Will Miracid actually lower soil pH for blueberries

johninak(4a)August 29, 2012

So, first post, I'll give the backstory. On a whim this spring I planted 11 blueberries, 5 Polaris, 5 Chippewa, 1 pink lemonade (yes I know it is going to die, but the 5yo wouldn't be talked out of it.) This was spur of the moment as Lowes got in some beautiful plants from a PNW nursery, in addition to their sad looking usual self sourced crap. We had an area beside the house which needs some attractive ground cover after I cut down 3 large spruce so I figured why not double duty?

Now of course they got these in the last week of April, so I spent a month rolling them in and out daily, hardening them. They were in bark chips, I kept them nicely hydrated and applied Miracid (well actually the new MG Azalea...) weekly to them at that time. Planted them Memorial Day weekend. Dug goodly sized holes and I used essentially a "container mix" consisting of 1/2 peat, 1/4 very small spruce chips, 1/8 topsoil, 1/8 composted layer of spruce needles that was covering the area where I planted. Mixed in 1/8 cup of Lowes Sta-Green Azalea... food per hole.

Planted these along the SW corner of my house which does get sun from 10a-11p in the summer. Soil here 4" of very sandy soil then countless feet of glacial rock, hence my "container mix" into the holes.

So they have done nicely (the "pink lemonade" the best cruelly) enough, but I have this inability to get the soil pH down. I first tested after about a month, got 6.8 on 2 different meters, confirmed by analysis by extension office. Since then I've been mulching in coffee grounds 2/week and putting on the MG Azalea 1/week at the 1 big scoop per 1.5 gallon ratio. After nearly 2 months of that I've merely gotten the soil to 6.6. Should I expect better, I expected better from the start!! What should I do now, I've been tempted before winter here to mulch in another 1/8-1/4 cup of the Sta-Green per plant. I've bought some Epson Salts but haven't tried that route, looked for sulfur but can't find it.

The 5yo did con me into letting a couple berries go this season, left 4 each on the best of both plants, the Polaris are about ripe today, the Chippewa couple weeks behind, hopefully they will have enough season in the future.

Oh, last thought, I water these with my well water, which has a fair amount of iron, and is pretty hard, pH meter stuck in the water shows 7.3 FWIW.

Thoughts, opinions. TIA.

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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

Way tackle planting blueberries is start with right ph planting mix test mix before plant if fall between 4.5 to 5.5 you have good mix for blueberry plants.
miracle acid has no acid effect on soil other than small amount nitrogen in miracle acid like .2 change in later test.
Surround soil high ph come in by riding surface under ground water if mix before planting has right ph sulfur help maintain ph from change.

If mix right sulfur over come watering ph as well a pine bark mulch helps to lower watering water.

If have cement in house foundation plant as for can away from that source high ph. A round house foundation is Fig country.
Blueberries do best in raised bed on top of high soil ph.
When weather hot leaves need more water if soil not acid there less water lifted up to leaves.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 6:19PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

To bring the water down in a hurry,there's probably no faster way than Sulfuric Acid.I use some from an auto parts store.My water is a little over 7pH,so it takes less than a teaspoon per gallon,probably even a half teaspoon.I use a liquid tester to check the pH of the water,at least I did,but now I know how much to add.
Just be careful if it's your decision to use it.At least wear eye protection and don't have children around. Brady

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 9:37PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


Your water PH makes it a losing proposition. No matter what you do to the ground you keep adding water which raises the PH of the soil. What you need to do is ignore the soil which you already set up well and switch your focus to your water.

You have two choices.

1. use rain water and only rain water.

