My own deprived then fed vinegar tree...

meyermike_1micha(5)August 3, 2013

Yup, this poor thing was heavily dependent on tap water and I totally forgot to give it a solution comprising of vinegar and fertilizer at the same time...

After going through my check list, which is what I always do before I even use the stuff, it always comes back to nutrient deprived plants due to a pH issue.........

I thought I would show you the plant before and after with a few follow ups. I hope it helps others..


Less than two weeks later...Pic taken 8.1.13

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Thanks for the showing the benefits of vinegar. What's the ratio you use? How long do you use it after the plant is a healthy green again?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 4:06PM
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Hi Mike! It feels so good to be back to posting here again! I am so thankful that you shared this info with me a few years ago. My citrus love it, and also my gardenias!

hi Citrus weekend warrior! Mike suggest either a teaspoon or 2 to a gal of water. That is how I have fed my trees and they mostly all look so green and healthy! I swear that between the white vinegar and my supplemental lighting I now can keep my citric happy all year long!


    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 5:35PM
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Thanks for the response! Info like this is always to good to circulate every once in a while.
I wonder if there is a way to create a "sticky note" with a bunch of tips and tricks at the top of citrus forum.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 9:20PM
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Just curious about the vinegar reasoning, is it because you are in zones with low acidic soils?

I have pears, apples, cherries, to citrus and blueberries here in California and can vary the Ph levels to what the plant needs but as I say this I've got a several several year old plastic potted Mexican Key Lime tree that is starting to look just like your first picture and I was starting to wonder if it was the infamous nitrogen, zinc, or manganese deficiency.

Perhaps the soil has just flat-lined...

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 3:17AM
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Hey Andrew..Thanks for explaining..I can't believe that you remember all I have talked to you about and to see you succeed as so makes me smile!

Mountain....No, my soil has nothing to do with pH for me..It's the water that does and I like to make the nutrients available for my tree as soon as I fertilize..It's a temporary fix but a darn good one in my opinion...

Now as for the earth soil, if I were to treat for pH, then I would most certainly test my soil first..
As for container growing, knowing the pH of my tap water in most important...

Citrus..Good point!

I will be talking another pic soon of my poor tree..


    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 12:55PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Very nice update, Mike, and I'm so glad you shared the pic! I'd say the proof's in the pudding :-)


    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 11:16PM
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Thanks Mike! I do owe a lot of my success to you! I also bought my Oro Blano based on your recommendation. I am very pleased with this tree, as it is quickly becoming one of my larger trees!


    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 12:53AM
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Tech Question: Is the vinegar doing anything else besides raising the acidity?

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 12:57AM
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Mike, quite an impressive turn around for just two weeks! It looks great!

It seems like there's been quit a bit of discussion on using vinegar for water acidification lately here, but one critical bit of the discussion seems to be lacking. Namely, what are the pH values of peoples tap water before and after acidification?
This should be the pivotal data to decide whether or not acidification of ones tap water could help their citrus. Without knowing the starting pH of ones tap water, you are really just guessing on how much (if any) acidification would help.

One other important note on the tap water pH, the important value is the pH of water as it comes out of your tap. This pH could vary significantly from what is reported in the annual (or monthly) water quality reports from your water supplier. For example, in my case the MWRA indicates that the their treated water is pH 9.6! (a shockingly high value). However, by the time it reaches my tap, the pH as dropped to 7.0-7.5. I do not add any vinegar (or other acid) to my water, as I do not appear to have any issues with pH.

Additionally, it could be useful to measure the pH of your water after adding liquid fertilizer (such as Foliage Pro). The fertilizer will also change the pH of the water. After adding FP to my tap water, the pH drops to between 6.5 and 7.0. The magnitude of the pH change by adding liquid fertilizer will depend on on the specific fertilizer used, how much it is diluted, and the buffering capacity of the tap water.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 7:28AM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

Thank you for sharing! Wow what a difference.

I continue to see improvement of my (in-ground) EBMUD irrigated citrus (on Carrizo as well as a chlorotic Cara dwarf). the past month I have been supplementing with 1/2 to 1 gallon of 1 Tbsp/gal vinegar + Foliage Pro solution per week. I am taking pictures often and will post when i can. The addition of vinegar appears to be working for me.

EBMUD reports 9.1-9.4 pH. I measure 8.6 or more out of the spigot (its well off the charts of my pool pH test kit). Looking at the progress and changes in my yard the past month, I believe that there is merit in monitoring / targeting pH!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 12:04PM
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gregbradley(Upland, CA USDA 9b Sunset 19)

Scott_6B is exactly right here. You don't want to change your PH unless you know what it is and what you desire it to be.

