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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 March 15, 2014   #1
spacetogrow
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Post Adding lemon juice or vinegar for high ph

Can anyone think of any problems that might arise if I occasionally dose garden plants with lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar if they are well diluted?

Folks at my community garden say the soil was much better there before the city tried to improve it a couple of years ago. Poorly composted leaves in massive quantity seem to have been the majority of what was added, so I think the city didn't mess anything up long-term.

A few people sent in soil test samples last year and it looks like all the major stuff is fine except very low nitrogen and quite high ph, both of which will probably normalize any year now as the added stuff finishes breaking down and getting "digested"; therefore, I don't want to try to decrease the ph using anything that will have a long-lasting effect.

Last year, I added finished compost and good nitrogen stuff when transplanting. The peppers failed to thrive for some weeks until I found out about the high ph. I just dosed them with old lemon juice (diluted) that hadn't been polished off before the "Best by" date. All of the pepper plants perked right up after that but it may just have been because the soil had FINALLY warmed up.

Some of my friends might have lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar that is as old as mine was. Can anyone think of any problems that might arise if I occasionally dose plants with those items if they are well diluted?
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Old March 15, 2014   #2
Worth1
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I dont see as it would hurt.

I use an Ortho dial and spray filled with 5% acidity vinegar every two weeks to lower my PH.
I empty it on two beds that are 4X12.

Works great for me.

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Old March 15, 2014   #3
matilda'skid
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I thought vinegar was a herbicide. I think the lemon juice would decompose pretty quickly. How about some peat moss mixed in the soil?
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Old March 15, 2014   #4
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I'm going to say it depends on the concentration. I'm surprised that the pH is high with all the semi decomposed organic material.
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Old March 15, 2014   #5
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Originally Posted by matilda'skid View Post
I thought vinegar was a herbicide. I think the lemon juice would decompose pretty quickly. How about some peat moss mixed in the soil?
In the dial and spray it is diluted down pretty good I spray it right on the plants and everything.

Makes the garden smell like a pickle.

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Old March 16, 2014   #6
matilda'skid
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I have seen garlic mentioned as an insecticide. I blended some up and my garden made me hungry for Italian food. I don't think it killed any stinkbugs though.


edit A few years ago I saw something in the newspaper about the Joplin free compost. A lawn care company was using a persistent herbicide so the city wasn't using the compost for the parks any more. The lawn care people were asked not to put any more tainted grass clippings in the pile. Then we had the tornado and there was too much trash and debris every where. I don't think normal compost would be causing bad effects.

Last edited by matilda'skid; March 16, 2014 at 12:20 AM. Reason: thought of bad compost
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Old March 16, 2014   #7
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I have seen garlic mentioned as an insecticide. I blended some up and my garden made me hungry for Italian food. I don't think it killed any stinkbugs though.
Waste of good garlic.

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Old March 16, 2014   #8
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Can anyone think of any problems that might arise if I occasionally dose garden plants with lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar if they are well diluted?
Depends what you mean by high pH. Let's start with the idea that the pH of the water dictates the pH of the soil. And from that, the pH of the soil dictates the mineral nutrients that are available to plants. For tomatoes and many other garden plants, the ideal pH is around 6.2. Spraying your plants isn't going to help. The correction that is needed is in the location where the feeding is occurring. Now if you are foliar feeding, then getting the solution to a pH of about 6.2 prior to adding nutrients is a good idea.

Those of us who live in the southwestern U.S. are accustom to dealing with municipal or well water that is alkaline; e.g., pH greater than 7, and for many of my customers pH between 8.5 and 10. Geez, in these conditions we need to apply an acidifying fertilizer and lots of iron & carbon before getting anywhere with non-native plants.

In my experience, gardeners to the east of the Rocky Mountains deal with water supplies that are acidic (pH less than 7) and some of them have to compensate in reverse to get the pH up to the 6.2 range for their fruit crops. In the extreme, I have a few customers in NE Maine with a municipal water supply of pH 4.5!

There are exceptions of course, I'm working with some farmers in Ohio who have well water that is consistently pH 7.8. These folks also want to be cleared for USDA NOP (organic certification). The approach here is to pump the water into a 20k gallon tank and to buffer it with naturally occurring or food industry by-product calcium sulfate. Extracting off the top of the tank through a mesh filter we have very clean water with pH about 6.8. To this we can insert certified-organic water-soluble fertilizers.
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Old March 16, 2014   #9
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I would avoid it. The key to plant health is a robust healthy population of soil microbes, beneficial bacteria and fungus. Pouring citric acid on the soil that has a pH around 2.5 will likely destroy or set back those populations, even if it doesn't harm your plant's roots, and it might do that too.

Yep, It is highly unlikely that leaf mulch made your soil more alkaline. Someone probably added lime or potash to it if this is a new condition.

The peppers perked up from the soil warmth I suspect. They won't grow at all until soil is warm and you can actually stunt their growth by transplanting them too early. I would continue to work on your overall soil condition naturally via compost. Shredded oak and pine needles that are composted can decrease pH. A bit of this compost to each planting hole can help. Or even easier is to mix a bit of peat moss into the planting hole.

Stacy
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Old March 17, 2014   #10
drew51
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I disagree with biohunter, if you diluted the lemon juice to around 6.0, it has so much sugar in it, you're actually feeding the bacteria and increasing population.
The key here is you need to know what you are putting on, if you don't know the PH then yes it is risky, you're guessing, shooting in the dark.
Vinegar is used as a herbicide but 10 to 20% solutions are used, you're starting with 5%
and diluting it. This in the long run actually also feeds the bacteria. The acid is broken down in a week or two by bacteria feeding on it. The same with citric acid. These acids are short term only. PH will return to what it was before application. Adding peat with last longer, but take longer to get lower.
I myself would add sulfur, you do want to permanently lower PH to 6.2 as Hermatian said. The sulfur will keep it there. It can take as long as 6 months to work. You have to monitor levels using sulfur to see if you need to add more or not. In the long term this is the best solution.
I myself like the cheap mechanical meters, they cost under 20 bucks and last a long time. No batteries needed.

Last edited by drew51; March 17, 2014 at 08:55 AM.
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