best approach to early spring soil acidification?

oldryderMarch 24, 2013

I have 14 blueberry plants starting their 3rd spring, 1/2 of my plants were showing signs of ph related stress last summer.

we're a coupled of weeks away from the spring thaw (theres still 2' of snow cover) but I am trying to figure out the best approach to getting the soil ph back where it needs to be.

I have 7.5 ph well water. soil for plants was 50/50 peat and native soil at 7ph 3 years ago. heavily mulched with wood chips. soil is sandy loam and very well drained (on a slight slope)

it was quite dry last year and I believe the watering is what harmed the plants.

I have aluminium sulfate and also plan to brew up some acidified water with sulfuric acid added to well water.

with all the snow melt even without a lot of rain things will be quite wet this spring.

would a liberal dose of alum sulfate plus snow melt provide rapid improvement in ph?

if some other approach is better I'm all ears.

going forward I intend to treat the soil with sulfur but I know thats a long term approach and won't help this spring.

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If you are going to mix well water and sulfuric acid, it will be necessary to use either a pH meter, or an alternative such as a dye indicator, to check the pH of the final product, before you use it on your shrubs. It will not take very much sulfuric acid to lower the pH of your well water to 5, and appropriate value. The optimum pH value for blueberry shrub soil is generally accepted to be 4.5. To my knowledge, aluminum sulfate is water soluble, and therefore it should lower soil pH immediately, within a few seconds of application.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 10:23AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I've heard quite a bit of negative comments about aluminum sulfate. Enough that I'd do something else. But others might disagree.

I think the first thing you should do is take a soil test. See if you can't get recommendation for blueberries. I'd hate to see you kill your plants by over reacting here.

I'm not sure how much danger there is treating the soil now with sulfuric acid. That will lower the pH immediately but could it kill the roots?

The article linked below discusses these issues.

Here is a link that might be useful: acidifying irrigation water and soil

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 10:29AM
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I second a soil test....
I think that's your best weapon... It will help you sort out what is REALLY going on... because it's not just the pH alone...

I have seen Blueberries grow just fine in neutral to Base pH soil... In that case - you want to pile up mulch and compost to make a nice, rich soil... Stuff like Sodic soils and the weird super alkaline "Clay" soils out west are a different beast altogether... You gotta go after those with a more specialized approach...

I am personally biased against Aluminum based fertilizer supplements... We work so hard AGAINST filling up the soil's natural mineral exhange capacity with Aluminum... It's generally a sign that things are totally out of whack... It causes weird problems, and it's hard to undo....


    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 1:38PM
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I am no expert on blueberries....having only 3 varieties and studying them fervently for a couple of months. Again, I would lean towards F man's thinking...and not get too agressive here. Soil sulphur in small amounts is acceptable. Also, I read that acidic water-soluble fertilizers for acidic loving plants (MiracleGrow) is helpful. Asking the above experts...are there inexpensive ph testers that are reliable?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 5:23PM
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One simple, straightforward, & inexpensive pH test, for blueberry soil, is bromocresol green indicator solution. There is no calibration required, and a one ounce bottle that sells for two dollars might do 100 tests. However, you have to find it, and it is not readily available locally, unless you live near a chemical supply house. One mail order source, with a web-site, is HMS Beagle. Bromocresol green operates over the pH range 3.8 to 5.4. There are other indicators available if you want to see what is going on at other locations on the pH spectrum.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 9:36PM
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everyone: thx for help. I have a ph meter and will test the soil before I do anythng. I also have a ph kit with test strips so I'll be able to independently verify the meter results. I figure if they are within 1/2 point of each other I can assume I have a pretty accurate measurement.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 9:57PM
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