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Fri Jul 9 16:09:36 CEST 2004


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From: "Mellard, David" <DAM7 at CDC.GOV>
Subject: Re: T. undulatum culture
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>David, you might want to check the ph of your vinegar water.  Most tap
water has a fairly high >ph.  Mine is so high that two ounces of vinegar
per gallon only brings it down to neutral.

Atlanta's municipal water has a pH of 8 but because it has very low
alkalinity (a measure of water's buffering capacity), adding small
amounts of acid drops the pH significantly.  I measured it a couple of
weeks ago and seems like it dropped to around 4 with 2 ounces of
vinegar, right where I want it.

Your water on the other hand has high alkalinity (that is, high levels
of sodium, calcium, and magnesium bicarbonates and sodium and calcium
carbonates), which gives it a lot of buffering capacity against changes
in pH.  This means you'll need to add more acid to lower the pH.

You bring up a good point when it comes to knowing how your water and
water-soluble fertilizer affects pH of soil.  Most fertilizers available
commercially (Miracle Gro, Schultz) are high in ammonium or urea or
both, which makes them acidic fertilizers.  That is, they will (over
time) drive the pH of soil down.  This happens faster when using water
that is low alkalinity and slower when using water with high alkalinity.
Obviously, soil plays an important factor, too, with some soils have
greater capacity to resist pH changes.  Generally, water supplies in
Alabama and Georgia are low alkalinity but should be tested to be sure.
Probably the best place to start if you want to answer that question is
with your local extension service/university, although there are labs
that will test for alkalinity (usually with a fee of 25 to 100 dollars).
But back to the issue of fertilizers effect on soil pH.  If you have low
alkalinity water, you want to use a nitrate based fertilizer, which is
actually rather difficult to find commercially.  Michigan State
University has developed a nitrate based fertilizer for orchids (and one
that is ammonium/urea based for high alkalinity water).  For people with
low alkalinity water using Miracle Grow and other acid fertilizers, you
really want to make sure you add lime to your garden soil to keep the pH
closer to neutral (that is, 7). 

This is probably one reason that Trillium are missing from some habitats
that seem right for them.  They need limestone outcrops to help moderate
the pH of the soil so that it remains only mildly acidic or mildly
alkaline depending on the species.  One exception comes to mind and that
is finding T. catesbaei in pine woods, which tends to be more
acidic.....and T. undulatum.

David
Atlanta

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