Best way to add calcium?

trant(z6 NY)February 23, 2009

Besides eggshells ?

I have been having pretty dismal tomato growing seasons the past two years and while I know it has been partially due to the lousy weather here (extremely rainy/cloudy) I think it's my soil too. I am going to get a new soil analysis soon but I am sure I am low on phosphorus and potassium, so I purchased rock phosphate and rock potash to amend my soil with. But I'd like to add good calcium too and I dont have enough time to collect enough eggshells (dont eat that much egg) until growing season starts. Any suggestions?

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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

One possibility - but may not be for your situation - is gypsum.

Normally, it is used in our southern soils to help aerate the clay-type soils, sometimes found in this part of the country. Some call it "hard-pan" as it is found under the top soil - just where you might want to put roots - and they can't penetrate it.

Gypsum can be used to loosen these soils, but also contains calcium - as an added benefit.

Suggest you "google" gypsum, and find out if gypsum "is right for you." "Use only as directed."

Just my 2 c's.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 10:02AM
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trant(z6 NY)

Wow cool, what a coincidence!

I just picked up a 40# bag of gypsum yesterday because of helping with clay soils. I had no idea it had good calcium.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 10:03AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

I've heard of people using Tums when they transplant their tomatoes. Never done it myself.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 10:38AM
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Crayola sidewalk chalk. Grind em up and add to the beds.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 12:27PM
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Trant, the standard way to add lime is to use granular or pulverized limestone, which you can buy anywhere that sells garden supplies. Regular limestone is Calcium carbonate; dolomite lime is Calcium carbonate plus Magnesium carbonate. Magnesium is also needed by plants.

Lime also reduces soil acidity, which is good in your situation, since you probably have very acid soil in NY. Gypsum is a source of lime, but does not reduce soil acidity. It is highly unlikely that gypsum will improve your clay. To learn more about gypsum, check out the link. Tums and Crayola chalk will also work, if you can find them in 40 pound bags, heh heh. Just a little humor guys, don't attack me!

How do you know your soil is deficient in Calcium, Potassium, and Phosphorus? If you haven't done a soil test, you are just throwing money away.

Here is a link that might be useful: gypsum

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 12:59PM
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trant(z6 NY)

I have done a soil test about 4 or 5 years ago. It showed I was in the "low" category for Phosphorous and Potassium, though the P was at least close to the normal level. I imagine it is less now. I forget what the calcium level was... I'll have to find that damn report. But I suspect it because I get BER on some peppers lately.

Thanks for the info!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 2:09PM
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petzold6596(8b southern NM)

Move to the desert SW, no problem with K & Ca.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 2:38PM
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roper2008 (7b)(7b)

I live in Virginia and we have clay soil and it is acidic. Not too
long ago, I found out from a fellow gardener that you need to
add lime(which has calcium). Last year I used Espoma granulated
lime with good results....

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 10:52PM
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Please don't go adding a smorgasbord of stuff to your soil without a soil test recommendation for it. It's easier to add than it is to get rid of if you later find it is causing a problem.

Just get a soil test and if you don't understand what it says or what you should be doing call the service that did the test and ask.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 11:05PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I agree with justaguy - blanket application of amendments such as these usually causes more problems than it fixes. And those problems are even more difficult to fix.

There is ample research showing that BER is not caused by a lack of calcium in the soil but by the plant's inability to mobilize that available calcium as needed during fruitset and development because of stress produced by weather patterns, soil moisture levels, excess nitrogen in the soil, immature root systems, plant age, pests, disease, etc. Tests of BER fruit consistently show sufficient calcium. Eliminate, when possible, the stress and the BER disappears.

Do yourself a big favor and get a professional soil test done and then do what is needed to fix the soil based on that test.

And you might also want to review the many discussions on BER, its causes, and what works and what doesn't work to fix it that are over on the Growing Tomatoes forum here (linked at the top of this forum's front page).

Good luck with your garden this year.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 12:10AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

A product known as high calcium lime is also available for those, like me, who already have high magnesium levels and don't want to add any more. But, yes, a soil test is your first action.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 6:50AM
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gypsum can be helpful if your ph is in a good area due to the fact that it doesnt change ph of the soil


    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 2:53PM
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As Keith said , if soil PH is good use gypsum, if you need to raise the PH, use lime.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 11:55PM
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llaz(z6 ma)

I add a handfull of crushed lobster and crab shells in the holes at planting time. It's cheap and easy to come by where I live. Seems to help.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 5:29AM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

