Vinegar in soil against soil web

blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)July 19, 2012

I was reading an article on how full strength white vinegar can be used to kill harmful bacteria, mold, etc... (As opposed to using bleach) but my question is this...

When we use vinegar (diluted for Ph adjustments) in our gardening will it kill the good bacteria and harm the organic soil web? Or is it too diluted to matter? I plan on using about half cup per gallon or two to lower the Ph of my water and I dont want to kill my beneficial fungi and bacteria. You know?

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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Vinegar is used to kill bacteria, good, bad, indifferent, it does not discriminate between them. As a rule the "bad" bacteria are tougher then are the good guys and require stronger measures to eliminate them and in the process you kill off the good bacteria. Whether the dilution you plant on using will actually do much harm depends on how much area that is applied to and the dilutiuon of the vinegar you use. The vinegar most people get is 3 to 5 percent Acetic Acid, pickling vinegars can be up to 20 percent Acetic Acid. Mixing 1/2 cup of 3 to 5 percent vinegar to 1 gallon of water dilutes that even more, almost to so little that it may not harm any bacteria.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 6:42AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

That seems like a lot of vinegar to use every time you water your whole garden. There has a to be an easier way to lower ph like sulfur.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 7:06AM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

The way vinegar can harm bacteria is simply by lowering it pH so far that it's out of its survival range. Other than that I haven't heard ofny other mechanism. So all you really have to worry about is the pH.

The pH of 5% distilled vinegar is reported as anywhere from 2.4 to 3.4 (that's using Google). Calculating the pH of a gallon of water with 1/2 cup added is complicated by the fact that it's a weak acid, as well as whatever the alkalinity of your water is (not just the starting pH!). But my gut feeling is 1/2 cup is going to bring it WAY down, perhaps below 5-6.

As a result, you really should check the pH of your mixture somehow before using it, so you don't kill your plants.

It will certainly be temporary and not as long-lasting as sulfur.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 10:45AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Blazeaglory is writing about changing the pH of the water, not necessarily the soil. 1/2 cup of Vinegar to 1 gallon of water is not very much. To clean the various parts of mt CPAP and Nebulizer the suggested dilution ranges from 1 part vinegar to 5 parts water to a 50/50 solution.
To use Vinegar for a plant killer you need straight, undiluted vinegar sprayed during the brightest, hottest part of the day, like noon.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 6:39AM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Perhaps, but a lot of harm can be done before plants are actually killed. I would not want to guess at something like this if I was going to use it regularly, that's all I'm saying.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 10:43AM
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strobiculate

But it is organic and anything organic is safe.

Read that with either blissful naivity or heavy sarcasm.

Risk cup analysis tells me that there are potential problems that exist. If the power of vinegar to alter pH is strong at diluted rates in solution...the power of the so called organic herbicides is just freaky. And people propose using such a product thinking at no accumulated effects will develop?

This is a discussion I have on a regular basis. If it's organic it's safe, and no chemical can ever be safe.

But what is a chemical? Bleach and vinegar are chemicals, as are what makes opium, peyote, and marijuana potent...yet they are alos naturally occuring organic compounds. As are rhubarb leaves, poison dart frogs..the list is endless.

Perhaps how you use it is more important...but that is heretical in our modern world of dichotomous viewpoints.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 11:20AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Does sulfur kill anything? I got some sulfur for treating cane rot, but I am afraid to use it. So far I have not used it. I just don't know if it will do damage. It would too much work to water all plant by hand gallon by gallon adding vinegar instead of using a hose. I don't know who would want to spend hours of time doing that. Vinegar did not kill weeds. I sprayed it on for weeds and I also tired hot water and neither one works. Those weeds are tough. I bet I could pour salt on them and they would still live.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 11:49AM
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gardengal48

Acidifying irrigation water (in those areas with hard or alkaline water sources) is a pretty common practice. But the ratio is not as high - 2Tbs to a gallon of water, not a half cup. Applying this to acid-loving plants like blueberries, Japanese maples, hydrangeas and other ericaceous species is one way of growing these specific needs plants in areas less than ideally suited to them.