Municipal supplies are likely to be 7.0 or higher since they don't want it to be acidic and eat up pipes.

City of Upland reports mine to be about 2/3 well water that ranges from 7.0-7.8 and 1/3 California Acqueduct water which is higher. My pool test kit shows it at about 7.4 so one teaspoon of vinegar added to 2 gal would take it well under 7.0.

What is the desired PH? Sounds like it might be a good idea to have a more accurate test than my pool test strips.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 12:28PM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

Absolutely - test test test!
I suppose rootstocks have their favorite pH range and i have seen 6 - 7.5 pH here in the forums. I have been told by my tree source (Willits & Newcomb) that Carizzo loves 6.5 pH.

Since most of my chlorotic citrus is:
1) on Carizzo
2) irrigated with 8.6 pH+ water
3) in rather alkaline soil (7 - 7.5)
4) lacking in vigor

I can see the vinegar (acid) making sense. (this also explains why i have never ever had to add pH increaser to my pool. (Always acid!)

I have also begun adding soil acidifier two weeks ago.... i understand that it is difficult to change the soil pH quickly so i do not expect the soil pH to change much.

BTW: Citrus in a different location and irrigated by 7.2 pH water do not display chlorotic issues.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 12:41PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Well, whenever I discuss vinegar I do mention starting and finishing pH. This board is littered with my posts on this exact topic, including the older Thread (two weeks ago?) that inspired this new Thread.

As I always say, TEST the pH of your water. Then add enough white vinegar to bring the pH down to 5.2 - 5.8. Document this amount. Next time, add the same amount of vinegar to your water. Periodically test the pH of your water, and adjust vinegar as needed. I shouldn't have to say this, but I will: if your water is already acidic, don't add vinegar.

Vinegar will degrade quickly. It need only bring the fertigating solution into a favorable range when the nutrients are delivered.

Lastly, if there isn't a problem, then don't use vinegar.

If there are problems, acidifying fertigating (or watering) solutions is one simple thing to try.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 1:12PM
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Besides the acidity I was wondering if there might be other side benefits due to maybe the fermentation of the ethanol by acetic acid bacterium?

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 1:58PM
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Well, thanks for the run down Scott..Really appreciate what you have to offer.
Hopefull we can pull some summer heat back in before it's too late this month..

I see 80 only twice in 15 days with 40's at night..sheesh

Josh..Thanks for putting sense to all this..I too tell people to test their water..But I am bad, I don't when I use it. I know a tablespoon a gallon or even more does no harm at all and only benefits mine every time..

Knowing my tap pH runs way above 7.5 and using a tablespoon or two will never lower it under 5.5 pH is all I need to know.. Heck, even a 1/2 cup per gallon would not lower it below 5.5 pH.

I just treated it again today with another dose..I will take a follow up pic in a couple of days:-)

This post was edited by meyermike_1micha on Mon, Aug 5, 13 at 19:21

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 7:17PM
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Well could it be that the vinegar removes the buildup of calcium (hard water) in and around the roots then allows the roots to absorb the right moisture. We get a lot of calcium buildup in our drinking bottles and with just a tiny bit of vinegar, and within seconds the bottles clean up great. Checking ph with paper test strips is not accurate, you need a digital meter then it has to be calibrated offend, a real pain. I believe soil ph is more important than water ph because farmers test their fields and adjust the ph to whatever is going to be grown then wait for the rain or irrigate from some type of surface water.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 5:57PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Cuerno, yes the vinegar helps flush excess salts so that roots can take up water and nutrients more efficiently.

In the ground/field, pH is far more important. In a container, the pH of the mix is far less critical - as long as the media isn't so extreme that the plant can't grow. Container growing is much closer to hydroponic than in-ground growing.

The pH of the fertigating solution is of greater importance.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 6:48PM
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Wow Cool! Can you elaborate on why container growing is much closer to hydroponics than in-ground growing? And what the differences are that are important to note?

I find this subject really interesting! I would have guessed the soil (which the roots reside) would be most important. Sorry to HJ the thread Mike. Let me know if I'm a nuisance. ;-)

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 8:12PM
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gregbradley(Upland, CA USDA 9b Sunset 19)

Is there anyone that doesn't remember high school chemistry?

Adding an acid (like vinegar) to a base such as water with a PH above 7.0 creates water and a salt. An acid has a unattached Hydrogen atom. A base has unattached Oxygen/Hydrogen group. When you mix them, the H and OH combine to form H2O (water), leaving the remaining atoms to combine and form salts.

