So, You Have Alkaline Soil…

So you have alkaline soil… What next?

Throughout the Panhandle, a common problem that often arises is finding a way to raise soil pH. This is due to the fact that we often encounter sandy, acid soils in this region. An often overlooked issue is explaining the process of gardening in a soil that tends to be more alkaline in nature.

Soil pH is measured using a scale from 0 to 14. On this scale, a value of 7 is neutral, pH values less than 7 are acidic, and pH values greater than 7 are alkaline. Soil pH directly affects the growth and quality of many landscape plants. Extreme pH levels can prevent certain nutrients from being available to plants. Therefore, a high pH may make it difficult to grow certain plants.

Often alkaline soils occur in the home landscape as a result of calcium carbonate-rich building materials (i.e., concrete, stucco, etc.) that may have been left in the soil following construction. Soils that contain limestone, marl or seashells are also usually alkaline in nature. There are a few measures that can be taken in order to combat high pH. Incorporating soil amendments containing organic material is the most common method implemented to reverse alkalinity. Peat or sphagnum peat moss is generally acidic and will lower pH better than other organic materials. Adding elemental sulfur is another common practice. A soil test will need to be performed often in order to add the correct amount of sulfur to reach an optimal pH level.

Lowering the pH of strongly alkaline soils is much more difficult than raising it. Unfortunately, there is no way to permanently lower the pH of soils severely impacted by alkaline construction materials. In these circumstances, it may be best to select plants that are tolerant of high pH conditions to avoid chronic plant nutrition problems.

Some plants that will tolerate alkaline soils:

  • Shrubs

    • Glossy Abelia (Abelia Xgrandiflora)
    • Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus)
    • Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)
    • Burford Holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’)
    • Indian Hawthorne (Rhaphiolepis indica)
Firebush is wonderful butterfly attractant. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS.
Firebush is wonderful butterfly attractant. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Perennials

    • Larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum)
    • Pinks (Dianthus spp.)
    • Firebush (Hamelia patens)
    • Plumbago (Plumbago ariculata)
Zinnias come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS.
Zinnias come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Annuals

    • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
    • Zinnias (Zinnia spp.)
    • Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
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Posted: February 25, 2014


Category: Horticulture
Tags: Annuals, Garden Design, General Gardening, Native Plants, Ornamental Shrubs, Panhandle Gardening, Perennials, Soil


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Joseph Peluso
November 20, 2021

Good morning . Do you offer classes for Core training, and Ornamental & Turf at the IFAS facility in Davie , Florida? Any help would be greatly appreciated .

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October 5, 2021

Thanks a lot for the blog post.Much thanks again. Keep writing.

Molly Jameson

September 21, 2021

Hi Sara, Thank you for your comment! Edible ginger, Zingiber officinale, is not considered invasive and can be planted in the soil or in a pot. Here is more information, including additional links about ginger, how to grow it, and how to harvest the roots: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/vegetables/ginger.html Thank you and please let us know if you have any additional questions! Sincerely, -UF/IFAS Leon County Extension

Sara
September 20, 2021

Is edible ginger invasive or does it have a lot of spread (like Boston? ferns)? The ginger sprouted in a pot from buying a fresh organic root at the grocery store. Should I plant the ginger in my yard or keep it in a pot?

Paulette Henderson
July 31, 2021

Love this and thank you for all the information you have shared. Such a great idea! I have already started my brush pile and hopefully, others will do the same and keep costs down and give the small creatures a place to harbor as well.

Linda Manuel
April 27, 2021

Thank you for this helpful article! I’m just really getting started with roses & I've learned a lot from this. I want to say how excited I was when I saw your picture of Belinda’s Dream. I had purchased one at Antique Rose Emporium several years ago but lost the tag. As soon as I saw your picture I knew it was my rose’s name! I also purchased Julia Childs - and I have a Jaden Cross Rose from Jim Herbeson. My husband built me a raised bed, just for roses. Can’t wait till it’s full & beautiful!! Thanks again

Patricia Holt
April 5, 2021

I keep trying to grow Confederate Jasmin on a trellis on north wall of east facing ocean balcony. It gets some wind protection. The plant keeps dying from what I think is white fly. I grew this outside in Coral Gables without problems. Any suggestions?