And no, at that dilution there is minimal disruption to the soil biology. As with everything, it is all in the dosage. Sulfur is a common fungicide as well as being a naturally existing soil element - sulfur applied in excess could cause problems, just as vinegar applied in excess could cause problems.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 3:35PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Hello all! I never said anything about guessing. That is the going rate for %3-%5 vinegar. Half cup per gallon lowers roughly one point. Yes I have a meter. Yes I am only worried about lowering the Ph of my water. No Im not going to be using this method on my entire garden. Yes I am using elemental sulfur in certain parts of my soil...Lol I am used to dealing with 100 gallon reservoirs and a chemical Ph down but I have alot of vinegar and its "organic". I only want to lower the Ph of my water temporarily to help with the absorption of nutrients. Eventually my soil will work its way down (from other methods) and I will only be using it on a couple of my potted fruit trees. My tap water is always between 7.8-8.1

This is just for a few trees and a couple potted plants. I appreciate all the feedback:-)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 1:00AM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

2 Tbs??? Tried that and guess what? Didnt lower it at all. half cup works perfect for what I want and where I want my Ph to be..

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 1:01AM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Ahh sorry I thought you were talking about vinegar gardengal. I realized you were talking about sulfur.

tropical thought. If your going to water with sulfur your still going to need to add it to your "garden" the same way you would vinegar or any other method unless your using a reservoir and a pump. Most people who use large amounts of water dont hand water they use submersible pumps in reservoirs with hoses attached. For small watering, only a few plants such as my case, I can get by with 3-4 trips with a 2 gallon bucket. Anything more and Ill use a Rubbermaid tub and my pond pump and hose. Simple.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 1:07AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I don't what to do, it's spray on sulfur, but I worry it will burn the plants. Some sulfurs had a lot of calcium or other things in them, so this one looks ok, but I have not dared to use it yet. I am trying to get psyched up to do it this morning, but it will be hot and maybe heat is the wrong time to spray stuff? I could mix it with water, but my shoulder really hurts from lifting compost. All that extra work lifting a can of water is too much. I would rather sprinkle it on the ground and water with a hose. But, the directions don't include how to do that.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 1:29AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Sulfer is one of the oldest fungicides man has used on plants, but as the article linked below will tell you the best method of control is prevention. Make the soil your plants are growing in good and healthy so the plants can grow up strong and healthy and be better able to ward off plant diseases and insect pests.
To be effective the sulfer must contact the fungus directly, if that is one the plant pouring a sulfur mix on the soil will not help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sulfur and other organic fungicides

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 7:03AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I know it won't help for the fungus, but it would still make the soil more acid, which is something desirable. I may try today, there are some clouds right now.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 9:44AM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Hmm. Spray on sulfur? Is it like a fertilizer or actual sulfur sulfur? I dont know. I would maybe try to find an equivalent on how much to drench the soil with diluted?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 1:10PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I am giving the link for the product, I still have not used it, but if it can do double duty to lower ph and fight fungus, so much the better.

Here is a link that might be useful: its here if you want to take a look at it

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 1:12PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

I wonder if it would work to lower the Ph of soil. Would it be too strong in its current form? How high is the sulfur content? I read one label that said %90. I would think that would be pretty high and would worry about diluting it properly as to not harm your garden. Maybe it would work but I dont know...hehehe

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 1:18PM
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ericwi

I have been using regular 5% white vinegar to lower soil pH, around our blueberry shrubs, since 1994. It works OK, but soil bacteria slowly consume the vinegar, so the pH will gradually come back up, unless the process is repeated every 30 days or so. Our local city tap water has pH = 7.6, and I mix 12 fluid ounces of 5% white vinegar with 4 gallons of tap water. Agricultural sulfur, aka soil sulfur, is used to keep the pH down. There is no doubt that too much vinegar, or any other acid, for that matter, will kill bacteria and/or living plants, so its important to measure and apply methodically. When digging up a soil sample from the blueberry beds, I am not finding any worms, so that is an example of one organism that does not appreciate acidic blueberry soil.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 11:05PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Whether any given amount of vinegar or sulfur would lowwer a soils pH will depend on what that pH was and how much vinegr or sulfur was put down over how large an area. 12 ounces of vinegar mixed into 4 gallons of water and applied to 2 square feet is something much different then the same thing applied to a 200 square foot area. The same with sulfur, most everything I have seen says to lowewr the soil pH 1 point (7.5 to 6.5) one and one half pounds of sulfur per 100 square feet are needed.
I have seen everything from 1 to 2 tablespoons of Vinegar per gallon of water sprayed over the garden but never over how much of the garden which is important to know.
If one needs to apply something to change the soils pH more than once a year then either the wrong stuff is being used or not enough is being applied.