I suppose maybe a local seafood shop would give shells for free? I can't afford to eat it all that often, but always add shrimp shells and crushed egg shells to my compost pile. A box or two of free crab shells sounds pretty darn good to me.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 7:41AM
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hey you are getting a lot of good advice, we give our hens a supplement of ground oyster shell, we also add it to beds in the veggy garden,,, you should be able to find it at any feed store, it comes in 40lb bags.(or maybe 50),,,it is a slow fix but is nice in that it hangs around for a few years, important here where we get 60-70 inches of rain a year,,,the worms love it also, just another alternative for you. A professional soil test here would cost as much as buying veggies for the year, however it would give you an idea of where you should start.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 10:42AM
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Just remember that Tums,sidewalk chalk, eggshells, oyster shells, crabshells and ground limestone have the same basic ingredient Calcium Carbonate. Primarily Calcium Carbonate reacts with acid to neutralize it. The resulting calcium compound is usually more soluble and more available, but the primary purpose is to bring the ph toward neutral. Calcium Carbonate, whether it be in the form of Limestone, Marble or shells is not not very soluble in water. It takes acid to leach it away.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 11:38AM
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burro(5 NEPA)

Hello! I'm back on GW after long long absence, and glad. Here in northeast PA we live with acid rain, so I need to add lime every year. I use dolomite lime from my local Agway, and get the strongest young body I can find to load it onto my truck (hehe). Those bags are wicked heavy. I also add wood ash from the fireplace to supplement, esp on beds where I plant peas (I got that tip from the old timers here.)

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 5:14PM
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Experiment from last year that worked well for me was deep planting the seedlings, putting a ball of mush compost underneath each plant, with about 1/8th of a cup (2 tablespoons) of dry milk. Guess what? My 6 plants produced enough tomatoes for 32 quarts canned, 1 frozen, a ton of sun dried tomatoes, 2 batches of tomato sauce, and 3 batches of chili sauce (1 green at the end of the season, and 1 huge batch of green tomato mincemeat). Plus all the fresh eating you could want.....
Unbelievable result from 6 plants lol.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 10:05AM
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Very creative methods described here, but tradition says that wood ash is the addition of the frugal gardener, and the best also for the non-frugal. It is 50% Ca, and also has large amounts of K (4-7%), decent amounts of P (1-3%), and substantial amounts of every micro-nutrient (Fe, B, Mg, Mn, Cu, Zn, etc.). Everything but N.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 11:18AM
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check out korean natural farming...brian m....he shows how to make liquid calcium from egg shells and and when to use a spray, calcium is not blocked by anything....very cheap and keeps forever...roy

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 8:29AM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

I agree with Glib! Woodash is my go to for the majority of nutrients... As well as compost! At last, someone doesn't give woodash a bad rap! It is choke full of minerals!


    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 4:21PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

There is no real "bad rap" for wood ash IF one is aware of their soil pH and soil nutrient levels. But blanket application of it without that knowledge can lead to all sorts of problems.

Wood ash does alter soil pH so if one already has alkaline soil, as is found in many parts of the country, they shouldn't use it or at best, use it sparingly. Big woodash advocates seldom point that consideration out.

More is not always better and, just as with any other additive, woodash can lead to Ca+, Mg, Fe, Zn, and P toxicity levels in soil if used to extreme.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 7:31PM
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I would like to mention leaves and compost as a source of calcium. Good organic matter content will go a long way towards solving many common deficiency problems.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 7:35PM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

I still cant see how woodash would alter pH if used as a very light dusting around the base of plants.. It's one thing adding handfuls, it's another thing using common sense.. I would still use woodash if I had alkaline soil.. You need such a minute amount, I can't see it damaging anything, only adding trace nutrients..


    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 2:55AM
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Woodash is so high in CaCO3 that even a small amount can cause a TEMPORARY spike in pH. If you have plants in the ground at the time, this can cause bad things to happen if they're sensitive or you already have high pH...mostly caused by pH influence changes in nutrient availability. Wood ash is highly water soluble, which makes this pH change happen quickly.

If you want to use wood ash to actually raise pH PERMANENTLY you have to use a rather large amount...almost twice as much as a limestone application, for reference, in most soils. You shouldn't even do this unless you really need to raise your pH. If your soil is already high in boron (B) you should avoid it. There's a fine line between good boron content and bad boron content...there's a very thin line from healthy to toxic.

It's also worth mentioning that wood ash (even clean/natural hardwood wood ash) contains a lot of metals. Without getting into the issues of traces of mercury and high-ish chromium (which is barely worth worrying about from a plant point of view)...there tends to be a lot of copper and zinc, both of which can inhibit microbial activity at high levels. If you already have a lot of either in the soil already, putting more in could do more soil health harm than soil health good without making up for via additional microbial health inputs.

A lot depends on when you apply it (fall is better for perm raising pH amounts), how much you apply, and what's in the ground when you're applying it.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Tue, Apr 2, 13 at 3:36

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 3:31AM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

From my understanding,the majority of land is deficient in trace elements that woodash would add back to the soil.. I think woodash is the cheapest way to add these vital minerals back to the earth, for the plants, as well as for our health!


    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 10:05AM
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Adding absorbable Calcium with Vitamin D in the soil will do the job.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 4:59PM
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Apropos to NC's post, I think I over did it with wood ash on some of my bean plantings this spring, as some areas had very poor germination and failed seedlings.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 1:51PM
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