November 24, 2012

Thoughts on PH, Water, Soil, and Tiger Trail

Update.... after researching in Robey's book, several horticultural botany books, etc...
I tested my water, again!

Last month, I ran about a dozen tests, on the various water sources I have such as city water, bottled water, distilled water, our well water, my mom's spring water, and the water from my rain barrels.  Simply:  all local water was slightly alkaline, and the bottled water was slightly acidic.  The distilled water was as close to neutral as my cheap-o test kit can show.
I tested my soil mix, using the distilled water, and running it through a small pot, then testing the saucer water.  It was slightly acidic, bordering a bit toward the worrisome.  But since my water was alkaline, and I have used this basic soil recipe (from the same bulk bags of peat, vermiculite, and perlite) for the past 18 months, and had no real problems, I decided to assume, as I have in the past, THAT ANY INCLINATION TOWARD ACIDIC SOIL WOULD BE COUNTERBALANCED BY THE ALKALINE WATER.
We got a small rainfall, and so I filled all 35 gallon jugs from the rain barrels... before the water froze solid!  :)
(I don't mind if they freeze, I simply bring them indoors during the winter and let them thaw in the tub!  Instant water! )

After noticing Tiger Trail's leaves were purple underneath, I took a closer look at all my violets.
I found:
  • bloom colors more intense generally, with some varieties/plants having blossoms more solid than normal
  • some plants had leaves that were a bit thinner than normal, with discoloration on leaf tips sometimes leading to dying leaf tips
  • 1/3 of the plants had leaves with pink/purple undersides (entire undersides were tinted purple)
  • general impression that oldest leaves beginning to look 'tired' or 'dusty'
  • center leaves a bit too tight and twisted (as I have seen with too much light)
OKAY:  I thought the plants with 'dying tips' may have been the ones that went through single digit temps to the houseplant class!  :(  They would be expected to have some side effects of a 'night on the town'!  :)
And they are all effected.... but I noticed several others that stayed home just beginning to show the same effect.  ????

As for the bloom colors, I have a different combination of light bulbs in my fixtures than usual.  I used one white and one cool for years, then switched to one GroLux and one cool in more recent years.  THIS FALL, I had problems finding any T12 tubes... finding only 'Kitchen/Bath' and 'Daylight', which I decided would be close to the original warm/cool combo.  The fine print on the tube packaging didn't quite match up the old combination, but I decided it was worth a try.  I DO KNOW that BULB TYPE/COLOR does make a difference in the appearance of an African violet bloom under the lights, and in the Grow to Show book, it was written that actual bloom color might be affected as well.????

I also added new BRIGHT light tubes... at least one to every fixture.  And to get as many plants in my space, I have three shelves arranged on my metal shelving units, so the fixtures are normal or closer than normal above my plants.  Maybe a bit too much light????

Reading about Acid vs Alkaline, I discovered that the micronutrients are used more easily at acidic conditions, and decreases the uptake of the three macronutrients. 

Looked at TT closely, and other violets and concluded I needed to do yet another water test!
I tested the water with fertilizer added, and found it was slightly on the acidic scale... today will do a 'runoff water' test with the plant most obviously showing signs.

CONCLUSION:  no real danger yet.... nothing that cannot be corrected.  May have to retest my tub of potting mix, just to see if it has changed after setting.  I did test it a day after mixing, and the 'rules' say to wait a few weeks!  :(   I will also retest my rain water... maybe the recent rainfall was more acidic.
I will use town water or some other more alkaline water, and I will alternate basic Neptune's Harvest fish fertilizer with plain water for a month.  Neptune's does not have added micronutrients... while my other brand of fish emulsion has added elements.
If my tub of potting mix is more acidic than normal, I will remix with new bags of peat, vermiculite and perlite.  I am near the bottom of them anyway, and will use this mix with spring's veggie/flower seedlings.
I will set the light timer to an hour less light.

P.S.  also sent for a  TDS meter... Total Dissolved Solids are in recent literature as having as much to do with plant growth as ph.
P.P.S.  will also set up our Berkley filter again.  We used it after the spring flood was so high and long lasting.  It will be interesting to see if the cheap ph and TDS tests show any real difference in our well water before and after filtering!!???

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