Help with new garden in acidic clay soil. (Oklahoma - pH 5.2)

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Boatskipper, Mar 18, 2017 at 2:24 AM.

  1. Boatskipper

    Boatskipper New Member

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    Oklahoma State University tested the soil and found the pH level to be 5.2. We are in zone 7a

    We are tilling up our first garden on our new homestead. It's clay soil and I had the soil tested and the PH is 5.2, which I've read online is considered pretty acidic. I have a bag of lime I'm going to till into the soil tomorrow to help neutralize it, but from what I've read online it can take a year or so and a few treatments to get the soil to an optimal range.

    So my question.... We are going to go ahead and plant this year. The soil test recommended that just before planting we till 8-24-24 into the soil, which I'll do.

    Are there certain vegetables that would grow better in our soil this year and others we should avoid? We are wanting to plant the things on the list below, any we should just avoid? Any tips at all are appreciated.

    Here's what we want to plant (it's a large garden):

    • potatoes
    • tomatoes
    • jalapeños
    • green beans
    • strawberries
    • pickling cucumbers
    • okra
    • radish
    • yellow squash
    • red onions
     
  2. Iddee

    Iddee Well-Known Member

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    Use white powdered lime for pesticide. It will keep your plants safe from bad bugs without killing your pollinators. Then each time it rains, it will wash off and into your soil.
     

  3. geo in mi

    geo in mi Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Go ahead and do what has been recommended for your future garden.

    For this year's garden
    Potatoes: Scoop out a shallow trench, lay in the potato pieces and barely cover them with the soil. Then, mulch with a six to eight inch layer of clean straw, and keep watered. Clay soil usually hardens up in the dry summer heat, so the straw will allow the potatoes to move about as they enlarge.

    Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash: you can make planting oases for these plants, by digging out a deep hole for each one, and then mixing in large amounts of compost, either purchased or homemade, to help buffer the pH in the hole. Keep watered and you should do well with these.

    For the others: Get a bag of gypsum and sprinkle on the row paths and till it in at the rate on the bag. The gypsum will break up the hard clay particles and keep them loose throughout the growing season. Most plants will grow in a fairly wide pH range, so, hope for the best with these. NEVER work clay soil when wet--it will produce sharp bricks.....

    For your whole garden--start making lots and lots of mulch and compost to help loosen your clay soil. Keep testing and amending for a lower pH. Best of luck.

    geo
     
  4. Hiro

    Hiro Well-Known Member

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    It is somewhere around 2 - 2.5 tons of lime/acre at those pH levels to get it near optimum, I believe.. You can divide that out by the area of your garden. It takes time for it to raise the pH to optimal. But, it starts raising it immediately, even if the total process time is over a year.
     
  5. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    If you use a very fine ground limestone (think dust size), or wood ash, or hydrated lime the soil pH will be neutralized much faster than one year. If the soil is kept moist, the pH can be raised in just a few weeks.

    If you decide to use hydrated lime, use about 1/3 less than what the soil test recommended.
     
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  6. MichaelZ

    MichaelZ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Check out http://www.deerhuntingbasics.com/food-plot-calculators.php - there is a calculator that will convert your garden, measured in yards, into acres. Also, there is info on how to interpret a soil test.

    I am guessing you are about 0.02 acres for a small garden. So you are looking at about 100 pounds of lime.
     
  7. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Planting potatoes on freshly applied lime will result in potato scab. Potatoes or other root crops struggle in red clay. Use old tires filed with rotted compost, above groubd. As the season progresses, add another tire. This gets the potatoes out of the lime and away from the clay. A pit dug into red clay, filled with compost, will collect and hold water, causing potatoes to rot.
     
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  8. saarlandtn

    saarlandtn Member

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    A lot of vegetable gardening in a new garden is trial and error. Potatoes will probably do well, and onions. There's no reason why you couldn't put your entire list in the garden and just amend your soil some with compost or composted manure and then see what happens. Lots of co-ops will sell organic amendments for clay soil. I'm in Tennessee and have the same soil.

    Have you considered raised beds at all? Are you actively composting?
     
  9. MichaelZ

    MichaelZ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Right. With enough compost I think you could put them all in. Your compost will really be the soil. Our garden was started on gravel fill (over clay) that served as a parking lot and weeds would hardly grow, but with enough manure and compost in the planting areas the whole thing eventually turned into a nice loam.
     
