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Extremely High pH

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Extremely High pH

Post  rueffy on 12/6/2014, 11:59 pm

Hi Everyone,

This is my first attempt at the SFG method, very much enjoyed the book and the space management strategies it provides. 

I made my own Mel's Mix using 1/3 Vermiculite, 1/3 Peat, and 1/3 Compost. 

After planting, I noticed the seedlings weren't really thriving, some of the leaves were curling and there was some yellowing.

I decided it was probably a good idea to check the pH (regardless of Mel suggesting it was unnecessary).

I found the pH was around 10! Very alkaline.

I'm unsure of how this could have happened, it makes me suspicious that there is something wrong with the soil. 

I've just applied around 120g of sulphur per garden bed, the problem is, apparently it takes 6 months for there to be a measurable reduction in pH, does this therefore mean that this years summer garden is ruined? 

Any advice or suggestions on how to get around this problem would be appreciated. 

Thanks
Jarrod.

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 12/7/2014, 12:45 am

Did you fluff up your peat moss and measure it out or go by the cubic feet on the package?  I didn't when I made my first batch and had the same problems you're describing.

Peat moss doubles in size when fluffed and the mix should have 1/3 by measure of each component, i.e. 1, 5 gallon bucket of each item.  I believe that the peat moss can throw the ph off that much.

Also, a lot of composts have peat moss in them and that can throw off your balance as well.  Did you buy your five different composts or make home made?

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  Marc Iverson on 12/7/2014, 1:00 am

That's what I was thinking ... many composts have lots of peat in them, which can really throw your mix off, including its pH.

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  sanderson on 12/7/2014, 2:01 am

Rueffy, First, welcome to the Forum! glad you\'re here Second, you are not alone with mix problems, most of which are either because the peat moss was not fluffed before measuring (Audrey's problem), or the quality of the compost mix. (This was my problem Embarassed )

Peat moss is acidic so I don't think peat moss is the cause of high pH. Was the soil pH test by a laboratory that runs tests for non-soil (no dirt) growing media? Or, a home kit?

If you can tell us more about the composts you used, whether store bought or homemade, maybe we can help you trouble-shoot the problem.

And please, we look forward to garden photos from the Southern Hemisphere while we freeze through winter!

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  Turan on 12/7/2014, 2:09 am

Peat moss is naturally acidic, low Ph. 
High Ph might be from adding something like lime.

Possibly watering the MM with a diluted vinegar mix would bring down the pH rapidly.  I would first check what it is now after a good wetting with that sulphur added.  It might start correcting it faster than you expect.  I don't like the idea of treating the garden like a chemistry test but maybe that is what is needed...

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  Turan on 12/7/2014, 2:11 am

@sanderson wrote:Rueffy, First, welcome to the Forum!  glad you\'re here  Second, you are not alone with mix problems, most of which are either because the peat moss was not fluffed before measuring (Audrey's problem), or the quality of the compost mix.  (This was my problem Embarassed )

Peat moss is acidic so I don't think peat moss is the cause of high pH.  Was the soil pH test by a laboratory that runs tests for non-soil (no dirt) growing media?  Or, a home kit?

If you can tell us more about the composts you used, whether store bought or homemade, maybe we can help you trouble-shoot the problem.

And please, we look forward to garden photos from the Southern Hemisphere while we freeze through winter!  
+1

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  Marc Iverson on 12/7/2014, 2:23 am

@Turan wrote:Peat moss is naturally acidic, low Ph. 
High Ph might be from adding something like lime.

Woops, you're right! Guess we were on auto-pilot there or something.

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  sanderson on 12/7/2014, 2:57 am

Very Happy

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  rueffy on 12/7/2014, 4:45 am

Hi All,

Thank you for your replies, I was probably a bit tardy with my soil preparation it seems.

I used a standard compost mix - I didn't select multiple different types of compost, just the same throughout. It should be reasonably high grade compost, I purchased it from a reputable supplier. 

I haven't applied any lime or anything like that. I did throw a few extra additives into the soil mix though, but only small quantities (1 handful per bed) of the following,

Sulphate of Potash
Rock Minerals
Rooster Manure.

As for the peat, well I'm pretty sure I measured that out correctly. 

I performed the pH myself, see the results below. I just re-tested after a couple of days, and the pH is pretty much the same, close to or around 10. 

