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Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Posted by Mr.Pickle 4 (My Page) on
Thu, May 24, 12 at 3:31

Let me start off by saying: WOW! HOLY &^*#!

I am an avid gardener and decided that i wanted to plant blueberries and other fruit bushes. After having read all about them I decided that I could grow them, i'd just need to make a shortcut to make the soil they live in more acidic. Blueberries like a PH of somewhere around 4.5-5.5 to produce good fruit. Our soil around here is often a high 7 due to dissolved limestone. Here's where my chemistry lesson starts to unfold.

I decided that i could make my own acidic water to lower the PH of the soil around these blueberries. At this point i'm thinking i'm pretty smart. Should be easy to do. After about 3 failed attempts to hardware stores and other places i found an auto parts store that carried Sulfuric acid for car batteries. Hmmm, Now if i dilute it down with water i can slowly lower the PH of my soil by simply hauling water to my bushes.

Fast forward to my garage this evening. I have the 6 qt box propped up and cut the tip off the hose. I jam a tear dropper in the nozzle to get a small sample to test with some PH strips my buddy hooked me up with. Immediately battery acid squirts past the dropper and onto the floor and a bit on my hand. I rush to the sink to rinse off the burning acid. Okay...I guess I need gloves. Should'a paid attention in chemistry class. Luckily i was already wearing glasses. Meanwhile, the floor is sizzling and turning white. Okay....I need baking soda. Crap! I run to the deep freeze in my garage only to find that the box is missing (probably from some other emergency use). I grab some bleach after a quick google to see if it is in fact a base. I pour it on and hope that an explosion does not occur. Finally crisis diverted and the mess is somewhat neutralized.

So, on with the experiment. I grab a small glass tupperware bowl and meter out a miniscule amount into the glass with plastic bags over my hands because apparently my wife hid the rubber gloves somewhere between our house and Limbo. I use the dropper to add real close to 2 tsp to a cup of water. The PH strip just stared at me unfazed like i was an idiot. Okay, 3 more cups of water....still nothing. More water...more water. I take my ratio up to 16 cups of water and finally i see a sign that my PH is coming up above the previous mark that was less than a 1. I'm now up to 32 cups of water and barely reading a 4.0. Only two teaspoons of battery acid in my experiment equates to me having approximately enough acid to mix 1152 gallons of water for approximately 7 blueberry bushes. (that is approximately 230 - five gallon buckets!)And thats if I go with a 4.0 mix and not a 4.5.

When the sales clerk asked me which size I wanted, I'm glad I opted for the 6 qt acid container instead of the 5 gallon! I wish I paid closer attention in Chemistry class.

Has anybody else experimented and have a more precise ratio on how to achieve a 4.0 - 4.5 water mixture using battery acid?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Most folks I've seen advocating acidic water for blueberries and other plants just used vinegar to adjust pH - no danger of burning yourself or explosions.
Alternatively, some folks with very alkaline soils have grown blueberries in bales of sphagnum peat. See link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blueberries in Peat


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Oh. My. Goodness. I have a bachelors in chemistry and a masters in biochemistry, and your post was horrifying. Please don't use battery acid again. (33% Sulfuric acid, and God knows what else. Not suitable for human consumption!) Vinegar has a pH of about 2.4 with only 5% acetic acid. Figure out a mixture using that, please. I know it's not as much of a shortcut, but honestly, just add a lot of sulphur to the soil and water with vinegar/water mix and you won't kill/blind/burn yourself! I personally know professional chemists that have been injured by accidents with strong acid. Don't make yourself a candidate for the Darwin awards.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Thu, May 24, 12 at 11:13

You might find easier, bulkier sources of acid. Apples have a pH of about 3.5, and surely a local cider mill will sell you all the pomace you need in Fall. Concord grapes have a pH of 2.8, if you have a farmer producing that juice. as a matter of fact, I use all my spent grapes from wine, pH about 3.3, on my tomatoes, to counteract the pH=7.6 soil. And in the process you will also fertilize and amend the soil. Pomace does not dissolve in water but if used as mulch it will affect water percolating through it.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Blueberries only need such a low pH, I assume, in commercial production in soils not mulched and relatively low in organic matter or when irrigation water is highly alkaline.

As I've posted here many times, I've seen plenty of healthy, vigorous, productive blueberries with deep green foliage (no iron deficiency) in soils with a pH in the mid-6's. These were plants mulched with wood chips and even Sweet Peet and the conditions caused the release of more than adequate amounts of iron. These plants didn't need much irrigation and in my region the water doesn't tend to be extremely alkaline, however.

Has any one on this forum ever seen a chlorotic blueberry plant growing in soil rich in OM and mulched because the pH wasn't below 5.5? I'm genuinely curious. Maybe what I have seen is extremely exceptional.

I have to admit that I still shoot for about a pH of 5 when I install blueberries, but I use granulated sulfur.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Mr pickle,

If you have left over beer and just dilute it with H2O and and you will a PH 4-5. Enjoyed some and share some with your berries. What a great way to have a party!!

Tony


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Thu, May 24, 12 at 11:37

Mr. Pickle,

I've used sulfuric acid to lower the pH of water used for blueberries.

I use about 1/2 teaspoon per 5 gallons of water and it takes pH down to about 5. (Our tap water runs about 9.4 pH).

You do want to be careful with it. I use goggles and gloves. Sulfuric and muriatic (hydrocloric) acid will definitely eat the surface off of concrete (or your skin). Bricklayers use muriatic to etch the surface.

I'm not sure about adding bleach to sulfuric acid. Maybe Frank could comment on that, but many chemicals react with bleach and cause it to release it's chlorine as a gas. Chlorine gas is highly toxic. Additionally, some chemicals mixed with sulfuric acid will produce hydrogen sulfide gas, which is also deadly. Hydrogen sulfide immediately numbs the nasal cavities so you can't detect you are breathing it.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Thanks for the help and information guys. I have to wonder about fruitmavens post and as to why the acid would not be a source to lower the PH to a level safe for use as a consumptive berry? The box states that the two ingredients are Sulfuric acid and water. No other additives are stated. Does the acid not break down in the soil? From what i've read most diluted chemical components are from bacteria and natural breakdown processes.

oplea,

Has your research indicated that eating these blueberries would not be safe? I can easily ditch the idea and maybe thinking I might just because the stuff isn't safe to have around.

As for the chlorine, I did dilute the spill first with water before adding the chemical. I did remember well enough to keep away from mixing certain chemicals and inhaling the fumes. It was more or less meant to be kind of a funny read into one man's trials and tribulations on his quest for the perfect berry. Hopefully no Darwin awards headed my way.

As for the other suggestions, they are much appreciated however I live in North Dakota and don't have access to any sort of fruit pulp and vinegar and beer would be cost prohibitive over time. Ammonium sulfate, not a problem but I don't want to over use and burn my plant roots to effectively lower the PH. I have replaced the soil when I planted the bush with a mix of peat, compost, sand and black river topsoil. I mixed in Ammonium Sulfate however even after all that with local tap water I achieve a PH of about 8.0.


