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Anna
Anna, Teacher, writer, biologist
Category: General
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Experience:  Great research skills, variety of work experiences, teaching experience.
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I wish to ask a question about soil PH and its effects on a

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I wish to ask a question about soil PH and its effects on a certain plant. Do you have anyone there who could help on this subject?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: General
Expert:  adamd-mod replied 1 year ago.

Hello there,

I've been working hard to find a Professional to assist you with your question, but sometimes finding the right Professional can take a little longer than expected.

I wonder whether you're ok with continuing to wait for an answer. If you are, please let me know and I will continue my search. If not, feel free to let me know and I will cancel this question for you.

Please note, I am just a moderator for this category, I can only try and find experts to help, I can't answer the question itself.

Thank you!

Adam

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I fully understand. There is no rush whatsoever. I shall understand if you cannot answer the question!

Expert:  adamd-mod replied 1 year ago.

Hello,

We will continue to look for a Professional to assist you.

Thank you for your patience,

Adam

Expert:  Anna replied 1 year ago.
Hello,

I apologize that no one has responded to your question sooner. Different experts come online at various times. I just came online and saw your question. My name is ***** ***** I’m a biologist with many years of gardening experience. I would like to help you with your question.

What is the plant you are curious about?

Thank you.

Anna
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you Anna,

The plant I am concerned with is common heather, Calluna Vulgaris.

I belong to a golf course renowned and dependent upon its heather. It is clay based.

During the last couple of years and particularly during the past 12 months, the heather has deteriorated rapidly and has died completely in a number of places.

Last week I carried out PH tests, albeit with a cheapish PH tester, and found that the PH was between 6.2 and 7.0 at various places on the course. I carried out about 10 tests in different areas.

20 years ago tests carried out were significantly lower, averaging out at 6.2.

My questions are as follows:-

1. Do you think that this increase in average PH from 6.2 to 6.6 is very significant?

2. Do you thing that the fact that no suppressants have been applied to the surrounding grasses would have an effect on the PH and the dying heather?

3. Do you think that the heavy moss that has accumulated within the heather during the last two wet winters has had an effect?

3. Most importantly, what steps do you think we should take to remedy the situation? We are talking about some 50/75 acres!

A weighty question, I know. But any help and your views would be very much appreciated.

Regards,

Tony Blok

Expert:  Anna replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for getting back to me, Tony. To be honest, I'm surprised that the heather grew as well as it did for so long under the conditions you describe. The increase in pH is a significant one. Calluna Vulgaris does best with a pH of 4.5-5.5, but will tolerate slightly higher. It also requires well-drained soil. Clay based soil does not drain well, and I suspect the last two wet winters have much to do with the decline of the heather. If the soil stays wet, it suffocates the roots. This is aplant that just does not tolerate heavy wet soil. The moss and the grasses wouldn't directly kill the heather, but they could crowd it out becuase they are more suited to the growing conditions. However, from your description, the heather is actually declining, not being crowded out. I suspect the grass and the mosses are simply taking advantage of growing conditions, that for them, are optimal.

Remedying this situation on so many acres may be an overwhelming task. Do not fertilize because rich soils are another source of stress for heather. It grows best in thin, poor-quality soils.Unfortunately, many of the soil acidifiers available are available only in fertilizers. The best way to change the situation would be to start over from scratch, but that may not be practical becaus eof the time frame involves. The whole thing wold need to be tilled up; sand and compost could be added to loosen the clay, and a soil acidifier applies. Then the heather could be replanted. As I said, this is not very practical.

You could hire someone with large equipment to apply an acidifier that doesn't fertilize.One option is a solution of vinegar and water at the rate of 1 1/2 tablespoons of vinegar to one gallon of water. Another option used on larger areas is to apply elemental sulfur (flowers of sulfur). Its accidifying effects take several months to see results.

The above applications may solve the pH problem, but won't remedy the clay soil. There is no easy way to do that, since you cannot change the soil composition while the heather is growing in it. You may have to lower the pH, then overseed with more heather every few years, and hope for no more wet winters. Your best bet would be to hire a professional landscaper or horticulturist who is familiar with heather's growing requirements.

I wish i could offer an easy solution, but I believe you deserve honesty. You're growing a plant in less than optimal conditions for it, and that is always a difficult undertaking.

Wishing you success in rstoring the heather,

Anna
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Anna, I really am most grateful for your help. Such is our course that we MUST recover the heather as the course totally relies on it.

We can and will strip into the existing heather seed bed, which we have in the past with excellent results after 2/3 years. The problem is maintaining it thereafter, and I suspect reducing the PH level generally before stripping or seeding is a must.

The course is over 100 years old and is a renowned heathland course. None of the agronomists we have used have adversely queried our PH levels. It was my concerns that made me carry out the recent tests showing an increase in PH levels from 20 years ago.

Your suggestions are most interesting and will be suggested to the green committee.

Thank you again.

Expert:  Anna replied 1 year ago.
You're welcome, Tony. It's possible those agronomists simply assumed the pH was correct. Besides reducing the pH, if there's any way possible to loosen the clay soil, that would help a lot, too. Given that the heather is a must on the course, you may have to refresh it every few years. Without optimal soil conditions, it will not thrive indefinitely without some human interference.
Anna, Teacher, writer, biologist
Category: General
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Experience: Great research skills, variety of work experiences, teaching experience.
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