Here are some photos:

 






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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  sanderson on 12/7/2014, 5:58 am

Rueffy,  The photos and further explanation help.  You did what I did when I first started out 20 months ago, you used one type of bagged compost.  My plants started out so nice, then flat lined.  There is nothing like failure to learn something.  I had to add a little bit of Miracle Grow (half the amount recommended) that first season to make up for my mistake.  Then I topped with a handful of composted cow manure for each square. Had to screen out the wood chips and rocks! Then I started my first compost pile and haven't stopped making my own compost since. You bought the bagged compost on good faith, and it may be a good product, but it does have a lot of wood in it and, as you can tell, it does not do the job that you want.

Going back to the basics of Mel's Mix, he states to use at least 5 different sources of compost for the compost part.  There is a good reason.  One compost source doesn't, or probably doesn't, provide a balance of nutrients.  What are the first 5 ingredients listed on the bags?  I bet the first listed is wood products.  I see quite a bit of wood in the photos, especially the last photo, that has not broken down (composted) and it will rob the nitrogen from the mix as wood needs nitrogen to break down.  One of the five composts should be a manure like composted cow, horse or chicken manure.  Look for sources such as composted manures, mushroom compost, vegetable-based compost, worm castings (I think most folks limit this to like 10% of the compost mix), lobster compost, kelp meal, etc.  You shouldn't have to add a handful of this and a spoon of that to your mix.  (There are rare exceptions)

I immediately started my own compost pile, which was abysmal, but an improvement.  My composts have greatly improved since I started adding lots of horse manure, coffee grounds, green grass clippings and rotten fruits and vegetables (as the greens or nitrogen sources) to dried leaves, bedding straw or alfalfa hay.  I stopped using wood chips because they take so long to break down and I had to screen the "finished" compost before I could add it to the beds, because the wood was not "finished" composting.

What I would recommend at this point is to first top with a thin layer of composted cow or horse manure and water. Maybe add a tad bit of 10-10-10 fertilizer this one time. Second, re-read the book about composts and read the wonderful Compost topics folks have written here under the Search box. Research online how to make good compost piles. Third, start looking for different sources of well composted (broken down) composts. You will be replenishing the squares as you harvest so you might as well get the ingredients ready.

Fourth, keep asking questions. We are here to help. Very Happy Ask before you buy or add anything. I would have given up after my first season failure if not for the folks on this Forum.

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  camprn on 12/7/2014, 9:23 am

I strongly suggest sending out your MM to a lab for analysis. Any intervention done to the garden should be the result of having greater understanding of the growing medium makeup. 


I'm posting the following link to help folks reading this thread understand what pH is.

http://gardenrant.com/?guest_post=please-stop-liming-your-soil-based-on-the-ph

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  CapeCoddess on 12/7/2014, 11:01 am

Hi rueffy,  happy hi
What are the little red balls in your photos? Are those mushrooms?

Also, for what it's worth, my first year boxes don't seem to do nearly as well as they do the following years. Don't give up. It will get better.

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  Turan on 12/7/2014, 1:12 pm

If you can why not do a Ph test of the separate ingredients~  Sulphate of potash and rock minerals and Rooster manure?

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  camprn on 12/7/2014, 3:45 pm

@CapeCoddess wrote:Hi rueffy,  happy hi
What are the little red balls in your photos? Are those mushrooms?

Also, for what it's worth, my first year boxes don't seem to do nearly as well as they do the following years. Don't give up. It will get better.

CC
Those little red balls look to my eye as dropped fruit. But now back to the discussion at hand. Is there somewhere to send a sample for analysis?

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  plantoid on 12/7/2014, 6:29 pm

rueffy,

Sulphate of Potash
Rock Minerals
Rooster Manure.     ( I take it that this is neat chicken muck & has not been composted with straw & other materials to " dilute " the strength of it .)

These are the culprits for the acidic MM , the rock minerals will keep it high for many years if it was provided in the form of ground up grains of rock or slag from a steel works blast furnace .
 
MM when properly made as per Mels directions tends to be slightly acidic and is compatible with the vast majority of plants.
 
It could be highly problematic trying to get the balance of PH to just above neutral using ground up chalk or garden lime , not something I'd bother to try .