Still learning but I guess thats part of the fun.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Mr. Pickle, Interesting experiment. Thanks for sharing it.
Car battery acid H2SO4 is very strong acid and nasty stuff. If you don't have to, don't mess with it.

I like the wine and beer method the best. This is get me excuse of increasing my grocery budget.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Please stop trying to play amateur chemist. You will only end up injuring yourself.

You have several options for lowering the soil pH. The safest, but slowest, is simply applying elemental sulfur. Unlike sulfuric acid, this type of sulfur will decrease the pH gradually and is far safer to use. You can find it at most garden stores. Do a soil test and determine how much sulfur you'll need to apply.

You could also use aluminum sulfate or ammonium sulfate. If you already have enough nitrogen in the soil, go for the aluminum sulfate. Apply it according to the label as you really don't want to over apply.

Always wear personal protective equipment when handling strong chemicals. Goggles, gloves and long sleeves are a must. Keep a garden hose nearby if there is a chance that you may need to wash your skin or eyes. I've seen too many near misses because people take a cavalier attitude when handling potentially dangerous materials.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Thu, May 24, 12 at 14:43

"Has your research indicated that eating these blueberries would not be safe? I can easily ditch the idea and maybe thinking I might just because the stuff isn't safe to have around. "

Mr. Pickle,

Commercial blueberry growers sometimes use diluted sulfuric acid in the drip lines. Irrigation water is frequently alkaline and continual watering will slowly increase the pH of the soil.

The biggest concern with battery acid can be the impurities sometimes mixed with it. In my opinion, this concern is overblown most of the time. As I recall, soils contain about 60 lbs. of lead/acre naturally, as well as other heavy metals. Such a small amount of acid is used in irrigation that even if the acid contains impurities, you're probably not adding enough to increase the heavy metal content of the soil to any significance. As a general rule, if the acid looks fairly clear, it's probably void of heavy metals anyway.

The numerous safety warnings on this thread are well founded and good advice. Still, sulfuric acid can be used effectively and safely if one is careful. Sulfuric acid sold in the concentration used for car batteries won't burn your skin immediately, you have a little time to wash if off before it starts to burn. The real danger is getting it into your eyes, or having it where a child can get into it.

I used to own a hog farm that had lines which carried waste water effluent. Salt would crystallize inside the lines and close them up. We bought muriatic acid in 30 gallon drums to clean the lines out. That was dangerous work.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Mr. Pickle,

I support the suggestion of adding just plain sulfur to the planting beds.

As far as the initial difficulty in getting the right pH, part of the problem is that water has very little buffering capacity, which basically means that it's very easy to change the pH of water.... a little acid goes a long way, as you found out. Something in the back of my mind when I see threads about changing soil pH with acidic water is, how much does the buffering capacity of different soils vary?

Regarding Harvestman's observations, I have a new bit of anecdotal evidence to support his idea. My in-laws live in upstate New York out in the boonies. Blueberries grow wild all around there, so I've always assumed the soil there is quite acidic. My wife recently tested the ph of the soil in several spots in their yard, and found the pH hovered around 6.5. There is a lot of organic matter in the soil there.

Alex


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Alex, others have supported my observations as well, both here and on the NAFEX site, but when an idea is so deeply rooted it is very hard to pull out. Also, for those with alkaline water I guess you probably need to get that pH down. My established blueberries thrive on nothing but rainwater.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

It is all about molarity of the acid! Would advise to be really careful. I personally would not trust acid from an auto parts store. I remember back in the day when acid batteries were "refilled" the acid that was used was no different than from acid in a lab but now who knows.

If you can find a lab chemical distribution company and buy from them instead. Try to stay away from high molarity acids however. They are just not worth the risk. IMHO


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I used Sulfuric Acid last spring when starting my BB. I did it alittle different as I started with a 55gallon drum filled with tap water and slowly add acid to it untill I reached 5ph. Our tap water is in the high 8ph. Dont remember how much exactly but some where in the range of 3oz or so. I used the acid for about 5 months untill I got my rain barrels all set up and finally got some rain. Been using rain water every since. One thing to make a note of is if you add sulfer to the soil, which I did when planting, and use acidic water you risk dropping the ph to low. I had to flush several of my beds from dropping the ph too low. If I did it again I would use the acid for 3 months untill the sulfer starts to kick in then only bring down the tap water ph to 6.5 or so. Using 5ph water and sulfer will drop it too low with in 6 months. It can be done safely but there is always the what if..... Ive also read that in Cali. they will flood the soil with Sulfuric Acid/Water mix to get the ph in the soil where they want it.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I use the sulfuric acid to acidify my water 300 gallons at a time and that tank is used to water my 142 BB plants. Battery acid deserves respect especially where your eyes are concerned BUT you can pour the 33% stuff on your dry hands and nothing happens. Don't believe me? Go pour it on ants on dry cement and they will act like it is nothing but water.

Harvestman,

Far as your question ..yes my plants are heavily mulched and have high OM in the soil and yes they will go chlorotic if watered too much. The reason is the high PH 7.2 well water that has high dissolved solids. It takes 3 cups of 33% sulfuric to drop 300 gallons of water to PH 5. Here in Florida only relying on rain won't work as our bushes wake up, flower and fruit at a time of the year when we receive almost no rainfall.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I believe it's possible to handle strong acids safely, but it's just not necessary in this case. I also don't know the purity of the battery acid, and I wouldn't be comfortable putting that on a food plant. I'd trust stuff from my lab more than the stuff from an auto-parts store, but I still wouldn't do it when vinegar is so much easier and safer.

If you do keep using the battery acid, don't let it contact metal. This is something I learned while reading the MSDS, "Contact with most metals will cause formation of explosive / flammable hydrogen gas."

Here is a link that might be useful: Material Safety Data Sheet on sulfuric acid


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Elemental sulfur for the soil and vinegar or General Hydroponics Ph down for the water. No need to shop at auto zone for your garden...lol Its not that difficult to lower the Ph of your water. Especially if your a regular backyard grower. Save your skin and eyes from burns. Although Im sure General Hydro Ph down will still burn somewhat, it is much safer than pure sulfuric acid Im sure.

If you must use battery acid at least dilute it first AND THEN add it to whatever you want to lower.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Fruitmaven I mean no offense but you are being a bit ridiculous. Remember the Hindenburg? Watch a video of it burning not exploding. The hydrogen would have to be in an enclosed space to build and cause an explosion. The acid that goes to an auto parts store comes from the same place that labs get it. Sulfuric acid is a CERTIFIED ORGANIC PRODUCT. Sulfuric acid is the most widely made chemical in this country, it's uses are endless and it is used in or to make damn near everything you own and eat.

