High PH Soil

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by White Gardens, Jun 5, 2008.

  1. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,776

    So, I have a customer with extremely high PH in a couple of beds. I could add Sulfur to the beds, but it might take 6 months to 2 years to get the PH back down to 6. It's currently at 7.8.

    So, I'm thinking about stripping it out and buying new top-soil for the beds. I'll be taking out about 2- 4 yards worth of dirt.

    What do I do with it? We don't have a place around here to take landscape materials as the city takes it from the curb, but landscapers aren't supposed to do that, it's only a service for the homeowners. I'm afraid of trying to use it somewhere else and have the same problems.

    Any Suggestions, thanks.
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    If you are going through all that trouble maybe take it to a landscaping yard somewhere and bring back the new stuff from them.
    Or you can 'buffer' ph with a lot of OM such as a quality peat or compost along with some sulfur in the mix. Put a lot of Spagnum in the individual planting holes of the plants you are putting in. Things like that.

    The plants create their own microenvironments so it is not imperative that all the soil is in a descent range of ph.
  3. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,776

    Unfortunatly we don't have a landscaping yard in the area, that's my delema. EPA rules are all about not taking material outside of city limits, that's the kicker. The city hauls all material away from the curb, but I don't know where they take it.

    1 hour west in Champaign IL, they have a landscape recycling center. I used to do work there for extra money, (not since gas went up) and I always had a place to take my landscaping debris/ waste.

    Sulfur and Moss would work, but I was checking my books, and they stated that it could take up to two years to get the PH down.

    My soil test results were off the chart on the other elements to. Mostly due to the high PH.

    Thanks for the reply.
  4. jaybird24

    jaybird24 LawnSite Senior Member
    from midwest
    Posts: 623

    Like was stated mix in organic matter. Oak leaves and pine needles work well. Ammonium sulfate or ferrous sulfate work much quicker than sulfur and then add the sulfur for long term. As the organics break down and the plants own decaying matter you may not need more than an acidic fert every year or two after that.
  5. Jb3NH

    Jb3NH LawnSite Member
    Posts: 197

    Most places around Portsmouth NH that screen thier own topsoil have no problem taking soil, partial compost, leaves, grass clippings. I'd call around.
  6. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,899

    7.8 while not what you are used to is not that bad. I would love to have that as a starting point, we usually begin at 8-8.2 around here. Most blooming fertilizers have citric acid that will quickly bring the ph down although it is only temporary but long enough for the plants to take up what they need.. use some peat, or dispesul,sulfur,gypsum whatever you want its all temporary. What is the Ph of the tap water? or do you irrigate? Our water is also 8 + so there is no getting away from it without a fertilizer injector.

    I would stay away from the ammonium sulfate it will just add to the salt problem.
  7. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    There you have it -- some long term and short term solutions. Don't even bother hauling the stuff away.
    If it were me: I would till in the long term sulfur, put in the plants with the root zone surrounded by compost. Mulch it down once you've added everything you can think of.

    When I first started Blueberrie it was sugestted that I work in a couple of tablespoons of 'aluminum' sulfate around the base of each plant. This was a fast acting, though temparary ph changer. Don't know if it has a salt problem such as 'ammonium' sulfate, but aluminum is now being connectted to dementia so I quit using the stuff.
  8. greenguy08

    greenguy08 LawnSite Member
    from ohio
    Posts: 99

    Sphagnum peat, properly mixed in, should get you right where you need to be. Which elements were off the chart? Your macros? A pH in the range you're talking about won't lock up all of your elements so badly that they register "off the chart". Did you have the soil professionally tested or did you do it yourself? In my experience, every single soil tester that I've used, with the exception of high priced digital models, has given erratic readings.
  9. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,776

    I had a profesional lab do it. I don't have the test in front of me, but I had the full spectrum analyzed. Basically what I remember from the lab rep, all my deficiencies were all associated with the high PH, including the cat-ion exchange, which showed me that the nutrients weren't getting utilized.

    I don't know, I still haven't got this project started yet, and I'm weighing my options.

    I was looking through my Master Gardner's manual, and it keeps telling me that it's going to take a long time to get the PH down, regardless of what I use.

    I might try to find plants that will thrive in that type of enviroment too. Still haven't decided.

    All in all, even if I remove the soil, the beds aren't that big, so If I remove a chunk of it, replace it with better soil, use sulfur and/or peat, and till it good, I might be able to make it work.

    I might buy a PH tester too, even though it probably won't be accurate. I still could gauge if I've droped the PH some or not.

    Yes, most municipalities water PH is usually 7.5 or higher. I'm not sure about or locality though. This bed wont get watered too much after establishment so I'm not worried about it jumping up quickly in the future.
  10. greenguy08

    greenguy08 LawnSite Member
    from ohio
    Posts: 99

    Organic matter is always a good solution. Sphagnum peat, with a pH of approximately 4.5, will bring that pH right down, if well-tilled. Organic matter will help your CEC. Do you have salt buildup in this soil? That sounds likely.

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