weather icon Clear

Decomposing matter best way to acidify soil

Question: Have you ever heard of adding vinegar or citric acid when fertilizing plants in our area?

Quite a few people have thought about it or tried it, but the positive impact on the soil is short-lived and is usually considered not worth doing. Gardeners realize our soil is much more alkaline than the ideal garden soil. Methods used to acidify soils are frequent gardening topics. This includes the addition of acids such as acetic or vinegar and adding sulfur.

Our soils and our tap water from Lake Mead carry a lot of lime, so the addition of anything to the soil to make it more acidic is usually short-lived. A fairly effective long-term method for improving our soil is the addition of compost or other sources of organic matter that decompose, acidifying the soil as they do so.

However, adding weak acids to the soil is a short-term solution. How much acid to add to a soil is another question altogether. Much of that depends on the chemistry of the soil itself and varies from soil to soil.

Acidifying water used for foliar applications of a pesticide or fertilizer is a different story. This water should always be acidified to a pH around 6.5 before adding the pesticide or fertilizer. The easiest way to measure this pH is with litmus paper, the type used for swimming pools or aquariums. Another option would be to use distilled or reverse osmosis water instead.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert living in Las Vegas and professor emeritus for the University of Nevada. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Select desert plants for privacy hedge

My Saturday, four-week class, “Fix Your Landscape” will start Oct. 26 in North Las Vegas. This weekly landscaping class will show you design tricks that save water and electricity, plant selections that work, planting methods that are successful and how to fix problems, and irrigation installation and how to water.

Skeletonizer damages leaves of yellow bells

Skeletonizer insect damage is common to Tecoma in warmer parts of the Southwest. It’s feeding damage by the young — or larvae — of a moth given the common name Tecoma leaf tier skeletonizer.

Over-pruning tomato plants could lead to sunburn

You can harvest fruit from tomato plants when it’s hot, but they won’t set fruit again from new growth until the temperature drops back into the mid-90s. Either pull the tomato plants when they’re done producing and plant new ones from seed or prune the old ones back and let them flower and fruit again when it’s cooler.

Late afternoon direct sun can be damaging to roses

Somewhat tender plants like roses and crape myrtle can handle the intense desert heat and sunlight if they are growing in soil amended with organics and the soil is covered with mulch that rots or decomposes. Roses and crape myrtle will struggle after a few years when planted in soils covered by rock

Wet, humid spring weather caused influx of aphids

The high population of aphids this year was caused by our wet and humid spring weather. The fastest way to get rid of them is to drench the soil beneath the tree with a systemic insecticide diluted in a bucket of water.

Grasshoppers can be destructive to yards

Grasshoppers start cute and small with small appetites and jump from plant to plant. But as they grow bigger, their increased appetites cause more and more damage to landscapes.

Good tomato crop probably a result of cool spring weather

Tomatoes stop setting fruit when air temperatures stay consistently above 95 degrees. The tomatoes that set earlier continue to grow and mature when it stays hot. If the air temperature drops below 95 for a couple of days, new flowers will again set fruit.