Vinegar and epsom salts and osmocote ( Oh My)...!

mandarin1June 9, 2010

I should consider putting a capful of vinegar in every gallon of water because....? Is it for the PH? Should I test the PH of my water first to see if I need it? Should I give the trees epsom salts and how often? What does that do? If using time release fertilizer, should I also use my foliage pro? I'm going to try the 5 parts pine bark, 1 part perlite and 1 part pumice. I also ordered the makings for gritty mix (repti-bark is on sale!) I'd rather wait 'till January but the fungus gnat issue and soon-to-arrive 2nd mandarin are steering me forward. I'm nervous, there's so much info and so many variations it's kind of overwhelming.

On the other hand, so many pictures of beautiful, successful container trees! (I've gotta try that beautiful grapefruit!)

Am I probably going to lose the tiny fruit on these trees due to transplanting from soil to soilless? (Deep breath) I apologize for all these questions(such a newbie!) I found so many answers by searching but not these... thanks for bearing with me! Mary

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Yes, it is for the Ph..But how fresh is your soilless mix? Was it a bought premade mix? Usually at the start, the lime which has both Ma and Ca is already provided as also a perfect Ph...

It wouldn't hurt, but then it doesn't matter.

Epsom salts maybe after a time? But no...Not if your fertilizer already has Ca and Ma in it. Yes once it wears out of your mix.
For most , those using a bagged soil, the soil will have been pH adjusted with dolomitic lime, which is a source of both Ca and Mg in the same compound and in the proper ratio. As it slowly breaks down, it releases the Ca and Mg and plants can take it up. IF the soil somehow becomes deficient in Mg (the ONLY reason you would EVER need to add Epsom salts), it will also almost certainly be deficient in Ca. If you want to rise the Ca to balance the use of Ma, then you would add gypsum to your mix..

Ca and Mg are what is termed 'antagonistic' in soils. This means that how much of one is in the soil affects how much of the other can be taken up.

You can use a slow release according to many here, which do, and Fp as a companion, and many have great success with that. I am thus far...

If you use 5 parts bark, the pumice and perlite, I would add 1tblsp of Dolomitic Lime per one gallon of mix..You wont have to worry about the Ma and Ca at least for 6 months, and the soil Ph will be corrected since the bark will start a bit on the to acidic side..

In the gritty mix, you will want to add gypsum and use a 1/4 teaspoon of ES in a gallon of water everytime you water.
If you use a fertilizer such as FP that already supplies the Ma and Ca needed, then you won't have to use ES or gypsum from the start..

Mary it's fairly easy...

Use the gritty mix for a very much longer lasting mix..
Use the 5.1.1 mix for a durable mix that lasts a bit less longer than the gritty one.

If the fertilizer already has Ca and Ma in it, then no need for ES or gypsum...

The Ph for most fresh solless mixes will change over time..Your leaves will usually show signs of defficiencies over time..
The Ph in the gritty mix is perfect to start.
The Ph in the 5.1.1 mix needs to be adjusted by adding one tablespoon of lime per gallon of soil.
The Ph is already perfect in bagged soilless mixes bought at the store.

You may not loose any fruit if you transplant as I havn't on any of mine...Then they will fruit right back up again this time of year, if the roots are extremely happy which they will be in these mixes..

No need for opologies..That is what we are here for..

Hope this helps Mary..


    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 2:43PM
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Got it - I think? Here goes....My current commercial citrus soil is only 2 months old but draining poorly and it has gnats so I'm kissing it good-bye (so to speak). Since I have 4 trees, sounds like I should simplify by skipping the 5:1:1 and will use gritty mix for all 4. Lime is all about Ca and Ma together in the proper proportions. Epsom salts are all about Ma, and gypsum is all about Ca.