For those advising vinegar it does lower the PH but is only temporary. When soil bacteria act on the organic acid the bicarbonate it was "holding" is rereleased in to the soil and the PH goes back up. When you use sulfuric acid the bicarbonates are burned away, they are gone.


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oops

I should not have said Sulfuric acid is a certified organic product, it is not.....what I meant is sulfur is a certified organic product. Sulfuric acid is simply made by burning sulfur. Just wanted to clarify.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Bamboo_rabbit, I realize vinegar is not permanent, I did say you should use soil sulfur as well. The Hindenburg didn't explode because it had pure hydrogen inside it, hydrogen is dangerous when it mixes with oxygen. I have seen hydrogen burning, in fact I have done demonstrations that show hydrogen gas burning, oxygen burning, and then the explosion that happens when hydrogen and oxygen mix and are set off by a spark.

Sulfuric acid is not the product of burning sulfur, sulfur dioxide is. You use a Vanadium oxide catalyst and a few other steps to get to sulfuric acid. Just because it is made from an organic material doesn't mean it's safe. Chemical companies need to "scrub" the final product to remove traces of the catalyst, which is a toxic metal that can kill you at high enough concentrations. Chemical companies usually have different grades of purity for their materials, which grade do you think they'd sell for use in cars and which do you think would be food grade? I don't know if that's the case with sulfuric acid, but it's really not worth the risk.

I have worked professionally with many dangerous chemicals and taken numerous safety classes in their use. I've still been burned by sulfuric acid despite safety precautions. Luckily, I was right next to a sink and could wash it off quickly. I was wearing goggles so it couldn't splatter my eyes and permanently blind me. I don't recommend anyone use concentrated sulfuric acid unless they NEED to, and it's just rediculous to advocate using it at home for blueberries.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

At least advocating it for someone with 7 plants, and who could perhaps use rainwater instead. I understand you have 142 blueberry plants in Florida. It's your choice how you want to acidify your water. If you've used battery acid successfully before, congratulations on not hurting yourself. I did say it is possible to use it safely.
I have no idea what you mean about "the bicarbonate it was holding." pH references the concentration of hydrogen ion.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Fruitmaven,

There is no such thing as "battery acid" It is simply sulfuric acid 33%. If you are so scared of the stuff you better stop eating as probably 100% of the food you eat was grown using sulfuric acid as it is a main component in the construction of fertilizers.

Sulfuric acid most certainly IS the product of burning sulfur. That is the first step....saying it isn't is like saying crude oil is not where gasoline comes from.

The fact you don't understand bicarbonates major role in the PH process is rather telling. BUT...Don't have to listen to me......we can just take the University's word on it.....read up. Notice they don't say "food grade" sulfuric acid lol as it does not exist. Sulfuric acid must be pure to US government standards before it ever leaves the manufacturer. I don't mean to give you a hard time but when you slam something you have not done your homework on it does a disservice to people who read the boards.

Here is a link that might be useful: EDIS Florida


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

You meant "reacting with the soil bicarbonates." I didn't understand your terminology. It sounded like you thought acetic acid had bicarbonates in it.

Sulfuric acid is not the first product of burning sulfur, there are other steps involved. It's misleading to imply that if you burn sulfur, you immediately get sulfuric acid.

*sigh* An untrained person using strong acids at home is completely different from eating food grown with fertilizers produced by a manufacturer and subject to quality controls. I'm just used to a lab, where you Do Not Eat around chemicals. I do try to use as few chemicals as possible when I grow food at home, I've got little kids running around. Compost and blood meal work fine around here.

Like I said, bamboo_rabbit, you can do what you like. I still believe there are lots of better options to acidify soil on a small scale than resorting to playing with battery acid. Someone following your recommendations could be seriously injured if they make a small mistake. Using soil sulfur and vinegar would just take a little longer. You're already waiting three years for blueberries, what's the rush?

I'm done arguing. People can do what they like, just please have a healthy respect for strong chemicals. The sight of a former chemist being led around a lab, because they've been blinded by acid is not something you soon forget.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Fruitmaven,

I did not recommend anyone use anything. I was simply applying a bit of common sense, logic and calmness to your way over the top dire predictions of death if anyone so much as glanced in the general direction of sulfuric acid :)

The sulfuric acid comes from burning sulfur just the same as gasoline comes from crude oil...never once said it was a one step process. I mentioned it to demonstrate the acids source.

You told us of the perils of poisonous metals in the sulfuric acid and I simply pointed out that is not true. If someone were to believe that they would be horribly misinformed by your post.

The acid should of course be stored away from children, pets and unicorns if you have one. Once that acid is applied to water it is no more harmful than bloodmeal.

I hope the link I posted helps others. It is straight forward and free of drama, but heck they are just the experts what do they know. I do agree that the acid deserves respect and if people are not comfortable using it don't.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

BR, it doesn't surprise me that the addition of highly alkaline irrigation water might stop the freeing up of adequate iron for blueberries- probably even if the soil itself is pretty acid. For a home grower I'd think the best thing to do would be to get a barrel under a gutter instead of trying to maintain an unnatural balancing act.

I don't know enough about soil chemistry to understand the long term affects of dumping quantities of sulfur into the soil year after year. Does this have any long-term consequences in the overall productivity of the soil or are all distorting properties balanced along with the pH?

With all your plants I would expect you to use industrial methods to keep your irrigation water suitable for blueberries. I have absolutely no experience dealing with alkaline water beyond in the spray tank and for that I use citric acid which might be a more practical solution for smaller plantings, wouldn't it?


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Harvestman,

Your post earlier kind of solidified for me that the water is almost as important as the soil. I agree that rain water would be the best if one could store it in enough of a quantity. Everyone has different conditions and there are so many variables...the soil, water, amount of bicarbonates in the water, rain patterns, ect.

My guess is citric acid would be the same as vinegar as they are both organic acids? The effect is just temporary and that is the problem. You could also use Phosphoric acid to acidify the water and if people drink soda they are consuming it all the time. The only acid I believe you can't use is Muriatic acid.....something about it adding salt to the soil.

By far though the cheapest alternative to stored rain water is sulfuric acid. Because it is the most widely used chemical in this nation it is very cheap.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

BR, when you say the result of citric acid is temporary, does that mean that sulfuric acid and sulfur in general is the only way that will be affective in negating the alkalinity in water?

In the face of continuous alkalinity in the water anything you use is temporary, right? Wouldn't citric acid work just as well as sulfuric acid at freeing up iron for the blueberries if it was always added to the irrigation water just as you do with sulfuric acid? Especially if you also incorporated pelletized sulfur in the soil?


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Harvestman,

We will quickly pass my chemistry comfort point but this is the way I understand it.

