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A garden is only as good as the ground that it's planted in. Discussion forum for the many ways to improve the soil where we plant our gardens.

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Old October 14, 2016   #1
Bruinwar
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Default pH needs to be lower

Yes, I believe I have a pH problem. In the beginning of the 2016 season, my hand held tester (hard to read) showed slightly above 7. A soil test shows a pH of 7.6, way too high IMO. I did have some blossom end rot but not a lot & I credit Tomatotone & TTF for that.

Anyhow, any suggestions as to how to lower the pH by next season? Michigan State (who tested by soil) recommends 2.5lbs per 100 sqft for loam soil, 3.9 for clay loam. I got no clue if my soil is loam or clay/loam but it's not clay. Seems loamy maybe.

So I have 750 sqft. Does 22 lbs of sulfur sound about right to try & spread evenly? Should it be tilled in? Any special sulfur I should use? Is there a better way?

Analysis below & attached is the complete analysis & recommendations. I likely will be bugging people more about fertilizer come next spring. =)

Thanks in advance!
Joe S.

Phosphorus (P) 100 ppm
Potassium (K) 321 ppm
Magnesium (Mg) 1184.7 ppm
Calcium (Ca) 7573 ppm
CEC 0 meq/100 g
Soil type ORGANIC
Soil pH 7.6
Lime index 0
Organic Matter 22.4 %
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File Type: pdf MSU Soil Test.pdf (63.3 KB, 10 views)
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Old October 14, 2016   #2
brownrexx
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Your pH is high but 22 lbs of sulfur sounds like a lot to me. Last year I tilled in 12 lbs of Espoma sulfur into my 900 sq.ft. garden and it dropped my pH from 7.2 to 6.8. pH changes slowly so definitely till in the sulfur so that it can break down.

Your amount of organic material is also very high meaning that materials are still breaking down and adding nitrogen to your soil. Since Nitrogen is so volatile, many labs do not even test for it and just give generic recommendations for adding it. I attached a document discussing Nitrogen that you may find helpful.

I would not be adding any fertilizer with a soil test like that one. Your P and K are already off the chart. I would just address the pH issue.
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File Type: pdf Soil Nitrogen Content.pdf (454.7 KB, 4 views)
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Old October 14, 2016   #3
Ricky Shaw
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I'd anticipate a drop in pH after you've fertilized, and perhaps why MSU had not flagged pH as a problem.

My source water is around 7.5 pH and after bringing it to correct strength with NPK, Cal, Mag, pH in the solution drops into an ideal range 6.2 to 6.5
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Old October 14, 2016   #4
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I was about to address the same subject, Ricky.

Bruinwar, what is the water pH? How long have you been growing in this location? (I.e. how long have you been watering the garden with tap water?)

As I understand the general geology, Michigan is on granite, so the aquifers should tend acidic, but your situation way be quite different.
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Old October 14, 2016   #5
Cole_Robbie
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PH matters because every nutrient the plant needs has a range in which it may be absorbed. Get outside that range, and you will have nutrient deficiencies. The "perfect" ph is the number where most of the ranges overlap. However, other variables that affect nutrient uptake include organic matter content, humates, and having an overall healthy soil biology, with rich bacterial and fungal life. The better your soil is, the less perfect you have to be on ph. In fact, if your plants do not display nutrient deficiencies, your ph is fine, regardless of the number that it tests.
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Old October 14, 2016   #6
Worth1
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Do the soil and water in a jar test to see what kind of soil you have.
Just shake it up and let it set till everything has settled.
You can look it up on line.

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Old October 14, 2016   #7
decherdt
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Probably not necessary but I'd till in 8-12 lbs of 90% elemental soil sulfur with optional 4 lb Ammonium Sulfate and plant winter rye with some hardy legume(s)
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Old October 14, 2016   #8
PaulF
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Having very high pH here as well, it is good to follow recommendations from your soil testing group who know your area. We begin with 8.4 pH and with a recommended 3 Pounds of elemental sulphur per 100 sq. feet we dropped to 7.9.

The higher the pH the more difficult it is to lower it. Remember, soil tends to revert back to the original state so we have to reapply every 3 years or so.
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Old October 15, 2016   #9
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I've got 8.5, grow a hundred varieties each year and my tomatoes grow very well. High ph is NOT a problem.

