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PostPosted: Sep 20th, '10, 15:54 
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Hey all,

Wondering if anyone has ever had any success using a wicking bed to grow a blueberry. The issue I see is that the blueberry likes acidic soil, so I'm not sure how this translates to the wicking medium.

I don't really want to have to make sure the water I'm pouring in is acidic each time I water it.


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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '10, 09:45 
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I'm more tempted to have an AP system that runs acidic, but I like the idea.

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '10, 15:05 
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How would you buffer a system that low though? Shell grit tends to buffer 6.8 - 7.4 ... I suppose it's all about balancing the surface area of shell grit to the load... which is tricky.


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PostPosted: Sep 22nd, '10, 02:00 
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Perhaps there are other natural substances that will buffer at that level, but I have not heard of them or they may be toxic. One may simply need to add a measured or calculated amt of an acidifying or alkalizing agent every day or week; after all, UVI adds potassium or calcium hydroxide, getting both neutralization and the addition of nutrients.

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PostPosted: Sep 22nd, '10, 05:58 
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Alum will lower pH. I would be real careful with it in a closed system.


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PostPosted: Sep 22nd, '10, 06:32 
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If one has a closed system with non-buffering media, the PH will tend to drop: one will need a base rather than an acid to keep PH from going too far down.

If one has buffering media (calcium carbonate in some form) it will try to buffer to about 8. One would need to carefully balance fish (ammonia>nitrate is acidifying) and the amt of buffering in the media.

I suppose the easiest thing to do might be to have a stainless of glass container of shell which the water runs through. One could add or subtract from the quantity of shell to keep the buffer about right rather than testing the system so often and dosing with more potent bases.

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PostPosted: Sep 22nd, '10, 07:36 
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gemmell wrote:
How would you buffer a system that low though?


Peat.

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PostPosted: Sep 22nd, '10, 12:12 
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php wrote:
gemmell wrote:
How would you buffer a system that low though?


Peat.


Aha. And of course it's a wicking medium isn't it?


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PostPosted: Sep 22nd, '10, 23:04 
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For a wicking bed, just make sure to mix lots of acidic stuff into the planting mix. Like I was told to mulch my dirt blueberries with oak leaves and pine straw and use the azalea fertilizer since it is formulated for acid loving plants. Of course I'm in a rainy climate so our soil naturally tends to be acidic. Probably the worst thing I do for the blueberries is provide them with drip irrigation from the well which is high pH and can make some plants unhappy if they are getting too much.

Remember if you are buying bagged potting mix for in the wicking beds, most potting mixes tend to have a relatively low pH due to already having a large amount of peat in them. It probably wouldn't take much to make blueberries happy in a deep wicking bed with plenty of organic matter breaking down in it. Try to use rain water or it instead of well water and all should be good.

As to an acidic AP system, that is probably more of a challenge. Now there is a media that tends to bring pH down, Maidenwell or I think there are a couple other brand names out there. Basically it is Diotomite (like the rock that diotomatious earth or fossil shell flower comes from) not to be confused with dolomite. Anyway, that stuff tends to bring pH down and it does provide lots of trace elements but beware it also provides quite a lot of zinc and without constant buffering, may kill trout. Trying to buffer such a system to keep it in the right range to keep the bacteria functional yet keep blueberries, strawberries and other acid lovers might be a real challenge. I think constant pH monitoring with an automated way to add buffered water to the system might be a useful tool for such a system so as not to let the pH drop too low and crash the bacteria. I know some systems can run at a lower pH that most of us are used to running but one needs to be able to monitor the pH closely if running at or below a pH of 6. And probably best to keep it more tightly controlled as I've noticed the ammonia spikes more with pH fluctuations below 6.5 than it does with similar amount of fluctuation when the system is running around 7.

Speeking of fluctuations and spikes, I need to go add more lime to my 300 gallon system since the pH just tested at about 6.1 last night and there was .5 ppm of ammonia.

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