[NAFEX] pine needles & pH

Ginda Fisher list at ginda.us
Sun Oct 25 10:23:04 EDT 2009


On Oct 25, 2009, at 10:04 AM, Jwlehman at aol.com wrote:

> In a message dated 10/25/2009 8:02:02 AM Central Daylight Time, list at ginda.us 
>  writes:
>
>> Someone on this list has measured the pH of pine needles and says  
>> they were neutral (or thereabouts).  But they are traditionally  
>> used to mulch blueberries.  And lots of people on this list agree  
>> that blueberries like copious organic matter (and are less  
>> sensitive to pH if the soil is rich enough in organics).
>
>
> The clay soil around here runs around 6.8. My neighbor has about 10  
> varieties of high bush blue berries that do very well in it. There  
> is a large pine woods near him. For years he would get fresh and  
> rotted pine needles and spread them around his bushes. Every year he  
> had wonderful crops, his bushes seemingly loving their environment.  
> My attempt of growing high bush blueberries was a miserable failure  
> in the same type soil w/o pine needle mulch.
>
> Now I'm going to let more of my ignorance hang out.  I get this  
> feeling that many are of the opinion that neutral mulch is  
> beneficial only as a mulch and doesn't affect pH. I'd like to have  
> input from an expert. What is neutral on the pH scale, 6.0, 6.5? If  
> neutral is say 6.0 and my soil is 6.8 applying neutral mulch would  
> help bring it down, wouldn't it. Being neutral doesn't mean the  
> absence of, rather the center of the range.
> Wouldn't it also help bring acid soil pH up?
>
> Jerry _______________________________________________

Neutral pH is 7.0.  6.8 is ever-so-slightly acid.  Yes, neutral is the  
center of the range, not "no effect". Different substances that  
measure the same pH can have a different effect when you mix them with  
the same thing, as pH measures the ratio of positive to negative ions,  
but some substances have more free (or free-able) ions than others.   
Some weak acids (or bases) have a strong "buffering" capacity, meaning  
they blunt the impact of other acids and bases and tend to maintain a  
pH close to their own regular pH.  Soil chemistry and pH are very  
complicated, and pH is at best a rough measure of the type of soil you  
have and what's likely to grow there.

Ginda
(who is remembering her high school chemistry)
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