2. As Brady said use sulfuric acid.....battery acid. You can get a 5 gallon box of it at Nappa for $30. Add the acid to the water until you know how much acid it takes to drop your water to 4.5 and use that water. The acid water will help remove the bicarbonates from your soil that are causing your PH to rise and WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO. The government considers the sulfuric acid GRAS (generally regarded as safe). Just be careful when you are mixing it. I do mine 300 gallons at a shot and takes 3 cups of acid but the proportion will be different for each person depending on how much bicarbonates are in your native water. The universities recommend the acid and most all blueberries that come from Florida come from fields irrigated with sulfuric acid. It will make a HUGE difference in your plants and makes your life easier and the BB basically carefree.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 9:59PM
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John, I considered using sulfuric acid but it wasn't an allowed input for organic methods, so that was out. First, I would consider your plants. High pH usually results in iron chlorosis, yellow leaves with green veining. If they are nice and dark green and growing well, and you indicate that they are, then I wouldn't do anything drastic. I don't believe that a rapid change is good for the plants or the soil environment. I also have high pH well water and am successful controlling pH using sulphur and/or iron sulfate. Iron sulfate is faster acting but more expensive to achieve the same pH reduction than sulphur. You need to keep adding sulphur every year because your well water has an adverse effect, but it is doable and safer. If you can't find the sulphur locally try googling garden sulphur and you will find several sources.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 8:15AM
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Testing your well water for pH is a good place to start, since you are using this water to irrigate your blueberry shrubs. If there are limestone outcrops in your area, or if you are dealing with a limestone aquifer, then you have hard water for sure. To grow blueberries successfully, you will have to learn how to measure pH, both water pH and soil pH. Here in Madison, Wisconsin, our local water supplied by the city has pH around 7.6, and our native soil has the same pH value. I am using agricultural sulfur to lower soil pH in our blueberry beds. I have to check the pH every spring, and add sulfur as necessary. Farmers around here use sulfur on the alfalfa fields, and it comes in 50 pound bags. This spring, I bought a bag priced at 45 cents per pound. It is possible and useful to use diluted vinegar to water a blueberry shrub with yellowing leaves. However, the beneficial effect of vinegar is temporary, you need sulfur to achieve stable low pH.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 10:30AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

I have 140 or so BB here and I tried the bagged pelleted sulfur route and it does work but is a royal pain. It takes the sulfur so long to break down and you are constantly yo-yo-ing the PH of the soil. Plants like stability. Using the acid gives the plants a stable bicarbonate free growing environment and is simply the best solution other than using rainwater.

Now for BlueberryHill he has no choice as he is stuck with ridiculous organic standards he must comply with to stay certified. It is funny that he could dump crude oil on his plants and still sell the fruit as organic lol.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 12:07PM
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Thanks to all.

I have no concerns whatsoever about going the sulfuric acid route, particularly as I have a boxed bag of same sitting in the basement. To those who do the same, seems like I've seen a couple methods suggested on www searching, some do so at all watering with the pH of the water adjusted to a higher level (5.5-6.0), some do occasionally with pH adjusted down around 4.5-5.0. And then some suggest mag sulfate (epson salts) or vinegar instead with all watering. Anything optimal?

Plants did have some yellow veining at beginning towards the end of their hardening stay and then first month or so after transplanted. Now all heavy green foliage, well being this is AK and all, now getting a hint of red, like I said maybe the Chippewa will have time, maybe not.

My rock is granite mostly. The 35 year old AK log house foundation is get this pressure treated wood for the full basement. Who knows what is leaching from that, it is the old stuff with a lot of copper obviously and who knows what else, but the plants are about 8 feet out from the wall, I'm not too concerned.

I'll go with the suggestion of bamboo_rabbit today and water all with water adjusted down to 4.5 or so.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 2:37PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


When I switched to the acid route I adjusted the water down to 4.5 for the first 2-3 waterings as the lower PH will help to get rid of the bicarbonates I had been adding from my 7.8 PH well water (limerock aquifer). Before anyone corrects me..I know the acid does not "get rid of" the bicarbonates but instead changes them to gypsum which is stable and neutral in the soil. After those first few I now adjust the water to 5.5 and that is good enough.

The vinegar does work on a temporary basis but once applied the bacteria in the soil act on it and very quickly it loses all it's PH lowering properties. That goes for all organic acids sadly.

Btw John if you are going to use the acid I would suggest also getting ammonium sulfate and adding a tsp a gallon with each weekly watering. The BB absolutely love the stuff. Only use it when you want new growth of course, too late for you this year. Here we fertilize through September.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 3:57PM
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