Purnell Kagler
February 20, 2021

This blog was very helpful in that I'm new to the area from VA where tall fescue is king. Yard is primarily centipede; did some sodding last fall that died . Now I think I know why. Will get soil test conducted and perhaps go with St Augustine in the lightly shaded area, thanks.

bill keiser
October 7, 2020

It may be an urban legend, but I've heard that they irradiate or treat some ginger to prevent it from growing. I always look for fresh growth nubs on ginger if I'm looking for some for planting.

Molly Jameson
August 22, 2016

Hi Ann, Sorry for the confusion. What I meant to say is that while spinosad is safe in vegetable gardens, not all organic materials are safe. Rotenone and nicotine sulfate are examples of organic materials that are not safe in vegetable gardens. Does that help? -Molly Jameson

Stephanie
August 20, 2016

Must be in the same family as the cypress vine - it stinks too.

Ann Robinson
August 19, 2016

In paragraph six it states that spinosad is safe for use in vegetable gardens. And then in the same paragraph say it should not be used in a vegetable garden. I'm confused. Is it okay? I've tried everything. Digging it up. Boiling water. Cinnamon. Thanks, Ann

Dmytro
August 12, 2016

Great Article! Thank you. Dmytro

Sheryl Butler
August 3, 2016

This is the best organic way of dealing with waste. I started researching compost opportunities while ago. This is the future if we want to keep the planet's environment and resources, of course. I didn't know much about vermicomposting, only about the standard composting methods. I know most people are used to hire a company for their waste removal needs but it is good if they consider at least to try your composting method. Thank you, Sheryl

Shannon Brady
July 7, 2016

I believe that proper and regular garden waste clearance could significantly reduce the risk of your plants getting affected by fungus and bacteria. It doesn't require much effort and if you don't have the time to do this by yourself you could always hire professional rubbish removal service.

Thomas Duke
May 25, 2016

couple of comments.....(1) As an organic farmer, mushroom compost seemed a no-brainer addition to my yearly mulch pile. However, I stopped using it a couple of years ago because of an article discussing the chemicals the mushroom folks use to reduce certain diseases peculiar to mushroom. (2) I also used straw bales to boarder three sides of my yearly mulch/compost pile and then at the end of the year incorporated the rotted straw into the compost as a "plant-based manure." However, a couple of years ago I came to understand that since straw is generally not consumed when used as a bedding material, straw farmers liberally sprays their fields with herbicides to improve the straw's "purity" from weeds Again, concerned with residual chemicals I discontinued using straw. Results from (1) & (2) = my raised-bed garden with 100% organic growing medium (no dirt) has yielded healthier plants and better crop yield. Took two years, with each year showing improvement. CONCLUSION: carefully "vet" the origins/history of the ingredients that go into your compost so you can more closely realize that garden of your dreams!

Shari Farrell
April 27, 2016

I've been growing container veggies on my deck for years. Some don't do so well and others are astounding! Tomatoes never did well for me in-ground, but large pots on the deck are perfect. Green snap beans, banana peppers and salad greens too. what few pests found are easily disposed of and soil borne troubles are nil. I will never go back to any other system.

Mary Derrick
April 26, 2016

The best time to plant potatoes here is in January/February. Also, russet potatoes are more commonly grown in more northern climes and generally not grown in Florida. See our publication on potatoes: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HS/HS18300.pdf But you can give it a try and see what happens!

Matthew
April 25, 2016

Nice piece! Proud of the work of this great organization, a model for all of Florida and the country.

Matthew Orwat
April 21, 2016

http://pasco.ifas.ufl.edu/gardening/mulches.shtml This should explain the situation well. Thanks!

Stephanie Dickens
April 16, 2016

why is cypress mulch not recommended for use as mulch?