The key is not letting your plants read any book telling them were they can grow or not.
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Old October 15, 2016   #10
Bruinwar
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Wow! Thanks everyone for your replies. Sorry for the delay in responding. Work gets in the way of life. Let me attempt to respond.

ilex: Thanks for the info on nitrogen. The recommendation from the soil lab was to add nitrogen but I am thinking no.

Cole_Robbie: This is a rented plot, many gardeners did show some problems, some worse than others. I had some blossom end rot, not a lot but enough to be concerned.

dmforcier: "What is the water pH?" Good question. This location (rented garden plot) has ground water. I will have to check the pH. This is my first year at this location. Previously it was gardened by the food pantry that owns the site. They decided not to run the garden anymore & allowed the local organization to rent it out in plots. All I know for sure is no tomatoes were grown in the area I rented (plot 6!). I play on moving to another plot (plot 8) that had no tomatoes growing on it this year. The people that had it are not returning. I obtained two soil tests from each site & they were nearly identical.

Worth1: Thanks for that link, I will try it!

decherdt & PaulF: OK, if I do decide to add sulfur, I will be be conservative. Adding the winter rye sounds like a good idea.

ilex: No kidding, pH that high & no problems! No gardening books near my plants.

The blossom end rot I experienced was minor but I am concerned. Other gardeners at this location suffered much worse problems. There is enough nutrients in the soil so it should not have happened. It was a dry summer & I controlled the watering until early August. I will check the pH of the water & post here again.

Thanks again everyone!
-Joe S.
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Old October 15, 2016   #11
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Blossom end rot shouldn't be ph related. It won't get solved by changing ph.

I would grow plants and see if they show any problems. If you have adecuate nutrients, I would not touch it, other than adding organic matter.
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Old October 16, 2016   #12
brownrexx
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I am a believer in giving plants the pH that they prefer. Yes, plants may grow in an unfavorable pH but they will grow BETTER in one that they like and the flavor may be different too.

Healthy and happy plants are also less susceptible to pests and disease in my opinion.

Native soils in some areas of the country can have either a higher or lower pH than is preferred by tomatoes but remember that tomatoes are not a native plant so it makes sense that we would have to adjust soil pH to give them optimal conditions for the best growth and flavor.
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Old October 16, 2016   #13
ilex
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brownrexx View Post
I am a believer in giving plants the pH that they prefer. Yes, plants may grow in an unfavorable pH but they will grow BETTER in one that they like and the flavor may be different too.

Healthy and happy plants are also less susceptible to pests and disease in my opinion.

Native soils in some areas of the country can have either a higher or lower pH than is preferred by tomatoes but remember that tomatoes are not a native plant so it makes sense that we would have to adjust soil pH to give them optimal conditions for the best growth and flavor.
Ok, and who says which ph they prefer? Who says what is optimal? Is it practical without side effects to change it? Raising ph is easy, lowering is not so easy. Most plants are not fussy at all regarding ph and will grow anywere out of the extremes. I think tomatoes fall in this category. Soil life will also let plants push the official limits. Yes, not everything will grow under 5 or over 9.

My plants look happy and healthy to me, and I feel they must be pleased as most of my tomatoes taste quite good. I mean, I don't think I would get some non-cherries with brix over 10 if they were not happy.

I've seen the same issue with orange trees. Books saying it's impossible to grow them over X ph ... and then, you go to Valencia region in Spain, and everybody has higher ph than that. Should they start adding sulfur like crazy, or forget about the book?

Before playing with soil, I would analyze plant leaves and see if they are missing anything, and then, study if changing ph is the answer. The only safe thing I would do, is adding organic matter.
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Old October 16, 2016   #14
Worth1
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If it were me I would try to get it down to 6 to 6.5 it is my garden and it is your garden you can do with it as you wish.
My raised bed soil was up in the 8's and it wouldn't grow worth a hoot and it had everything it needed.
As soon as I dropped the pH the plants jumped out of their skins.

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Old October 16, 2016   #15
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It is well known that tomatoes will grow under various, and not so ideal conditions. However... yields, and quality does improve when we correct environments that are not ideal.
Some studies in circulation have been around for a long time, you can follow the recommendations or not. I have been the casual gardener, and harvested nice tomatoes, but when I tried perfecting the crop, my yields exploded, no comparison.
My well water is 8.2 pH, my fertilizer helps to drop it some, and I use Phosphoric Acid to bring it down to 6.2

Last edited by AKmark; October 16, 2016 at 03:37 PM.
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