Using gritty mix, if I use a time release fertilizer (ratio
approximately 3:1:2) and keep using my Foliage Pro (1/2 or 1/4 strength? Which one? Every time I water?)then I don't need ES,gypsum or lime (ever?). The PH should be fine for about 6 months because the new bark is acidic, but I may want to re-visit the idea of using vinegar after that? Once I wash the old soil off the roots (in warm water if possible) and replace it with gritty mix (using a stick or something to make sure there are no air pockets) then it should go into a protected area (no direct sun) for about a week. LOL! How'd I do?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 5:19PM
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You get an A+++++++

Just remember, if you use a fertilizer that contains no Ca, and little Ma, then that is when you would scratch some gypsum into the gritty mix and use 1/4 tablesppon in every gallon of water everytime you water..

When using a slow release fertilizer such as "osmocote", which by the way, my plants seem to be loving the one with minors, you only need to feep FP at 1/4 teaspoon per gallon at every watering...Even without the CRF, you will only use 1/4 teaspoon at every watering anyway..

Also remember to strain out the dust particles keeping all your particles at about 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch in size..About bebe size is good...You want no perched water table at all...I would invest in some wooden dowels to check your moisture into the rootzone just to make sure its dry until you get use to watering..This gritty mix can hold a lot more moisture than one might think..

Good job.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 6:04PM
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Thanks Mike, you're a good teacher! Oooops, I forgot the dowels...but I have 2 moisture meters and a bamboo stick . That will be another learning curve, and I'm sure the subject of another discussion.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 7:20PM
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Be forewarned Moisture meters measure electrical conductivity in soil and not moisture. The level of fertilizer salts has a far greater impact on their readings than does moisture content. Stick a moisture meter into deionized (distilled) water and the meter will show dry.

Sharpen a wood dowel in a pencil sharpener. Insert it into the deepest part of the container. If it comes out damp & cool, no water is needed. If it comes out dry, watering is appropriate. You can also quickly condition yourself to gauge the need to water by lifting the container & judging its heft.

Hope this helps you..Get the wooden


    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 7:55PM
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mandarin1's can you tell me your ph.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 8:57PM
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gg24(6a CT)

Hi Mike!

When you recommended a 4.1.1 mix to me, you said to add 1 teaspoon of lime per gallon of mix yet above you state 1 tablespoon per gallon. The ph in the soil is 7.5 which is the same as my tap water. Should I add scratch in more lime?

As always, thanks for your help.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 11:36PM
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Hi plant54 - I haven't gotten anything to measure ph yet, and I haven't changed the soil yet. Do you check the ph on your indoor trees? What do you use?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 9:42AM
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Thanks Mike, that would explain my experience with it. The meter would show "wet" when the leaves were obviously drooping. I had to decide whether to believe my own eyes, or believe the I watered. The leaves perked up. So I bought another meter from a different manufacturer but the results always matched the first meter. I never quite trusted my meters after that. I was guessing but felt the problem was ionic and kept thinking there was too much salt in the soil. Pretty sure I know what happened - just another mistake I made...

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 10:13AM
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Manderin 1,

Most people do not check the Ph of their container soils..I do not, and my plants are fine.

It is the Ph of the water that most concern themselves with. I have pasted a nice article for you to understand more from my quest to know more...

It (water pH) affects the solubility of fertilizers; and generally speaking, the higher the water pH, the lower the degree of nutrient solubility.

I would add vinegar....

GG..It should be about 1 tablespoon per gallon..Sorry..

I would not add any lime to your soil if the soil Ph is that high. As for the water PH, mine too is that high and that is why I use vinegar at every watering when using my hose or faucet water. iT is a life saver.
I would add vinegar to the water and lower it, which would help your soil become more acidic..How did your soil have a Ph that high if you made it from scratch? It is always very low when it is made fresh, unless you bought it pre made...I mean fresh pine bark and peat.
How much did you spend for your Ph meter? Are you sure that your soil has such a high PH? That is container right?

You might like the article I linked here also...Enjoy..

