Keep Getting Back to Base

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A bit of crowdsourcing here: GM is curious to know if other gardeners around Georgetown have found the dirt here to be unusually alkaline?

GM likes to garden in his modest little backyard. One thing he particularly like to grow are hydrangea. And he especially likes to grow perfectly blue hydrangea flowers.

As you may or may not know, hydrangea flowers derive their color from the acidity in the soil. If the soil is acidic, the flowers turn blue. If the soil is base or alkaline the flowers turn pink. You can buy soil additives to nudge the acidity one way or the other.

GM has bought and used additives to add acidity (i.e. to turn the flowers blue). It works for a bit, but unless GM keeps adding a ton of the additive, the flowers seem to eventually turn pink.

And walking around Georgetown, GM can’t help but notice that most hydrangea bushes he sees are mostly pink colored. Maybe it’s just a common preference, but it has GM wondering: is the soil around here just naturally alkaline? Any gardeners want to weigh in?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Keep Getting Back to Base

  1. kerlin4321

    Yes, we have alkaline soil for the most part. That makes it also hard to grow rhododendrons. To acidify the soil ahead of planting, dig out a hole at least three times the width and depth of your root ball, line it, and fill it with rhododendron soil mixed with sphagnum peat moss and compost. Fertilize periodically with rhododendron fertilizer. Once the root system is well established, dig as large a trench as possible around the roots every year or two and fill with acidic soil. For shallow root plants like blueberries, you can replant every year or two in fresh soil. Mulching with peat and pine needles also helps. Avoid hardwood mulches as they increase soil alkalinity when they break down.

  2. What a fun post. I sympathize. When we moved in to our house, our hydrangea flowers were green = no soil nutrition whatsoever. I loved the color! However, an over-zealous gardener fertilized them despite instructions otherwise. (Why did we have a gardener for our handkerchief-sized patio? Don’t know.) And now that we’ve been around awhile and the fertilizer has been used or gone wherever fertilizer goes (the Potomac??), ours are pink, lavender and purple. Hopefully headed toward green.

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