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Q: Do Strawberry Plants Need Acidic Soil?
On February 20, 2013, Becky asked:
I read somewhere that strawberries have to have acidic soil. i'm planning on putting some in the garden this year but don't have any experience with growing them. do strawberry plants need acidic soil? If so what do i need to do in order to help me grow a bunch of strawberries this year?
Answer to: Do Strawberry Plants Need Acidic Soil?
I'm glad you decided to take the plunge and plant some strawberry plants this year! Most strawberry varieties do need slightly acidic soil in order to produce optimally. If you don't know the pH of your soil, there are a lot of fairly inexpensive testing devices or kits available out there. You can either get one or call your local Extension agency to send and agent out to test it for you. After you've tested it (or had it tested), if the pH reading is near 7 (or higher), you would do well to amend the soil to lower the pH and, thus, increase the acidity. There are several things you can do to increase the acidity of your soil.
You can add coffee grounds to the soil. This can help slightly lower the pH. Also, in the “all-natural” realm, you can add citrus wastes like leftover orange juice or chopped up peels from lemons, limes, grapefruits, etc. Another easy and natural way to lower the pH is to mulch with pine needles. The needles will decompose and lower the pH as they do. This not only helps the plants, but it keeps the strawberries clean and decreases the likelihood of fungal/pathogen infection. Sphagnum peat will also add acidity as it breaks down, but the process is a slow one. Finally, another simple organic way to raise the soil acidity is to use diluted vinegar. Add some the next time you water, and the soil will usually show a pH drop when you next test it. Be careful to not do too much to lower the pH, though. You can make the soil inhospitable if the pH goes too low.
Other solutions can be utilized to acquire reduced alkalinity levels as well. Amending with ammonium sulfate will drop pH right away and increase the nitrogen levels. Granulated sulfur is also a suitable addition for increasing acidity, but it is also slower due to the fact that it has to be broken down by bacteria in the soil in order to lower pH. As with the more natural means mentioned above, it is important to carefully monitor the pH with the addition of these agents as well.
On an note different from increasing soil acidity, you may want to reconsider pushing your plants to grow a big harvest this year, if you plant in the spring. I'd recommend reviewing the material on the Growing Strawberries reference page to help you maximize your strawberry harvest for years to come. Good luck!
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