Also, if you really would like to know the science behind Ph, how it works, and how soil works, I would suggest you visit the "container" forums..I am still learning from there, through very expwerienced growers, and from reading books, and sharing all I can and what I have learned, but I too am still learning and hopefully many here can add to these very informative discussions..

I'll bet that plant54 knows the workings of soil and water work and how peat, coconut,bark, and many other ingredients realate to Ph values, PWT, and gas excahnge in the soil in the root zone...I am dying to learn from many more here while I help to the best that I can..
I take NO credit for all the help I give you, but owe it all to the very helpful members on the container side..If it is outside my realm, I will always direct you to a good source..;-)

Hope this helps...


Here is a link that might be useful: A wealth of understanding

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 11:16AM
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Manderin and GG,



Here is a link that might be useful: Vinegar, ES, and PH

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 11:32AM
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That was an interesting thread...more to learn going forward!
We don't have hard water here, so rather than buying a pool test kit (?) I'm going to let it lie for the time being. I'm sitting here waiting for my new Gold Nugget Mandarin to be delivered! Made the gritty mix today, I had everything but the osmocote so I may have to top dress it? It's counter-intuitive not having any "soil" in the soil but here goes nothing....

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 4:54PM
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gg24(6a CT)

Mike: I definitely used all new ingredients when I made the 4.1.1 mix. The meter I have is moisture, light and ph combined. Bought it at Home Depot for about $7.00. I think it is probably not working correctly since I walked around and checked all my pots and even my garden soil in different parts of the yard and everything ranged from 7.5 to 8. I ran across that thread last night and had bookmarked it so I could really study it. Eerie that you referred us to that thread today! My plants look good so I'm not going to worry about it (too much).

Thanks again for your all your support.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 7:30PM
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gg24(6a CT)

Mike: My meter is definitely off...I looked up the ph of white vinegar and it is 2.5. I put the meter in straight white vinegar and it said it was 4. So my 7.5 reading is really a 6. Problem solved. Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 9:09PM
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Oh gg24, yikes!

Thank God you are not relying on that thing!

Just wanted you to know that when you make a fresh batch of the 5.1.1. mix, your pH will start at about a 4.0-4.5. As you can see very low. Therefore the addition of lime..I forgot to add lime once, and you should of seen the problems my plants had...

1 "tablespoon" per gallon of soil is what is needed...

It takes about 2 days to 2 weeks depending on the moisture content in the soil and the temperature for the pH to rise to around 6.0-6.5 which is perfect...

Our goal for citrus in containers is to keep the pH in around the 5.5 to 6-5 range and vinegar is the life saver.
Vinegar will never bring your pH too low, and not let it rise. What a perfect key to healthy citrus..This is the secret that was shared with me from the "head grower" at 4winds from South America and great friend. A secret I couldn't keep to myself...As he said in his own words, "the golden key to healthy citrus is the vinegar"!

If you have ever seen how green their tress get dilivered to you, then you would be amazed..And to think they don't share this secret with just anyone..

Also,in fact most if all bagged soilless mixes are already limed to give you a perfect pH to start.. If you ever bought a plain bag of peat, there are instructions on the back that tell you to lime and how much.
Therefore the reason most transplants into a perfect fresh mix that starts off porous enough to get by for a few days to a few weeks makes, our plants happy


    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 9:01AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Good morning, Mike!
Thanks for posting the links....!
It's good to freshen up on this stuff.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 11:45AM
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AHA! So THAT's where the vinegar idea comes from! Have to admit, my 4 winds tree that arrived yesterday is such a pretty, shiny green.

Also found "dowels" in Stop & Shop this morning - they're called "Smorstix" - 30" long, 1/4" wide, sharpened at one end, 4 in a pkg. They look like giant shish ke-bob sticks. I don't know what kind of wood they you suppose it matters? Probably less expensive to buy dowels at Home Depot but it saved me a trip.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 1:26PM
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I bought the same ones..They work very well !

Good job..


    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 1:35PM
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