The real bad guy in the water is the bicarbonates not the alkalinity as the bicarbonates resist the acidic soils attempt in lowering the PH. If you use an organic acid like vinegar it drops the PH of the water but once the soil bacteria act on that vinegar the PH rises. With an acid like sulfuric it permanently removes the bicarbonates so it's acidifying effect on the soil is permanent. Like I said phosphoric acid will do the same thing, but at 10x the cost.

When I fill my 300 gallon tote I add an inch or so of water then pour in 3 cups of 33% sulfuric to it. 3 cups is what I need for 300 gallons for my well waters bicarbonate load, every water source would be different. It is kind of neat how it works because say I only add 2 cups of acid and fill the tote if I check the PH it would still be 7.2 which is my well waters native PH. It is like the first two cups is doing nothing but in fact it is removing the bicarbonates. You can actually see the process happen as it creates a thick layer of bubbles inside the tote. Once the bicarbonates are neutralized then and only then will the PH start to fall. I am not aiming for a very low PH just 5.5 or even 6 is fine. That is where your point of the blueberries doing fine in soil that is PH 6 comes in. They will do fine in soil of that PH if there is nothing in the soil or in the water used on them that is high in bicarbonates.

Lets look at rain water. Why is rain water so good for blueberries? Rain water has a PH of 7. Now that is way too high for blueberries right? So why is rainwater the best water source for BB with such a high PH? It has 0 bicarbonates. Basically when you use acid you are making your own rain water.....

It comes down to this. You could have PH 7.2 well water that is fine for BB while my PH 7.2 water is horrible for BB. It all depends on the amountg of bicarbonates in that water.

A real plus for me with so many plants is because I will acidify my water I don't have to add pelleted sulfur to the soil anymore and I also do not need to add pine bark. I would only use it at planting time then can mulch with anything I want to as the water will acidify the soil. A good way to view it is those with high bicarbonate water it is like you are pouring lime on your BB plants every time you water. It shows how important it is to not only have your waters PH tested but also the bicarbonate load.


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oops

That first line should read

The real bad guy in the water is the bicarbonates not the PH


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Good post Bamboo..........

The ph of my well water is about 7 and I have no idea what the bicarbonate load is. Nevertheless, I planted my plants in a mix of peat and fir bark. In the fall, I put fallen apples and pears around my plants as Glib suggested. I also throw down maybe a half cup of sulfur. In the spring when the leaves first come out I apply 1-2 ounces of 21-0-0, then again in June and July. The plants are doing great without any adjustments to my well water. I did experiment with vinegar last year several times but have since not used it again. I think as Harvestman says the plants can do fine in a higher ph so long as the compost is there.

RM


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

River,

I apologize as I know you already told me but where do you live again?

A lot depends on rain. If you get a lot of rain through out the year it just won't matter. Here in Florida we get hardly any rain from February through June 1 and that period is right when the plants need it the most. Our aquifer is lime rock so our bicarbonate load is high but it is high in a lot of areas of the country.

I do the same as you though use citrus peels and excess or rotten fruit. I have 16 ( I think) citrus trees so have a lot of fruit and peels from juicing. The BB love it.

I agree with the compost as Harvestman said IF the supplemental irrigation is not too great and if that irrigation water is not too high in solids. Harvestman said he hardly ever has to irrigate his bushes and that is the difference.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

There is a middle ground between battery acid and vinegar you know: Get the etching acid sold in gallon jugs at HD, for use on masonry. Its strong stuff, but not life threatening. I put about 2/3 capful in my bucket and I'm good. The jug I bought was a combination of phosphoric and nitric acid, which I figure is a kind of bonus. Many times, its sulfuric acid, which would not be so good.

An alternative would be to visit your neighborhood doper-hydroponic store. They will sell you a gallon jug of nitric acid acidifier, at about the same strength, for around twenty bucks. A little goes a long way, actually, and a half gallon lasted me a season.

Is all this really necessary? I'm growing in peat-filled pots, after all. I don't know. I do know that nothing happens when I squirt the pots with regular tap water now and again. I think its probably more of a prophylactic that keeps the alkaline stuff from building up.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Thanks BR, I don't think I'm going to pass the final at this point, but I believe it's beginning to sink in. Could you clarify the removal of bicarbonates a bit. What is happening chemically? Where exactly are they going or being converted to?


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Sulfuric acid, H2SO4, converts bicarbonates, CaCO3, into CaSO4, gypsum. Gypsum is pH neutral and stable. Whereas vinegar ties up the bicarbonate in an organic compound that converts back to bicarbonate when the organic part is decomposed by bacteria. At least that's what my chemistry background says.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Perfect, Fruitnut, thanks both to you and BR. So I assume the sulfuric acid would offer special benefit to sodic clay soils.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I'm in eastern Washington BR. Right now I'm watering a few times a week but soon I will water nearly every day through September. I'm definitely pouring on the bicarbonates! lol. So far, so good. I don't see any sign of ph problems............yet.

RM


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lesson for making acidic water

Koko, I don't think the phosphoric acid is necessarily a bonus unless you know your soil is deficient, as you may know but failed to mention.

For anyone reading this that doesn't know, excess P will create an unbalance of nutrient availability, tying up essential nutrients whose names I've long forgotten and am too lazy to look up.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Fruitnut,

Thanks:)

Riverman,

You may not be....your Ph may be high but does not mean your bicarbonates are high. That was the part of it that was hard for me to get.

Koko,

The etching acid could be more dangerous than the sulfuric. I think the fear of the sulfuric is from Saturday morning cartoons from our youth:) The stuff is dangerous to your eyes for sure but overall it is much less dangerous to handle than gasoline in my opinion.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Do yourself a favor and buy a gallon of 74% phosphoric acid. This stuff is not nearly so dangerous to handle as sulfuric acid. I dip my hands in phosphoric acid all the time with no ill affect except it stings if I have a cut. Afterwards I wash my hands. Do that with battery acid and you will have bad burns on your hands. I buy the phosphoric acid called Ospho for $26 a gallon to get rid of rust in antique cars. A tablespoon per 5 gallons lowers my 8.0 pH city water to 5 pH. There are a lot of tablespoons in a gallon.

How much is a sulfuric acid burn worth to you NOT to get?
Phosphoric acid is also a plant nutrient.

Another relatively safe chemical to use is the pool chemical pH Down.

Here is a link that might be useful: mrtexas


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I think sulfuric is the only strong acid appropriate for acidifying blueberry media. Nitric acid will form calcium nitrate from the bicarbonate. That is a fertilizer sometimes used on apples because apples need soluable calcium to avoid bitter pit. But calcium nitrate is a very bad fertilizer for blueberries and the calcium just goes right back into solution when the nitrate is absorbed. So it's not tying up Ca like gypsum does. Your back to the vinegar deal.

I don't think phosphoric will tie up Ca either. Plus the fertilizer implications.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

>Lets look at rain water. Why is rain water so good for blueberries? Rain water
>has a PH of 7. Now that is way too high for blueberries right? So why is
>rainwater the best water source for BB with such a high PH? It has 0 >bicarbonates.