  10. krackin

    krackin Well-Known Member

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    Use the compost and wood ash suggestions if you can. Don't use wood ash on the spuds if you have adequate Ca in the soil. If not, go lightly or use calcium nitrate fertilizer. That will also help keep 'maters firm. Wood ash has 1/2 the calcium of ag lime so don't worry about using too much for everything else. A cord of wood gives about 30# of ash. You can also foliar feed your plants which will help immensely with the pH being off.
     
  11. bobp

    bobp Well-Known Member

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    I suggest you apply the bag lime as directed.
    Go get a bag of hydrated lime, and a bag of dolomite source lime chelated pellets. Use the same rate of coverage as the AG lime. They'll go to work very fast. And be available shortly.
    Apply these evenly accross the garden.
    Also.
    Apply compost if you can. Check with your municipality? Or Possibly some old black saw dust. Do so yearly it improves tilth greatly. Mulch most plants. Till this in after the gardens done the clay will improve.
    Changing PH is a slow process, but in this way you can move forward with your garden this year.
     
  12. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    Acidic soil isn't an issue for gardens. It's an issue for grain and grass. Sweetening the soil will likely lower yields. 5-5.5 is near perfect for nutrient uptake. If you have acid soil, what you really need is to add magnesium and calcium (yes dolomite lime is Magnesium and calcium but it's not readily available. Easiest way to do it is add a dose of Magnesium sulfate (epson salts) and use Calcium Nitrate instead of urea as your nitrogen source. Lime is just about useless in a garden patch and will not effect the longer term ph of the soil. [​IMG]
     
  13. geo in mi

    geo in mi Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Stan,
    I know you can find dozens of similar paddle charts like this one from all sorts of internet locations. However, most of the literature that have them also say that 6.5 to 7.0 is the ideal range for most soils and nutritional uptake. So, what is your source that says lime is almost useless in a garden soil? Also, I think there are other charts that show, by plant, the optimum growing range for each one--which is an entirely different condition. For example, blueberries require a very low pH, regardless of soil uptake--they won't survive otherwise. At the other end of the range is alfalfa, which requires a high pH in order to get the bacteria to fix nitrogen. However, a majority of garden vegetables find their optimum range in the slightly acidic to neutral numbers. The OP will have to amend the soil with some kind of lime to achieve that, in my opinion.

    geo
     
  14. Bearfootfarm

    Bearfootfarm This Space For Rent Supporter

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  15. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    No, not exactly. You have to understand why the soil is low ph... It means it has low magnesium and calcium. The Ph is just the amount of free hydrogen. At a lower PH all soil minerals are more bio available if present in the soil. So your acid lover can't get as much of the particular nutrient it desires. Just give it to it. In garden plants the two missing things at low ph are calcium and Magnesium. Both are very cheap to directly feed via direct feeding.

    Blueberries grow just fine in "alkali" soil. They need the additional iron they can get from acid soil. So you add iron from an Iron supplement. Easy and cheap. Cost is nearly zero per plant.
    Alfalfa... perfect example. Feed it nitrogen. It's much cheaper than adding lime on a grand scale. We are talking about garden plants tho. Nearly all benefit from high ph. Alfalfa isn't a garden plant.

    Where did I learn this? Plant nutrient studies and Hydoponic production requirements. Nothing is affected until very low ph levels. sub 3... The roots burn a bit but the plants get all the nutrient. Ph above 6.2 causes issues. ;) You should use bioavailable nutrients as well. That's why I recommended Calcium Nitrate and Magnesium Sulfate. Lime will be breaking down just in time to be washed away by his winter rains. Useful? You really think so? The reason his soil is low PH is the rain leaches soil magnesium and Calcium out... Useless long term. Unless they stop the rain. Which would cause other more urgent issues.

    To understand I suggest you go back to the studies and see what is affected by the ph being off. It's always a specific nutrient requirement of the particular plant. Taking a bit of time you will note that most garden plants need the missing mag and calcium. If you raise the Ph you will limit the phosphorous, Iron, and nitrogen. So your still limited just differently. Ultimately regardless of inputs the soil will revert to it's current ph. IMHO it's easier to learn what plants in your native soil need to thrive and give it. You will always have great abundance. Micro nutrient is cheap, cheap, cheap.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017 at 8:20 PM
  16. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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  17. chaossmurf

    chaossmurf Well-Known Member

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    what about using charcoal ??? wouldn't that help some with the ph issue as well as help the ground retain more water ???
     