 If it were me , I'd see what I can grow in the beds this coming year that can tolerate high acid  and then make new MM for one bed each year and replace it all in that bed in one go .

I'd spread the old acid stuff that I removed over the lawn and be prepared for all manner of perennial weeds to take hold , it would be better to lime the whole  lawn bi yearly to try and reduce the PH
OR

Make up a big long flower bed that has acid loving plants only.

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  Marc Iverson on 12/7/2014, 7:53 pm

Rhododendrons! Blueberries!

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  Turan on 12/7/2014, 8:20 pm

He has highly alkaline MM, not acidic.
High pH over 7 is alkaline, like lime.  Low pH is acidic, like vinegar.
Blueberries like acidic soils to a degree.  Asparagus likes a more alkaline soil, but nothing like 10.

pH explained


Last edited by Turan on 12/7/2014, 8:42 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : adding reference and graphic)

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  Marc Iverson on 12/7/2014, 11:10 pm

I meant with the discarded acidic soil, per plantoid.

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  sanderson on 12/7/2014, 11:21 pm

@Turan wrote:He has highly alkaline MM, not acidic.
+1  Thanks for steering this back to the alkaline pH.  We must all have cabin fever!

His soil is High pH = alkaline.

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  Marc Iverson on 12/7/2014, 11:37 pm

I think I must have fallen out of my high chair when I was a kid. There is some persistent wackiness in this thread, and I've definitely been part of it.

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  sanderson on 12/8/2014, 1:01 am

lol! We are approaching the shortest day of the year. After that, we will slowly recover our sanity.

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  rueffy on 12/8/2014, 1:25 am

Thanks for the advice everyone,

Sanderson - Just to confirm, you are talking about the non-organic version of Miracle Grow (a 10-10-10 fertiliser). I understand that given the situation going non-organic may be the only effective short-term solution.

I will take your advice and spread some cow manure over the top and fertilise. Composting is on the agenda, I will get started on that in the near future.  Laughing

Camprn - Yes I would like to get a proper analysis down, I'm not sure of which labs do these kinds of tests in Australia though, it appears most are tailored at commercial applications.

Capecoddess - They are in-fact plums that have fallen from a tree above, as Camprn identified.

Planetoid - My soil is alkaline not acidic. 

Thanks,
Jarrod.

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  sanderson on 12/8/2014, 3:59 am

Yes, I used the non-organic Miracle Grow twice (at half the recommended amount) to keep things going that first season! Embarassed I haven't had to use any fertilizer since, just homemade compost.

My advice: Make sure the cow manure is composted before adding to the bed. Rabbit manure is considered a "cold" manure and can be added directly to the mix. Read up on hot and cold manures.

Read about composting before building your first pile. Ask questions. The min. size is 3' x 3' x 3' and the max around 4' x 4' x 4'. I guess that makes a 1m x1m x 1m for you. Look at photos. Read our Berkeley compost topic for a faster, hot compost. You'll build up some muscles turning it!

Have you found any other sources of compost? Not different brand names, but what ingredients were composted to make it?

I did a search and found Apal laboratory in SA. ?? I didn't see a soil less test form but you might call and talk to someone about it.

Also, what is your climate like? First and last frost dates? average rainfall? season and winters highs and lows?

You are interring your summer and you may want to consider a light colored top mulch to keep the roots cool if you get in the 90's and 100*F. (Celsius for you?)

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  plantoid on 12/8/2014, 4:26 am

jarrod,

 Seems I've just had a short circuit , batteries are not included evidently  , I need to re boot the main memory drive , bring in new updates,  then restart the machine. Wink 


The principle is still the same . Make the MM as per Mels instructions and get you own home made compost up and running asap. don't go adding anything else .

 Do watch out for high wood firbre content and high lime based materials like mushroom compost .

 If you read the composting 101 threads you'll find some good info in there to help you.

" The Berkley 18 day hot composting method " is another fantastic place to visit for it indicates zillions of things you can use and the ratios of usage .

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Re: Extremely High pH

Post  Turan on 12/8/2014, 12:24 pm

Jarrod, it might answer some questions of how if you could do your pH test on the rock minerals, sulphate of potash and rooster manure.  Normally those things should not be highly alkaline, but I can think of reasons why they might be in this instance.

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