How to Balance pH for Mountain Ash Plants

To maintain the optimal growth and health of mountain ash plants, it’s crucial to ensure the soil pH is within the ideal range of 5.5 to 6.5. This slightly acidic to neutral pH level provides the perfect environment for mountain ash to thrive. If the soil is too alkaline, you can use a combination of wood ash and elemental sulfur to lower the pH and balance the soil.

Determining the Soil pH

The first step in balancing the pH for your mountain ash plant is to test the soil. You can purchase a soil pH test kit or meter from a garden center or online retailer. Follow the instructions provided with the test kit to accurately measure the pH level of your soil.

Calculating the Amendments

mountain ashImage source: Pixabay

If your soil pH test reveals a reading above 6.5, you’ll need to add amendments to lower the pH. The amount of wood ash and elemental sulfur required will depend on the current pH level and the desired target pH.

As a general guideline, for every gallon of wood ash you apply, you should also add about half a cup of elemental sulfur. This will help counteract the pH-raising effect of the wood ash.

Here’s a table to help you determine the appropriate amounts of wood ash and sulfur based on your soil’s pH level:

Soil pH Wood Ash (per sq ft) Elemental Sulfur (per sq ft)
6.5 – 7.0 1/4 cup 2 tbsp
7.1 – 7.5 1/2 cup 1/4 cup
7.6 – 8.0 3/4 cup 1/3 cup
8.1 – 8.5 1 cup 1/2 cup
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Applying the Amendments

Once you’ve determined the appropriate amounts of wood ash and elemental sulfur, it’s time to apply them to the soil around your mountain ash plant.

  1. Spread the wood ash evenly over the soil, covering an area that’s twice as wide as the tree’s drip line (the edge of its canopy).
  2. Sprinkle the elemental sulfur over the same area, ensuring it’s distributed evenly.
  3. Use a garden rake or cultivator to gently mix the amendments into the top 2-3 inches of soil.
  4. Water the soil thoroughly to help the amendments dissolve and integrate into the soil.

Monitoring and Adjusting

mountain ash 2Image source: Pixabay

After applying the wood ash and sulfur, wait a few weeks and then retest the soil pH. If the reading is still outside the desired range of 5.5 to 6.5, you may need to adjust the amounts of amendments accordingly.

If the pH is still too high, add more elemental sulfur. If the pH is too low, consider adding a small amount of wood ash to raise it.

Remember to wear gloves and a mask when handling wood ash and sulfur to avoid skin and respiratory irritation.

Maintaining Optimal Soil pH

To maintain the ideal pH range for your mountain ash plant, you may need to reapply the wood ash and sulfur amendments periodically, especially if you notice signs of nutrient deficiencies or poor growth.

It’s also important to water the plant regularly, as the soil moisture can affect the pH level. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.

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By following these steps and regularly monitoring the soil pH, you can ensure your mountain ash plant thrives in the perfect growing environment.

References:
Sequoia Valley Farms – Mountain Ash
YouTube – How to Lower Soil pH
University of Maine Extension – Soil Acidity and Liming