Strawberry soil ph too high...

silent88April 6, 2013

I'm in Southern California. Anyways, I just tested my soil ph for the first time. I just planted strawberries in my raised bed, and the soil looks about 7.5ish to me, maybe even slightly higher. I also for the first time laid mulch over my garden and saw two earthworms when I was digging into a small spot to get some test soil, which made me happy! Anyways, the strawberries seem fairly healthy. I just plante them 2-3 weeks ago. And they've grown quite a bit. They really apparently loved the nitrogen I gave them (blood meal). Anyways, should I try adjusting the pH or see how they do? I know earthworms love neutral soil so if I put sulfur will it burn them? Thanks!!! I've tried strawberries sooo many times in the past (not in this garden) and they all die or produce meagar yields. People say they are so easy!

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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

If its not broke, don't fix it! If you keep applying mulch and compost, you would be amazed at how the pH levels out.. I know people who grow blueberries next to vegetables and alkaline loving plants.. The only thing they do for their soil is mulch.. It's amazing what nature would do if you provide a natural environment. Inwouldnt go applying chemicals.. Just keep it organic and you should be ok..


    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 5:46PM
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Thanks! This garden is about 2 years old now and all I've added is composts and compost based vegetable/flower soil mixes. And organic fertilizers. I think it's our alkaline water. The pH is about 8-8.5 probably. The leaves do look a little funky. It's too soon to tell if they are going to do well.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 5:55PM
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It is possible to do a number on otherwise good soil, I.E. low lime and pH 6.8 by adding water to it with a lot of dissolved lime (bicarbonates) and consequent high pH. You can have your water tested for pH and bicarbonates at many university labs and probably many others.

I don't suppose you are growing in calcareous soil, that makes things more fun ! I had to add sulfur to my soil and till it in and begin irrigating with acidified water to deal with the double whammy of calcareous (very high lime) soil and very high bicarbonates in the water. Hope you don't have to do the same. Taking the actions I have made a world of difference to the strawbs. the leaves ho longer are chlorotic and the plants are growing great.

The link from U of FL has some onfo. on irrigation water quality when it comes to liming potential.

Here is a link that might be useful: U of FL

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 8:11PM
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The bark you have on the surface around the berries will over time help lower the ph at the surface. Right now the berries look great so I wouldn't do anything to them.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 9:07PM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

It is a good possibility it is your water! Get a water fiilter that is a carbon block, or better... Make sure it filters out 90%+ chlorine,etc... That will do wonders for your soil, and could possibly make your water a little softer and lower your soil pH.. I never garden without a water filter.. I got one at lowes.. It takes some couplings and a little work,plus $50 bucks everything.. But you'll have it for years.. Only thing you have to change is the water filter,which is only 10-15 bucks for a carbon filter.. If your serious about gardening, get a water filter. Or even better harvest rainwater! That is acidic and is perfect for every plant!


    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 12:25AM
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With blueberries, sulfur is used to lower soil pH. However, sulfur is not sulfuric acid, the sulfur has to be metabolized, over time, by bacteria that live in the soil, in order to lower pH. This is a gradual process, and for this reason, it is easy to avoid burning the blueberry shrub by making periodic soil pH measurements. If you suspect that soil pH is too high, and you want to try using sulfur on a few plants, and make a comparison with untreated plants, you can safely apply one teaspoon of agricultural sulfur to each plant. The sulfur should be scattered about the central root, in a circle of 8 inch diameter, and covered with some mulch. It does not have to be dug in-the bacteria will find it on the surface. An application of sulfur will take 30 days to show positive results, and about 12 months will be required for all of the sulfur to disappear. You should see deeper green leaves on the treated plants, and lighter green or yellow leaves on the untreated strawberry plants. A pH test should be done on the soil before any additional sulfur is added.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 1:26PM
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Thanks for all the advice. As Michael said about his strawberries my new leaves don't look very dark green. May be a little chlorotic.... I guess time will tell.

I know the pH is basic 8-8.5 because I used to have fish and I'd have to test the water.

I've been adding some vinegar to the water but I'm not sure how to figure out how much to add.

I also have blueberries and the pH tested 6.8ish. Debating on whether to try battling with nature or let them die. They aren't growing well and the yield isn't enough to justify wasting a bunch of money. Plus I was dumb a year ago and just dug holes in my clay soil, filled it with acid loving soil, and that's that.

Anyways, back to the strawberries! I guess I'll see how they do! Will I know they are suffering in the high soil ph if they show chlorosis or what else do I look for? Also will the worms stay if I adjust the ph? :)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 2:14PM
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My experience has been that worms do not live in soil with pH of 4.5, in the immediate vicinity of our blueberry shrubs. However, we have lots of worms in the garden, and in the lawn. I find them when I am digging out dandelion roots. Our native soil has pH around 7.6.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 5:07PM
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Silent88: my soil is similar pH as yours, and strawberries still grow well, along with most other garden plants. I'll second what Raw Nature said, and suggest you not worry about it...

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 11:04PM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)


"My experience has been that worms do not live in soil with pH of 4.5, in the immediate vicinity of our blueberry shrubs"

I wonder if worms don't like the acidity or perhaps it's the harsh concentrated sulfur that they do not like.. I'm sure they don't like acidic soil... But, I think it's the sulfer thats deterring them... Do you think microorganisms live in acidic pH? How about with heavily sulfered soil? My though is that it's the sulfer,not neccesarily the pH...


    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 11:17PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"Do you think microorganisms live in acidic pH?"

Yes, as stated they must breakdown the sulfur to make put it in a form which changes PH. No doubt a different crowd lives in low PH soil.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 7:55AM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

My question was rhetorical.. If microorganisms live in low pH soil, I'm sure worm do as well.. My point was that I wouldn't be so quick to say worms don't live in low pH, I would first question what your fertilizing,amending, and irrigating with.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 9:39AM
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The reason that I have stated that there are no worms living in the low pH soil under our blueberry shrubs is that I do repeated soil tests for pH analysis, which involves actually digging up a small sample of dirt. I am not finding any worms when I do this. We have 14 shrubs, and they are all tested once a year. Some years, they are tested twice, if there are problems with pH. However, I am routinely finding worms when I use a small garden trowel to dig out dandelion roots in our lawn, so I know we have worms living in the yard, just not in the blueberry beds.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 10:49AM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

Do you apply sulfer, sulferic acid, or anything along those lines? What do you fertilize with? What do irrigate with? What im trying to get across is that it is probably not due to your pH - it is likely due to what your are doing for pH,fertilizer, and irrigation..


    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 6:25PM
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During the period of 1995 to 2005, I was growing blueberry shrubs here in Madison, Wisconsin, with limited success. In a good year, we might get a quart or two of fruit from 10 shrubs. After much trial and error, using various fertilizers, and several methods for lowering soil pH, I came to the conclusion that I would have to buy a pH meter and begin testing our soil to find out exactly what the pH measurement was. When this was done, I found that my efforts at lowering soil pH had been partially successful. I was seeing readings between 6.8 and 7.2. Our native soil, in the yard, has pH around 7.6. After finding a source of agricultural sulfur, I was able to add enough of this material to our soil to eventually get the pH down to 4.5. We now have 14 shrubs, although not all of them are grown to maturity. Last year we harvested 3 1/2 gallons of fruit, & I estimate that the birds took another 1/2 gallon or so. There is more than pH involved in growing blueberries. They also need lots of sunlight, and they need to be kept watered, especially during drought conditions. The biggest remaining problem is rabbit browsing, in the wintertime, when there is not much else for the rabbits to eat.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 9:23AM
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