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Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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I agree with Walk re: mineral supplements.  Adding a diverse compost freqeuenlty as a top dressing works well.  As with most plants, special needs can be overcome with lots of organic matter.

My only precaution is that I try and avoid using compost that has a lot of calcium rich organic matter on the blueberries - they don't need it much or care for it.
 
rose macaskie
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. and i put my blueberry in where i had sandy soil because i thought it would be acider and from what walk says i could not have done anything worse it is were there are less nutrients. agri rose macaskie.
 
Larisa Walk
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I wouldn't say that you couldn't have done anything worse. Sand is more or less just a blank slate. It has low capacity for cationic minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, ammonium, iron, copper, etc.) so a little goes a long way when you add some. A good mineral-filled compost might be just the ticket, adding minerals, nitrogen and sulfur from bacterial activity, and water-holding capacity. Pity us poor souls gardening on clay, since we have to add a bunch of amendments to alter our high mineral capacity soils.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Rob S. aka Blitz wrote:What I don’t understand just yet is why adding sulfur to the soil makes it acidic


Okay, here goes:

2 S + 2 H[sub]2[/sub]O + 3 O[sub]2[/sub] = 2 H[sub]2[/sub]SO[sub]4[/sub]

This process releases a lot of energy, and there are soil bacteria that live off of the energy from oxidizing sulfur compounds, similar to the way we oxidize carbon compounds.

That product on the right hand side is sulfuric acid. So you're right, soil microbes take in elemental sulfur and release acid.

Garlic takes in sulfur compounds from the soil in order to make its characteristic fragrance. It will release the same amount of sulfur when it decays, as it took in when it grew, so ultimately the acidification will be a wash. If you worry you've overdone it with the sulfur, planting lots of garlic and harvesting it might help toward un-doing it.
 
                            
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Location: Ava, Mo, USA, Earth
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If you plant enough acid-loving plants together and mulch heavily, there is a very good chance that the soil microbes will adjust to keep it acid.  The bacteria and fungi each plant favors tend to keep the soil pH in the range the plants need.  It's getting it started is the hard part.  Plenty of compost helps.

Me, I'm trying to grow things in soils that are too acid for blueberries.
 
rose macaskie
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To prepare the scen fo rexplaining the chemical equation here goes.

  The start is that an atom has a core that contains protons that are positively charged, so it has a positive centre the core called the nucleus.
    There are other things in the centre like neutrons but they are neutral and don't change the charge, gluons that stick things together, i should reach for a you tube lecture and check on that, and i think there are quarks flying around to in the nucleuse to.

  Round the nucleus, fly, and fly is the word or an understatement because they go at the speed of light, electons and they are negatively  charged, tiny and there are the same number of electrrons as protons so all being well the atom is neutral its charged bits equal out.

    Electrons are a bit like the snitch in a quidage game or thats how i see them, i fthe snitch was much smaller an dthe quiddage pitch much bigger and of course they move faster and so you might just catch sight of them ocassionally, not true, some sort of experiment you set up might give evidence of their path.

    The areas nearest to the center of the atom are  the ones were the pull of the positive protons in the nucleus  is most felt. In that area you get two electrons. Maybe there is not room for more than two things whirling  around nearly at the speed of light there. The line delimiting an area around the nucleouse that is caled in many cases the orbit of the first two electrons is the place were sightings of electrons are more likely to occur most frequently, not a real orbit. They could be anywhere. I read about eletrones in your television set, that they could have gone to the moon and back before getting to their place on your television screen, still it works just betting they will get there though you don't know how, or rather you know that there was as far as you know no good reason why they should not do something different,they will make up the picture on the screen.
      the number of orbits or shells round a atom  depends on the size of the atom a big atom will have lots f orbits so as to have a place for all its electrons  and each orbital has a set amount of electron that it likes to have fliying around. the first always has two electrons the second eight.
  When we get to talking about the outside  orbit of a atom which in the case of hydrogen that has one electon is the first shell  and in the case of carbon is  the second shell which second shell atoms like to have 8 electrons in and were carbon only has four. because it is a six electron atom and so does not have enough to fill out two shells and has to many to fit them all in the first one. It has  two electrons in its first shell and the remaining four in the second and a great sense of loss because it has such an empty last shell or valence shell.
  It is what happens in the last shell which gets the joint hopping, in a way that upsets the balance of protons and electrons tha t makes electrons hold on to other atoms or give up their electrons creating further imbalances and partnerships. The atoms  lose their neutrality and  start to have  positive or negative charges  and start to  attract or other atoms and molecules  so that in Joel  Hollingsworths equation you will have started with a plum pudding  and a bottle of wine and some cream and ended up with irish cream whisky and ten bread buns and some dried apricots except that as you are meant to balance equations and one plum pudding would never have enough flour to make a bottle of whisky and ten buns you would have to put in three plum puddings and then you would have balanced your equation and this bit of balancing is what they call maths. 
    Things just get acidic if the interchanges that take place with the addition of something or other or the subtraction are such as to leave a lot of hydrogens lying around, i believe. If a lot of lose apricots are left around after the interchange instead of the former plums that were  firmly lodged in the cakes the mix will be acidic. I will have to look that up again. agri rose macaskie.
 
Rob Sigg
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Good point Joel. Sand plus Peatmoss = no ability for anti acid compounds to build up...if I understand the chemistry properly. Which is why they tell you to feed the blueberries alot and give them alot of water. I think I am going to try the heavy organic matter mulch/soil and see what happens. Ill probably mix a bit of peat into it and a bit of sand for the drainage. This is a great topic I feel!
 
rose macaskie
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is robert aka blitz the sam eperson whose smile was a awak 47 ?
 
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