Results Of pH Experiment After One Year

A friend of mine has kept a careful photographic record of one year since changing the pH of his water. It is such a dramatic example of changing one variable, to see that it really was the pH that was the problem for these weak trees. Weakness resulted in susceptibility to needle cast and yellowing.

There are two different trees here, a pine and a yew. The fronts are different in the photos but they are the same tree.

He writes: ‘The first pic is from 3/18/2015, the second is from 3/12/2017.  Our well runs a pH of 8.8 to 9.0, I try for a 6.4 on the treated water, using muriatic acid.  I batch treat with a 500 gallon tank.  I started treating the water in Jan. 2016.’

Pine, 3/18/2015. Well water pH was 8.8 to 9 at this time. This is highly alkaline, very few trees grow well in it.

Same pine, 3/12/2017. After watering with altered pH of 6.4 for one year, which started in Jan. 2016. With this pH one can keep most plants very happy, and able to take up nutrients.

Same schedule, pH change, and photographic dates as the pine was followed with this yew. 2015 photo.

2017 photo, after watering since Jan. 2016 with a pH of 6.4.

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  1. Rozier Steensma says:

    Thank you for this very interesting and valuable post, it is a problem that is often prioritise.
    Being a good example myself, as I have nooo clue what ph my water source have.
    I definitely will make it a priority for this year.

  2. The results are truly amazing to see. pH is always overlooked and this is a great reminder. Thanks for documenting the progress!!

  3. Bob Martin says:

    Quite dramatic. What are the recommended additives for reducing this alkaline water to a more neutral situation?

  4. Chris & Lisa Kirk says:

    Happy Birthday!

  5. Dave Lord says:

    The opposite is also true. I recently relocated to a house with acidic well water (pH 5.4) and within a week one tree began to drop foliage rather quickly. I bought an electronic tester to see what the pH was. I had a feeling it was bad when the pre-purchase water test showed high levels of lead. I am having a whole-house acid neutralization system installed this week. I should be able to determine what pH the water at the faucet will be.

    • crataegus says:

      Very true, this was just one example. One can certainly have acidic water that can cause problems with altering soil pH beyond what they can grow in well. For small batches, adding a certain amount of baking soda will work.

  6. Terance Adkins says:

    What did you use to change the ph in these examples?

  7. David Wheeler says:

    I have known about the effects of pH for awhile…..however, I have never been very good at consistently checking the pH of my plants. Question – with your experience, what is the best way to check the pH of potted plants? thank you for your time and advice Dave

    On Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 10:30 AM, Michael Hagedorn wrote:

    > crataegus posted: “A friend of mine has kept a careful photographic record > of one year since changing the pH of his water. It is such a dramatic > example of changing one variable, to see that it really was the pH that was > the problem for these weak trees. Weakness resulted i” >

  8. Danny says:

    Hey Michael, have you found a better solution than a Hozon adapter for a hose? I know it works and is effective, but the reduced water pressure drastically increases time spent watering. Thanks!

    • mybabyciv says:

      I use a Gard n Gro inline filter. Our municipal water has a pH of 8+ and we have chlorine and chloramine in our water (louisville). The GnG filter is a chlorine filter and may not be able to break the ionic bonds of chloramine, but noticeable results are present. The GnG filter is essential to the successful uptake of nutrients. In addition to the GnG filter, I use a Gator hose fertilizer injector to which you can add acidifiers as well as a balanced water soluble fertilizer.

    • crataegus says:

      For my situation and the rose I use on my hose, this reduced pressure is appreciated otherwise I blast soil away. I can understand how it could be slower, yes. But I’ve not really searched for another solution yet.

      • Carol Novak says:

        How much of a problem is chlorine in municipal water? I am just about to hook up my Muriatic acid system because the pH rose a couple of points since last fall (thanks for pointing out it can vary so much from season to season). This could get pretty complicated with chaining all the filters and hoses!