Lisa madine
April 11, 2016

My husband wants to plant a MICROWAVE Able potato. It is all ready wrapped in Plastic. It has roots growing out. We got it at Publix. It is called MICRO TATER Russet. Is it worth doing it. ?

(Rosalie) Lia
October 9, 2015

Wonderful article! Thank you! Makes me feel better about wanting to eat peanuts in ways besides the traditional Southern way which has too much salt.

LINDA MINOR
September 5, 2015

I live in the fountain area, and I know I will not have the lush green grass I had in Nebraska, I have problems in my yard I do not know what to do about. Yes I have lots of turkey oaks with white around them that seems to kill the tree after time. But my main concern is I will have a nice green patch of grass, but then the edges die. Sometimes a big circle will be there with just weeds growing in it. I also have a vine that goes underbeath the soil and kills plants I can get to grown. I also have a tree in my yard that almost has leaves like a mimosa but is bright orange in the fall. Can you heip. I do not know when to go to get answers for my questions

LIA OBREGON
August 28, 2015

Thank you so much for focusing on this important topic! Since moving to FL not as connected to local sources as was in NM. But I will continue to seek out local vendors, growers, farmers. I always grow things myself. Lia

RubbishBeGone
June 23, 2015

Food waste is a worldwide problem, but in the US it seems it is the most major issue, excluding hazardous waste... Recently many supermarkets began a program in which they use their waste to convert it into power and use that power. As a professional dealing with almost any kind of waste, household rubbish and house clearances in London, I can really say that now is the time to make innovations and start the change - to recycle more and to produce less waste.

Cody English
February 5, 2015

Great article!

Donna Legare
January 23, 2015

Excellent article Taylor - very important. Donna

Taylor Vandiver
August 12, 2014

Donna, Thank you for the information! I will definitely add it to my list. Taylor

Donna Legare
August 5, 2014

Hi Taylor You might want to add the native hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) and the herb rue to your list for larval plants for the giant swallowtail. Rue fits nicely in the butterfly garden and also is used by black swallowtails. Hoptree can be used outside of the garden since it makes a small tree or large shrub, doing well in a lightly shaded mixed border. Enjoyed the article. Donna Native Nurseries

Matthew Orwat
July 3, 2014

Sounds like you have a very nice wildflower garden!

Whitney Gray
July 3, 2014

Thanks, Taylor! Great info!

Lois Jones
July 3, 2014

About 15 years ago, I attended a slide-illustrated program at a Garden Club meeting. The Florida DOT's District 1 staff person for road-side wildflowers was the presentor. The Wildseed Co. of Fredericksburg, TX was recommended as source for our home landscapes. I have been planting this company's Southeastern US mix..and cosmos specialty seeds...ever since. I love to give small bouquets. I love to look at my beds in front and read of my home. In addition,my photo of coreopsis in a roadside ditch won "First Place" in photo contest! Lois Jones / Marianna since 2000; previously-Chipley

Faye Blanton
May 1, 2014

Great information! Thank you.

Sharon
May 1, 2014

Hello Taylor: Thanks for the diagnosis flow charts! I have a fruit and vegetable garden at home in addition to our landscaping, and what would be helpful is a couple of definitions, and some instructions what to do once we've diagnosed the problem. Hopefully at some point someone wrote an article about how best to do that, and perhaps you could add a link. With regard to definitions, what are mobile vs. immobile nutrients? I would think "necrotic" means something similar to yellowed or scorched, but since you used the latter terms in other places in the charts, does it mean something different? What does "chlorotic" mean? Thanks for any additional information you can provide. -- Sharon McAuliffe

Kenneth Smith
February 26, 2014

Thanks for the info, now are there sources for any of mentioned plants? I live in Eastpoint-Apalachicola, FL. I did have my sandy soil tested and it is very high-very sandy!

Donna Legare
January 22, 2014

nice article, Taylor - I'm looking forward to planting our potatoes soon.

Yahya
November 6, 2013

Worm composting like any other job, does require a lot of skills and patience...

Patricia
November 5, 2013

Thanks for sharing a great article on vermicomposting

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