Your point about 0 bicarbonates in rainwater is a good one, but rain is normally acidic, not neutral. Carbon dioxide in the air forms carbonic acid in the rain, lowering pH. In addition, natural and man made sources of nitric oxide and sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere also dissolve in rain and form nitric acid and sulfuric acid. Even in the absence of any pollution, the pH of rainwater is expected to be about 5.6. Pollution and lightning can make it more acidic....I'm not aware of anything that raises the pH of rain.

There's a more detailed explanation at the site below.

Alex

Here is a link that might be useful: Why rain is acidic


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Thank you for the correction Alexander.

MrTexas,

You can pour the 33% sulfuric on your dry hands with no problem either. I paid $32 for 5 gallons of sulfuric acid. As Fruitnut said sulfuric is the only suitable acid. There is a reason the universities recommend it for this purpose.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I think this has been a great thread and I thank everyone who contributed. Fruitmaven your sparring with Bam actually got things rolling and I was glad to be reminded about the acidity or rainwater by Alex- I assumed it was still highly acid around here- partially because of coal powered electric plants in the midwest.

Most of all, Bam with an assist from FN really helped me better understand the chemistry of altering the pH of irrigation water. I'm saving this thread.

Thanks again, including Mr. Pickle who started this.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

There may not be anything inherently wrong with using sulfuric acid for lowering the pH, but it's far from a good idea. The sulfuric acid used in batteries IS NOT reagent grade. It's not food grade. I don't remember sulfuric acid having GRAS status either...

It's a useful chemical in the lab, but I wouldn't put it on plants.

It's obviously quite reactive. I wonder how the various resulting sulfur compounds will effect the taste of your blueberries? I'd be shocked if you don't find elevated levels of numerous sulfur compounds.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Hammilton, did you read the preceding posts?


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Hammilton,

Please read the entire thread. Sulfuric acid has to be pure to US gov standards no matter what the %.

Subpart B: Listing of Specific Substances Affirmed as GRAS (generally recognized as safe)

184.1095 - Sulfuric acid.


From the feds.

Title 21: Food and Drugs

CHAPTER I: FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (CONTINUED)

SUBCHAPTER B: FOOD FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION (CONTINUED)

PART 184: DIRECT FOOD SUBSTANCES AFFIRMED AS GENERALLY RECOGNIZED AS SAFE

Subpart B: Listing of Specific Substances Affirmed as GRAS

184.1095 - Sulfuric acid.

(a) Sulfuric acid (H2SO4, CAS Reg. No. 7664-93-9), also known as oil of vitriol, is a clear, colorless, oily liquid. It is prepared by reacting sulfur dioxide (SO2) with oxygen and mixing the resultant sulfur trioxide (SO3) with water, or by reacting nitric oxide (NO) with sulfur dioxide and water.

(b) The ingredient meets the specifications of the ?Food Chemicals Codex,? 3d Ed. (1981), pp. 317-318, which is incorporated by reference. Copies may be obtained from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20418, or may be examined at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of this material at NARA, call 202-741-6030, or go to:


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

The GRAS bit is good to know, and I haven't yet checked, but I'm fairly certain that GRAS status doesn't apply to technical grades (though I could well be wrong)

However, to suggest that the sulfuric acid available in battery acid is "pure" is absolutely ridiculous. Consider the results for reagent grade sulfuric acid (http://www.chem.agilent.com/Library/applications/5988-9190EN.pdf). It's strange that they found that much
titanium in it, but that's not an element I'd worry about.

You can find the standards for technical grades here:
http://www.sulphuric-acid.com/techmanual/Properties/properties_acid_quality.htm#Federal Specification O-S-801

As you can see, "pure" is not a requirement for federal standards. Where did this notion come from?

Hammilton


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Hammilton,

The fact you just registered today means you are either a troll or a previous poster on this thread that just could not take being proved wrong lol......

Would you prefer if we said there is nothing in the sulfuric that is harmful? The government says it is fine to use......the university of Florida says it is fine to use and IS THE PREFERRED acid to use.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-558.html

Here is information that specifically recommends using sulfuric acid acquired from auto part stores as battery acid for use in the reduction of pH of irrigation water of food crops from North Carolina State University. I should think this would close this argument.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Thanks Harvestman. Perhaps that will satisfy Hammilton/Maven, but I doubt it.

When I bought my 5 gallons of sulfuric no where on the box does it say battery acid, simply says sulfuric acid 33%.


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From Harvestman's link

Safety. Citric acid, 75% phosphoric acid and 35% sulfuric acid are relatively safe to work with as compared to the 67% nitric acid (Table 1). Nitric acid is very caustic and can cause serious injury to exposed tissue, especially eyes. Since nitric acid can also fume during handling, take care to avoid breathing fumes.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I've been burned by both nitric acid and sulfuric acid, and neither one is good. If not washed off quickly, both do serious damage to tissue and eyes. I consider them equivalent. It's been a very informative discussion on soil chemistry, and I've followed it, but it's rediculous to suggest I've made a pseudonym. Hamilton sounds like a chemist, but also like he didn't read all the posts thoroughly.

I told you, I'm not debating sulfuric acid's efficacy. You are satisfied with the purity of your acid, fine. Great. But I think it's stupid to use a chainsaw when a hand pruner will do. Strong acid is clearly more dangerous, and there are better options for the home grower. I did say Home Grower, commercial people should be trained to handle their chemicals safely. They usually are more concerned with speed and cost, and shortest time to profits. Thank goodness most home growers are different!


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

"You can pour the 33% sulfuric on your dry hands with no problem either. I paid $32 for 5 gallons of sulfuric acid. As Fruitnut said sulfuric is the only suitable acid. There is a reason the universities recommend it for this purpose."

Maybe so but I'll not put my hands in battery acid.

Well fruitnut, I will have to respectfully disagree.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I don't understand why it should be such a danger to handle su. acid and even a serious hobbyist would seem to benefit from using it over alternatives based on its ability to bind bicarbonate. That is, besides the alternative of capturing rain water from ones roof, which for most of us would seem to be the preferred way to go.

If you wear a good pair of goggles, gloves and maybe a chemical resistant apron there just isn't any appreciable risk I can see.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I had the opportunity to ask an authority on the subject.

Lee ReichMay 27, 2012 8:19 PM

Sulfuric acid would do the job but I would strongly advise against using it. The stuff is highly corrosive to you and many materials, and would have to be diluted appropriately. Much wiser would be to use elemental sulfur, which does eventually become sulfuric acid in the soil, but very dilute. The ideal pH range for blueberry is 4 to 5. Add 3⁄4 pound of sulfur per 100 square feet for each pH unit the soil is above 4.5. Use three times this amount of sulfur for heavier soils. Pelletized sulfur, which resembles small, yellow lentils, is easier to spread and cheaper than sulfur powder.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Fruitmaven/Hammilton,

I'm not sure what part of the bicarbonate process you STILL don't understand. You can add the sulfur to the soil all you want but if you have to irrigate with high bicarbonate water often you will still have problems. Because the elemental sulfur takes so long to break down and start acidifing the soil it is impossible to counteract the high bicarbonate water. With every watering you are adding bicarbonates....Please read that until it sinks in.