Here is a link that might be useful: About soil pH

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 6:25AM
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ericwi

Note that the original question is about the effect of vinegar on the "soil web," which would include bacteria, single cell eukaryotes, fungi, & multi-cell creatures like nematodes and worms. Our blueberry shrubs are healthy and productive, despite the native soil in our yard which has pH around 7.6. To keep the blueberry shrubs green, I am using both vinegar and agricultural sulfur in the local zone around each shrub. There is some effort required-we have had a lack of rain this year, so I am hand watering, about twice per week, for several months. Our tap water, supplied by the city, has pH around 7.6, so vinegar is added to lower the pH to 5.5, approximately. With regard to microbial life, the health of the shrubs and fruit yield implies that we have a thriving mycorrhizal community. Also, the shredded tree leaves I mulch with are disappearing as expected, so there must be bacteria present.
I am never finding worms in my soil samples taken from around the blueberry shrubs, but we have worms living in the yard a few feet away. I conclude that blueberry soil has it's own, unique microbial community. Periodic applications of diluted vinegar support this community-I have seen nothing to indicate that watering with diluted vinegar destroys soil microbes living at the base of our blueberry shrubs.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 10:42AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

"half pound of sulfur per 100 square feet"
If you wanted to increase acidity slightly, but not do a racial change, how much would you use? I think I want to put what I bought on the soil instead of spraying. One reason, I got that brand, is the ones in the stores had a lot of other things I did not want to add such as phosphorous or something else bad. I forgot what it was. Those were the soil sulfurs I looked at in the stores, so I got this one online.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 12:23PM
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jolj(7b/8a)

blazeofglory, If one tills compost is the soil every Fall, dose it make a different to the food web, if one adds vinegar to the water or not?
I have well water so, no lime or bleach from the county water supply.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 1:18PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I did add some sulfur to just the soil. I don't know what will happen now. I watered it well. I was too worried about leaf burn to use a sprayer. I bet well water is fantastic! My city water is horrible.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 3:02PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Nothing has died yet, no sign of damage, I don't know if I put too much or too little or what have you since I had no guideline to go by. I don't know if I can expect to get a lower reading on the meter at all or if the plants will just be healthier. How did the vinegar work out? Did you use it for a watering? Was they any change?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 12:15AM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Dunno. Well see in about a month or so...heheh. I really havent been using it. I was thinking about using vinegar only during watering or feeding actually to help with nutrient absobtion. I was also thinking about getting a "wetting" agent such as SM-90 (but for soil). As of now (and everyday) I have been using coffee grounds with water. I use a french press to make a couple cups of coffee a day and after each cup I fill the french press with water (Its almost like coffee just more diluted) and water around a different citrus tree each time. I also have elemental sulfur from espoma in the ground. The soil around my navel has lower about .6-.8 over the last year but I have only begun the diluted coffee and elemental sulfur for about the last 3-4 months. Im hoping to see better results within the next few months to 6 months maybe? They say to lower it slow.

And eric was right. I was thinking about pretty much the entire web of whatever is down in the ground. Or in my case, lack there of.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 2:08PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

You could a small amount of vinegar to the coffee grounds water. Did you know they sell super big bottles of vinegar for cleaning the house? They are like gallon sized of cheap white vinegar.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 3:31PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Thats a good idea and yeah I have a huge bottle that I did not know I had:-)

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 11:17PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Most of the Soil Food Web is microscopic in size, you would need a microscope to see them. Things like earthworms, centipedes, millepedes, pill and sow bugs, etc. give an indication of how heatlhy the soil is and a lack of them can indicate there is a problem.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 6:28AM
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jolj(7b/8a)

They sale gallons of vinegar for pickling also.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 10:30PM
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