What’s the difference between acidic and alkaline soil?
Keating, Cayce, South Carolina
To answer this question, we will need to start with your old science classes. Soil acidity and alkalinity is measured using the pH scale which runs from 0-14. Neutral soil is pH7, acid is simply a lower number and alkaline a higher one.
You can have your soil tested of course and take the guess work out quite easily, but to give you a better understanding of how acid soils are formed, take a walk through the woods. The woodland floor is carpeted in conifer needles, leaves of hardwood trees and other dead plant matter, all of which increases soil acidity as they break down and decompose. Rainfall, as it filters through trees and into the ground, dissolves limestone sediment and other alkaline minerals that help neutralize soil acidity.
Plants such as heathers, camellias, rhododendrons and blueberries thrive in acid soils in which nitrogen, phosphate and potassium can be less available. Clematis, viburnums, and lilac on the other hand, are lime lovers and thrive in alkaline soils. Even more interesting, some hydrangea blooms are blue in acid soils and pink in alkaline soils.
While most plants prefer a neutral soil, some need the soil to be either slightly acidic or slightly alkaline. Further, some of the products that we normally use in the course of gardening or landscaping can affect the pH of the soil. That is what makes Monty’s such a boon for homeowners – none of Monty’s plant foods, or our Liquid Carbon Organic Soil Conditioner, affect pH, whereas most fertilizers do. Regardless of your plant type, you can feed it with Monty’s knowing that it will not impact the pH of your soil.
Care and feeding of a (blue) hydrangea
“As a going-away present my office bought me a blue hydrangea – something I was always apprehensive about buying because they were a little pricey. Where do I plant it, as I know they can be quite touchy about their surroundings?”
Kesha, Big Rapid, Michigan
Hydrangea do have some very specific requirements, but don’t let that scare you away. They do well in a sunny or partially sunny area and I always recommend that this plant be near the house where they are protected from colder weather just as an added “perennial insurance caution.” They prefer porous, moist, rich soil, and the blue hydrangea prefer a more acidic soil. Water regularly as well. Proper pruning is very important with these plants, which is done in the winter, and not too severely as new flower buds form on the older wood of the plant. Transplant with Monty’s Liquid Carbon and a root dip in a solution of Monty’s Indoor/Outdoor 4-15-12 (1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water). That blue color is protected by keeping your soils more acidic in nature. For the most vibrant blooms imaginable, make sure you feed the leaves directly with Monty’s Root and Bloom 2-15-15.