Far as your email......I find it hard to trust a person who would make an alternative posting name just to support their own losing argument. I could post an email purported to be from Bugs Bunny stating acid is great. Even your own email states clearly that the acid will work......didn't you tell us it was poisonous? LMAO

The top university in this country in SHB blueberry research is The University of Florida. They have been responsible for some of the greatest advances in BB research not to mention almost all of the top southern high bush varieties. They tell us to use the acid.....the university of North Carolina tells us to use the acid and that it is safe to use with common sense. Yet you still just can't take the fact you were wrong.


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Mr. Texas

"Maybe so but I'll not put my hands in battery acid"

Who in their right mind would?

Again though I will point out you can pour the stuff in your dry palm and hold it there with ZERO damage or pain. If it splashes on your arms it will sting after a few seconds but all you have to do is wash it off or even just wipe it off with a paper towel with no damage. The acid needs moisture to activate, that is why it is dangerous to the eyes. Your and Maven/Hammiltons reliance on old wives tales and Saturday morning cartoons as to the danger of sulfuric acid simply baffles me.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

O. M. G. I didn't make an alternate name. I don't know who Hamilton is.

Soil sulfur and acidic water from vinegar is sufficient. I'm done reading this thread.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Oh, but it wasn't an email. I'm a fan of his blog. If you'd like to see his response for yourself, look at the link below, and find the Thursday, May 24th post. Look at the comments.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lee Reich blog


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

FruitMaven/Hammilton,

So two universities that are widely recognized as experts in BB culture tell us soil sulfur and vinegar are not sufficient and that sulfuric acid is safe and the way to go....Or we can believe you that told us sulfuric acid was poisonous. Tough call there.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I know Lee personally. He's a fine garden writer but no authority on the subject of treating well or municipal water. All you have there in another gardeners opinion- PHD in hort. or no. The link I provided has been vetted by experts in this field, I have to assume.

BR, if Fruitmaven insists he's not writing under an alias I think you should assume it's true- what's the point in disputing that?

FM, you keep saying adding vinegar will accomplish the same thing, but what about the fact that the vinegar quickly breaks down leaving the carbonates active? That was the point that makes me think that using sulfuric acid is a perfectly reasonable approach. Permanent sequestering along with the potential benefit of improving sodic clays.

I believe you are much more conservative about using useful products that carry some risks than most, unless it's the acid thing that is your personal crusade. We have to be just as careful with prescription and even over the counter medicines and many other common products. I guess you are not a big fan of using lye to clear pipes!


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Harvestman,

Just a feeling......Hammilton writes in exactly the same style as Maven and given the fact Hammilton just registered yesterday after Maven said she was done with the thread. Now wait Hammilton will come along and insist they are not the same person.

Far as the point.....kind of a jab to Maven who refuses to admit the earth is round even when presented with over whelming proof. It annoys me. It is not hard to admit when you are wrong..I have done so twice in this thread alone. In my business life people like this were the first to be fired as you could never trust what they said.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Sure, but he's not working for you and his points have actually helped move the thread along. Sometimes people's logical deductions take them to different places as is the case when you and I discuss global warming. I get just as impatient as you, though, so I probably shouldn't be lecturing.

I'm still waiting for Maven to explain how adding vinegar is at all the equivalent of adding sulfuric acid and how he can be so sure it's an adequate solution for people with particularly problematic irrigation water like yours. It does seem a bit stubborn to me, but more puzzling than irritating.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Harvestman,

Good luck, you may be waiting awhile:) People like Maven/Hammilton find it impossible to admit when they are wrong.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Mon, May 28, 12 at 12:35

Following a related thread in the Vegetables forum, I checked my city water analysis online and found the pH to be 9.3. Any suggestions re: how I can modify my various drip systems to include a source of acid?


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

BR - I did admit I was wrong. Apparently you're the one with the problem. I'm not Hamilton. The reason he writes like me is probably because he's a chemist. You ask any self-respecting chemist about using sulfuric acid on blueberries and they are horrified. Especially since we know how pure (or not) the reagents we use in lab are. And we've seen the inside of a chemical factory, and what can happen when acids are not handled correctly! Lee Reich is a former chemist, so I'm not surprised he's also conservative about acids.

I'm lucky I don't have to deal with such overwhelming bicarbonates in my soil and water, so using soil sulfur and rainwater is fine for me. If you use soil sulfur in conjunction with acetic acid, it shouldn't matter that the acetic acid doesn't permanently neutralize the bicarbonates. The sulfur added to the soil will take care of it once the acetic acid breaks down. Honestly BR, do what you like. I don't live in FL, I don't deal with your issues. I think for most of the home gardeners in this country, it's just not necessary.

Glib, sorry I don't have a suggestion as to how to incorporate acid into your irrigation system.

Harvestman, I'm a she. Not a big deal, just clarifying.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Fruitmavin, I think it is presumptuous to say "you ask ANY self respecting chemist about using sulfuric acid and they are horrified". That is not a reasonable argument because being a chemist doesn't mean you know how others feel about using this substance in this context- why should anyone take you at your word without some kind of verification. I'm always suspicious of people who use this tact, creating an imaginary panel of experts.

This is a product that is sold in auto part stores and clearly it is commonly used by plenty of morons and I've never read anything in the sensational press about it leading to tragedies, so it can't be all that dangerous. I don't see how it's more risky to add it to a water tank than to pour it into a battery- if anything it takes less coordination to pour it into a wide mouthed tank- much less risk of splash-back.

And then there is the university based recommendations which make it quite clear to me that using this substance is quite safe because they are based on what must be a pretty wide range of expertise.

So, how do you feel about clearing drains with lye?


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Mon, May 28, 12 at 17:37

Overloading the buffering capacity of your water using acid is more of a fake out than anything else. It gives you an acidic pH number and that's about it. You are still left with the general hardness of magnesium and calcium. In a small scale operation you will be better served by using "soft" water such as distilled, R/O or rainwater in combination with your application of soil sulfur.

It should also be noted that soil sulfur, acetic acid (vinegar) and citric acid are the only acidifiers that are acceptable for organic blueberry production.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Mrclint,

It is not a fake out.....the acid transforms the bicarbonates to Gypsum. The gypsum is PH neutral and that reaction is permanent. You still don't understand....you could acidify the water to a point where the PH does not even fall 1 point and the water would still be transformed from horrible for BB to great for BB.

