Archive for January, 2011

Garden (Blog) Hiatus???

Hello friends!

I haven’t written in FOREVER.  Well, that’s because Dred Pirate Roberts is dead (but a good dead, I swear).  I guess he’s more “hibernating” than dead.  Today, though, we should chat about pine needles and chemistry.  Chemistry? I know, I hate it too (and I’m getting a PhD in science).

Anywho, last summer we explored the many reasons for blossom end rot.  One of the reasons we get this nasty rot on our peppers and tomatoes is due to a chemical imbalance in the soil (re: too much acid).  There are a few “cures” for acid in the soil… egg shells, Tums, etc.  However, the most effective way to change the pH back to more neutral is by using lime (CaCO3).  This is standard practice in farming.  Here’s the ABC’s of the chemistry.  Things that add ammonium (NH3-) to the soil (re: fertilizer, pine needles) will make the soil more acidic.  How?  Well, the Nitrogen in ammonium and bacteria in the soil convert the NH3- to nitrite and then Nitrate in a process known as Nitrification (shout out to my friend Allian — this was part of her masters thesis!).  Ok, so what happens to all that Hydrogen?  Well, H+ is floating around making the soil all acidic, that’s what!   So, what does the lime do?  Well, the CaCO3 combines with the H+ and turns  it to H2O and CO2 (gas form… leaves soil) which raises the pH of the soil back to a more neutral state.  Did I mention that my masters degree is in soil?  For more info on this process (if you’re curious) visit this WSU page: http://www.ncw.wsu.edu/treefruit/soil/lime.htm.

CAUTION: too much  of a good thing leads to… well too much lime will raise the pH too high.  For a more complete discussion we’d have to get into alkalinity and the carbonate system… bicarb vs carbonate… and now my head hurts.  Take home message:  Do not over lime!  Apparently there are fast acting limes and slower limes.  I think it’s probably a good idea too add slow acting lime to your soil right before the first snow fall and let it work it’s magic during winter.  Of course, I never did this, so I will be trying a little bit of fast acting lime come March!  🙂 Too much science?  Well, gardening (like most things) is based on science and it’s good to know what’s happening in that soil of ours!  Once we get a handle on what causes problems, we can try to fix them, right!?!

So, I have big news.  Greg and I are engaged!  Thus, baking and gardening have been replaced by wedding planning and the like.  I’m sure you’ll be hearing all about it.

Farmer Ran Out!


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