  18. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    The problem with low pH is not due to not having enough Ca or Mg. Many people think that Ca is what controls soil pH because most of the soil "liming" amendments have a high percentage of Ca in them. When an amendment is added to the soil to raise soil pH, it's the carbonate, oxide or hydroxide portion of the amendment that raises the pH. For instance, potassium bicarbonate, potassium, oxide or potassium hydroxide will all raise soil pH. Likewise, sodium bicarbonate, sodium oxide, or sodium hydroxide will also raise soil pH.

    Raising soil pH has nothing to do with calcium or magnesium content. For instance, you could apply calcium sulfate until the cows came home and soil pH would not be raised.

    What happens with low soil pH is that aluminum, and sometimes iron, in the soil become more soluble. High concentrations of these elements in soil solution can become toxic to certain susceptible crops. In other words, soluble aluminum increases at low soil pH levels and, at high concentrations, become toxic to plants thereby greatly reducing yields and vigor.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2017 at 10:01 AM
  19. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    Why would you raise the ph and make vital nutrients less available when you could just increase the availability of the two nutrients most affected by low ph easily and cheaply? A years worth of Cal. Nitrate vs urea isn't more than a dollar or two on an acre basis, and Magnesium is just a few dollars an acre added to your irrigation or drip system. Dolomite will easily cost more and be no more permanent. This doesn't even take into account that the soil is likely mineral deficient due to it's low PH. The same acid that made the iron and aluminum more soluble also made the rest of the necessary elements more soluble. So they have been leached from the soil as well. Simply raising the ph will not replace what is missing. Which is always Calcium and Magnesium. But missing or low is also Manganese, copper, zinc, phosphorous, and Lastly silica (Some think silica it is helpful, but it isn't strictly needed.)

    Which garden plants are harmed by Hi iron or aluminum at 5+ ph? Soil ph is a factor if you wish to mine your soil. If your intent is to build the soil or at least replace what you take. PH has almost no place in the discussion unless it is a special case. Like wanting blueberries @ 8.3 or wanting grass at 4.7. Garden vegetables grow better with more nutrient availability. Lower ph affords high nutrient uptake due to high solubility. There is tons of studies to this effect. The old studies your referencing are prior to the idea of adding micro nutrients to the soil. The days of NPK all the way and lime if you must are long over. The best way to have and maintain huge yields with garden vegetables is add compost, Macro nutrients, and Micro nutrients per the full soil test results. The cost per acre for garden vegetables will be a few hundred dollars a year. Easily offset by the value of the produce. Over time the compost will break down adding topsoil depth, slow the soil leaching process to aid in retaining water and nutrient, and the ph will rise naturally over a few years. Your replacing what is taken by your crop and hopefully adding a little more nutrients. This will permanently increase the soil quality and plant yields over the years. Or will we be leaving this farm for a new ground when the crops yields fall like the Homesteaders of yesteryear?
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2017 at 11:28 AM
  20. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    I am not talking about raising soil pH to an extreme where some nutrients would become less available. By raising the pH to around 6.5, most micronutrients are still sufficiently available and most vegetable crops will do well. In terms of Ca, even low pH soils have many 1000s of pounds of calcium in the root zone. But the availability (read: solubility) of this Ca is reduced by the low pH conditions.

    You have to remember, (1) most soils have 100's, if not 1000's, of pounds of micronutrients per acre that naturally occur within the root zone, and (2) the uptake of these micronutrients are measured in ounces per acre. Even low pH soils have many 1000s of pounds of calcium in the root zone. But the availability (read: solubility) of this Ca is reduced by low pH conditions.

    Even the nutrients you add can get tied up in the soil (read: become less available for plant uptake) if the soil pH is too high or too low. So, you're just wasting your money on those nutrients if you're not also adjusting your soil pH accordingly.

    You are correct that most micronutrients are more soluble at low pH, but so is aluminum which is toxic to a lot of plants. Soils are approximately 1/3rd aluminum. Raising the soil pH close to neutral (1) keeps the soluble aluminum in check and (2) maintains micronutrient availability in the sufficient range. Whether you want to "mine" the natural micronutrients in soil or replace the few ounces that are removed every year with a compost or mineral fertilizer is up to you.