Universities that specialize in growing blueberries recommend the acid.....we showed that in black and white. So tell us what qualifies your opinion as being better than those scientists that have spent their entire careers in the field.


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Drama.....

Fruitmaven/Hammilton,

Exactly when did you admit you were wrong? When you said Sulfuric acid is poisonous? When you claimed that every chemist in the world agrees with you? When you claimed that if the acid touched metal it would spontaneously explode and destroy half of the town? Just trying to clarify.......

The government lists sulfuric as GRAS (generally regarded as safe). The universities state it is safe to work with. You can ship the acid by UPS for heavens sake. The acid is so deadly that 5 gallon lots of it are sold in poly bags inside a cardboard box. Not only can home owners buy the 33% sulfuric we can also buy the 97% sulfuric acid 55 gallons at a time why is this if the stuff is as deadly as you claim?


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Mon, May 28, 12 at 19:02

I think you meant to say, "Universities that specialize in growing blueberries recommend the acid for large scale commercial operations...". It wouldn't be profitable to use actual soft water unless you had it already on hand and in large quantities.

Having worked with water chemistry for over 30 years as an aquarist, I can tell you that you will still have a fair amount of general hardness (dGH), salts, dissolved solids and such left behind after you acidify your water. High pH and high dGH occur naturally with water as does the converse. pH and dGH go hand in hand. This is why I said lowering the pH and not the dGH is a fake out.

I'm on board with Harvestman in that I think pH of the water for BB is only part of the story. There are other factors such as humic acids in the soil that influence the actual pH at the end of the day. Blueberries do love rainwater, which is a naturally occurring low dGH/pH type of water.

I don't think there is anything I'm saying here that disputes what has been said already.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Mr. Clint,

We have something in common then as I used to have a 50% stake in a wholesale tropical fish operation. I got led to that business from breeding and raising discus.

The link I posted from the University of Florida says nothing about it being for commercial BB growers only. If the professionals say it is the best way to treat the water why so much resistance?

I do agree there is more to raising BB than just the water but the water is almost as important as the soil. I have grown them my entire life. We all have different ground water and different requirements. Sulfuric acid is not the boogey man and the over the top hysterical fear mongering over it in this thread is just plain silly.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Mon, May 28, 12 at 22:33

Folks, I don't think that the pH of your water - in and of itself - is as important as this thread claims for the small scale home gardener. Here's a link from a reputable vendor that is geared toward the home grower: CARE OF SOUTHERN HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRIES. I've been following this document loosely for a while now and have had some nice crops. It makes no mention of using acidified water.

Now that I think more about it, one could argue that giving folks the impression that they absolutely must acidify their water in order to grow blueberries is fear mongering or at least disingenuous. If you feel the need to doctor your water go ahead and do so, but it is not a requirement.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Mr. Clint, I think that is a false equivalency. Bamboo Rabbit never said that it was the only way, just that it is reasonably safe and according to many experts, one of the best ways. He was also sharing his considerable personal experience, which I always find to be the most useful aspect of this forum. I can use google to find links.

It is an interesting question, though, if treating the water is ever absolutely necessary to grow healthy blueberries when storing enough rainwater isn't possible or too difficult. I think BR is saying that in his situation it is necessary.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Mr. Clint,

It is all about the water at your house.....at my house our groundwater comes from an aquifer that is made up of 100% LIMErock.....due to that our water is high in bicarbonates. No seller of plants is going to advise customers to use acid. Doing so in this litigious society we live in would be harmful to their business.

I currently have 140+ BB plants. When we started planting BB here some years ago I started by acidifying the water. I would scoop water out of the lake we live on and add acid to each bucket. The lake water was much better than the well water though it is the same PH. Over time as I added plants and made more beds that process just became too time consuming so switched strategies. I went to a system of watering with our well water only when it was absolutely necessary to do so to limit the bicarbonate load I was putting on the plants. It works but the plants are never as nice nor as happy as when I was using the acid. I finally decided to just put in a system to acidify the water and you can see the difference in the plants almost immediately when you do.

Each area of the country is different......in many areas of the country acid would not be needed even if the water PH is high because they get enough rainfall. This is not about having to use acid to be successful as you don't. But the acid is an option for those that need it or want the plants growing in 100% ideal conditions.

Saying I am fear mongering for mentioning a University recommended and approved watering program, seriously? I never once said you had to do anything to be successful with blueberries. My plants fruited well when I restricted their water but not as well as they could have. Using that method of growing takes a lot of experience as it was easy to get the plants too dry and burn them. This acid system is incredibly easy. This board is about discussing options and techniques and I was simply trying to set the record straight over Fruitmavens/Hammiltons over the top hysterics about sulfuric acid. The misinformation she peppered this thread with was simply a disservice to the community.

No need for acid this week as Beryl dumped 4 glorious inches of rain on us overnight.


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Harvestman

Harvestman,

I think that is half the problem......people are up in arms like we are saying they are abusing their plants because they don't use acid. We had a couple acres of BB up north, never used acid on them once, never used pine bark on them or peat moss had no need to even though our water PH was high. We also irrigated the plants maybe 3-5 times per YEAR as our rainfall was adequate.

Here in Florida I am irrigating the bushes 2-3 times a WEEK every week for 3-4 months until our rains start. For anyone that has high PH and bicarbonate water AND must irrigate frequently the BB will do much much better if the water is acidified. The easiest and most cost effective way to do that is with sulfuric acid.....that is simply a fact.

It is like some people are arguing it is cruel to let the dog sleep outside at night because they live in Minnesota and just can't understand that other people live in a much warmer climate where doing so is just fine.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

  • Posted by mrclint z10SoCal Valley (My Page) on
    Tue, May 29, 12 at 12:32

Hman, BR said:
"...but the water is almost as important as the soil."

That is what I am disputing. It simply isn't true, especially if you keep a few in pots. In following this thread it occurred to me that having to work with acids and then keeping a close eye on pH readings -- would be a bit daunting for someone that just wants to try a few BB in pots.

"I can use google to find links."

That's what makes the web the great equalizer. Gardenweb threads such as this one are web links too. We all post web links from time to time. Admittedly, not all links are equal but this one comes from a reputable dealer that has a vested interest in providing useful information to home gardeners. That's a pretty good filter to apply. Please point out where it is wrong rather than brushing it aside as just a link. I'm not a self-proclaimed expert, but I can link to actual experts that put their money were their mouth is.

"The easiest and most cost effective way to do that is with sulfuric acid.....that is simply a fact."

In the spirit of full disclosure, it is the most cost effective non-organic way. Non-organic isn't necessarily evil, it's just a fact worth noting. Would you acknowledge that being organic is important to some folks?

I'm just trying to add some balance to this discussion, which still has a rather exclusive and heavy handed tone.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

mrclint,

I disagree....if you don't think water is important to the BB stop watering them for a couple weeks. The water is almost as important as the soil....if you don't understand why, well that is the problem. If you have good water where you live then it may not be an issue but it is important to those who have high bicarbonate water.