      • Dennis Hawkins says:

        Hi Michael could you show us what type of rose you use on your hose? iI use a Hozon siphon mixer with soft fan nozzle. The mixer never worked because I was using low water pressure. It only worked at high pressure, causing it to blast the soil. I thought about using a Miracle Gro garden feeder, but i wasn’t sure about the acid mixturer.
        Some people said just use the Azaleas, camellia and rhododendron acid food. But that’s a lot of fertilizer.

      • crataegus says:

        We’ve been using the Kaneshin handmade wand and rose, and sometimes the Masakuni. I like the Kaneshin a lot although the screens are very delicate and take some care when setting down the wand. They create the finest rain of water I’ve ever seen.

  9. anijhuis says:

    The water is pH 9 but what is the pH of the soil before acidifying the water and after? Non organic matter is neutral pumice etc.
    Organic matter in the soil helps buffer the pH also when the bacteria are more active (summer warmer
    weather) pH gets slightly more acidic.
    I think a good experiment would be to use another example without acidifying the water but adding some organics to the mix. Take a soil pH reading and see how the response of the tree – of course this would take time to get a result.

  10. Aykut A. says:

    Great experiment and thank you for sharing.
    Our municipal water has also high pH but I’m watering all of my trees with liquid Leonardite product (contains Humic and Fulvic acids) on a monthly basis and I’m believing that it relieves them a little bit and they seem that they are doing fine so far. Do you think that it makes sense or am I just fooling myself?

  11. garyswiech says:

    My only comment is, very few plants can tolerate a soil with a PH of 9.0. That’s almost like growing them in limestone!
    In fact I’m hard pressed to think of any that will thrive in such a high PH. I think your experiment would have been more useful if you would have compared a 7.5 and 6.5 soils. My local water has a PH of 7.0 and I let it sit to gas off the chlorine before using it. My plants grow well. I’d like to ask where your friend lives having a soil of 9.0.

    • crataegus says:

      Wasn’t soil he was measuring, it was water.
      Maybe some desert plants like highly alkaline soils, but we don’t use many of those in bonsai, do we…

  12. garyswiech says:

    Crataegus said: Wasn’t soil he was measuring, it was water. I understand what your saying Michael but i think we are talking about both. It a soil is continually watered with water w/PH of 9, the soil itself will turn very alkaline.

  13. Rod says:

    My municipal water supply, like many across the U.S., adjusts the water to a PH of 8 to minimize pipe corrosion. Some years ago our bonsai club performed the same experiment as described in this article with the same results. We altered the water with acetic acid in the form of vinegar. I presently use 1 1/2 tablespoons of vinegar to one gallon of city water to lower the PH to 6.
    I also collect rainwater which tests to a PH of 6 with no treatment. In fact, rainwater has become my standard for watering all of my potted plants–including bonsai.

  14. garyswiech says:

    Rod says: “I also collect rainwater which tests to a PH of 6 with no treatment. In fact, rainwater has become my standard for watering all of my potted plants–including bonsai.”

    Rod, I like rainwater the best also. It takes more work because it’s hard to use a hose with rainwater.
    Let’s all remember the “Law of Limiting Factors” when it comes to growing our plants. There are other factors that are at work for optimum plant growth, but starting with PH is a great place to start. Wherever you live, a visit to your local county extension service may be able to help with solutions and may even have a booklet on your specific questions.

    • crataegus says:

      I’ve used rainwater many times in the past and it’s still my favorite way to water. It does take more doing, but sometimes you can even set up your tank to be higher than the garden, and then you water with gravity feed…a nice gentle rain that produces.

  15. garyswiech says:

    Agreed. Rainwater seems to be the best here. Then I use low to medium sized doses of dried organic chicken poop along with trace minerals.

  16. Michael Eckardt says:

    I use a submersible pump in my rain barrel connected to a hose. The only issue was that I needed to attach a low pressure rose (from a watering can) to the wand. After a few tries, I finally found something that works. Bingo! Best of both worlds: rain-watering-by-hose.

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