Is it possible that water that is slightly acid, meaning PH below 7.0, washes salts out of the container better?

This post was edited by GregBradley on Tue, Aug 6, 13 at 21:12

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 8:34PM
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This has developed into a quite interesting thread, Meyer_Mike, thanks for starting it and stimulating the discussion!

MountainMan, if I am not mistaken, technically Gritty Mix is a hydroponic growing medium. Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants in soil-less mixes and supplying nutrients to the plant via watering (e.g. fertigation). Since there is no soil in Gritty Mix (or any number of the other container mixes that people use for growing container citrus) this really is just a variation of hydroponic growing.

To answer Cunero's and Greg's questions, the pH of the water can affect the solubility certain salts. With tap and well water, the relevant salts are calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate (these are the salts that contribute to "hard water"). Calcium and magnesium carbonate have quite low solubility in water. When exposed to slightly acidic solutions the carbonate ions (CO3) which have a net charge of -2 are protonated to generate bicarbonate (HCO3) with a net charge of -1. Thus calcium carbonate (CaCO3) for all intents and purposes is converted to calcium bicarbonate (Ca(HCO3)2). Calcium bicarbonate has a much greater solubility in water. However, just flushing your container with slightly acidic (pH ~6) water will not immediately wash out any deposited solid calcium carbonate (or magnesium carbonate). I would expect solid calcium carbonate to only dissolve slowly over a period of months to potentially years (there are a couple of reasons for this, involving crystal lattice energies and surface area, which I will not go into). Think of how difficult it is to remove scale build-up if you have hard water. Strongly acidic water (pH less than 1) would dissolve solid calcium carbonate much more quickly (and convert the carbonate anions to carbon dioxide gas via protonation and subsequent dehydration), but citrus would obviously not like the strongly acidic water. If it ever gets to the point where visible scale (calcium carbonate) buildup is observable in the container mix, the best thing to do would be to re-pot in fresh mix.

As has been discussed before, the primary benefit for adjusting pH is to improve the availability of the micro and macro nutrients to the tree. In my opinion, if the water pH after adding any soluble fertilizers is generally somewhere between 6.0 and 7.5 no pH adjustments should be necessary. Also, it's important not to forget that if your citrus is healthy and growing well, there is no real need to worry about adjusting the water pH.

As a final note, for pH checks I use scientific pH strips similar to the ones pictured below with a pH range of 4.5 to 10. They are quick and plenty accurate for getting an idea of your water pH. Aquarium and swimming pool pH test kits should also work fine.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 8:00AM
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Fantastic post Scott!

I am seeing things much more clearer now.

Thank you!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 10:51AM
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I have a comment regarding the use of white vinegar as some here have referred to. Possibly I am wrong but I THINK white vinegar us made from acetic acid, not via a more natural fermentation process. An organic gardener would recommend using an apple cider vinegar because it has other benefits beyond just adjusting the pH. I will add that you can control grass and weeds around your citrus by spraying a fine mist on the grass/weeds you want to control. Do this when you don't need to water for a day or two so you can leave the venegar on the grass.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 2:41PM
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deleted duplicate post

This post was edited by johnorange on Wed, Aug 7, 13 at 14:43

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 2:42PM
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Scott..Thank you for that in depth explanation and even illistrations....That means a lot to quite a few folks here and it takes a great willing heart to want to help...
So thank you and have we lost it???Our summer heat that is? What a joke, right? Although it's been absolutely comfortable, it is still a bit early for fall...

Really John???? I was wondering if anyone else here ends up having to pluck weeds out of their pots too..I sure have..What a horrible year for weeds even on my window sills!.

I had no idea this would be such a great discussion....

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 7:13PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Yes, great post, Scott.
You nailed the hydroponic aspect, as well as the solubility of salts question. As stated, the function of the media in a "gritty" application is merely a place to secure roots and hold minimal nutrients and moisture - with the assumption that moisture and nutrients will be provided regularly.

White vinegar, labeled as grain vinegar, should be just fine.

Vinegar, which degrades relatively quickly, tends to merely burn foliage...rather than kill weeds at the root.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 12:24PM
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I should clarify that my trees are planted in the yard, not in pots. My weather in SE Texas is warm enough to overwinter some of the more hardy citrus.
Josh, I'm pretty sure you are right about just burning the leaves of mature grass. The apple cider vinegar does degrade fairly quickly so that keeps it from building up over time. Vinegar misting has to be done as a periodic maintenance rather than a one-time cure.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 2:34PM
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