Sure I would agree organic is important to some people. It is important to some people to dress their poodles up in pink coats. It is is also important to some people to worship potatoes shaped like famous people so don't see your point. Organic simply means naturally occurring. Organic is simply a marketing ploy to lure naive people in to paying 3 times more for the same food. I could dump crude oil on your lettuce and it would still be organic. This is coming from someone who uses no insecticide at all in their vegetable garden and no chemical fertilizer. Sulfuric acid does not occur naturally on this planet so can not be organic. so? Sulfuric acid diluted with water and applied to the bushes results in berries that are identical to organic and contain NOTHING hazardous or even traceable, they are exactly the same. It is listed as GRAS by the government. The only result of using the acid is bigger healthier bushes that produce more fruit for those who have problematic water.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Please Mr Clint, don't take the bait. I don't think we need to tack on a heated debate about the merits of organic gardening now, we've all BTDT.

It's fine to have mentioned that sulfuric acid does not meet current regulations, there are some here that will probably find that fact instructive.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Harvestman,

He brought up organic....not sure how that is baiting. I must have missed the organic thread, shame. I am very picky about what goes on my plants as I know it ends up inside my wife and I. I also steer away from most store bought meat due to the chemicals. I raise my own meat, rabbits, quail and ducks. If the acid had anything in it that could harm the BB I would not use it. That fact to me seems to completely nullify the organic debate.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I've always used rainwater...i'll continue to do so. Interesting thread, but way too long!


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Frank,

Rain water is best.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Sorry, BR, I didn't mean you were intentionally baiting, but the comparisons you made such as dressing up poodles in pink coats might not seem very respectful of organic believers.

Yes, we've had some interesting and heated discussions here on the subject, but most of the current participants accept the practicality of using a few choice chemicals to get fruit- especially those of us in humid conditions.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

For those interested in further reading, I recommend Dr. Carl Whitcomb's book on plants in containers. He pioneered much of what we now know about soil and water and growing plants. He believes that knowing the bicarbonate level in your water is critical, because the more you water your plants, the more the bicarbonates build up in the containers--or in your outdoor planting. I took his advice in irrigating my pawpaws. Based upon his recommendations, I add 6cc of sulfuric acid to 50 gallons of water. Horrors......yes, he advises the use of sulfuric acid found at your local auto parts store. I'm not looking to move the pH much--just cancel out the bicarbonates.

For those of you using rainwater off your roof......it can be a great idea, but be aware of your roof material before using the water. Part of my roof is copper, and after a rainstorm, the grass around my downspout gets very brown--nearly dies.

Marc


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I just went back to follow up on this thread and wanted to say thank you to all who participated in this topic.

My experiment yielded me having to mix 5 gallons of municipal water with just 2 tsp of sulfuric acid to effectively lower the PH from roughly 8.5PH down to about 4.7PH. I watered this solution throughout the summer and was rewarded with some berries on first year plants! Considering I had grown a plant previous to this in local soil with local watering techniques and never saw so much as a flower I'll take this as a step in the right direction. Anyway, this summer will be the true test as to the effectiveness of my concoction.

Once again I'd like to thank you all who participated and contributed to this topic. It is probably one of the best threads I have ever been involved in and I certainly think many of us learned a lot or at least had links and information made available to educate ourselves on the subject.

Happy gardening to all and hopefully spring will soon be here. (This darn snow needs to melt!)


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I just went back to follow up on this thread and wanted to say thank you to all who participated in this topic.

My experiment yielded me having to mix 5 gallons of municipal water with just 2 tsp of sulfuric acid to effectively lower the PH from roughly 8.5PH down to about 4.7PH. I watered this solution throughout the summer and was rewarded with some berries on first year plants! Considering I had grown a plant previous to this in local soil with local watering techniques and never saw so much as a flower I'll take this as a step in the right direction. Anyway, this summer will be the true test as to the effectiveness of my concoction.

Once again I'd like to thank you all who participated and contributed to this topic. It is probably one of the best threads I have ever been involved in and I certainly think many of us learned a lot or at least had links and information made available to educate ourselves on the subject.

Happy gardening to all and hopefully spring will soon be here. (This darn snow needs to melt!)


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Mr Pickle,

If you have not already pick up some Ammonium sulfate. Makes the BB grow like they are on steroids:)

Since you resurrected this old thread.....I have switched from using the 33% sulfuric acid to 93% sulfuric acid. Bought a 55 gallon drum of it in fact. Now all I have to use is 2/3 of a cup of acid to 300 gallons of water and that drum will literally last me 20 years.

In my opinion the 93% acid is safer to use than the 33%. The reason is while the 33% has the consistency of water the 93% is more like baby oil so does not splash as readily.

The stuff is bloody heavy......while a 55 gallon drum of water would weigh about 450 pounds the 55 gallon drum of sulfuric acid weighs 750 pounds. Even with a tractor with a front end loader it made me uneasy trying to get it on a stand. I ended up siphoning it in to 3 total barrels to make handling them easier. Used a shop vac to get the siphon started.

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Tue, Apr 9, 13 at 17:31


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I'm not a chemist, but a medical technologist, and I don't have a problem working with acid. It beats the HIV virus, the Herpes virus, and the Mycobacterium that causes TB, all of which I have often worked with. Not everybody here is blind to the dangers. Gardeners often work with very dangerous chemicals, and these guys posting in support of using acid are the first to warn you to be careful and follow the book. So yes, gardening even for the backyard gardener can be extremely dangerous.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

BR,
What's your bedrock consist of? I hope it's not limestone. I'm concerned leaching of the acids might undermine the stability and permanence of your operation. With all the sinkholes giving way it sure would suck to have the whole thing fall into a chasm.
Far -out acid man!


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Noogy,

The bedrock here is of course limerock.....and yes sinkholes are a problem all over Florida. I mulch heavily so not much of any acid makes it's way to the rock. Even if it did the amounts are so tiny it would make no difference. There are 1000's of acres of BB in Florida and most use the acid and have never heard of the BB farms being swallowed up yet:)


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Good! That would a terrible situation. I'm in s/w michigan, NHB blueberry central. We have good soil for growing, but deal with the same hard water issues too, with granulated sulfur. Good luck this year.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

Noogy,

I am from NW PA and the ground there was much better as was the water. Here it is just snow white sand that I dump many many truck loads of wood chips on a year. Luckily the chips are free, delivered and endless. BB season here is in full swing, already have 250 pounds or so in the freezer.


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RE: Self taught Chemistry lesson for making acidic water

I'm in SE Michigan and unlike the SW it is not NHB territory.Clay city here! I grow them in raised beds. They are just about ready to break bud! Oh water is 7.8 from the Detroit river, I use rainwater when possible (I got some at last yesterday!).


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