Ask a Question forum: Elemental sulfur

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Skytrooper
Jul 5, 2016 4:51 AM CST
I have added to much sulfur to my garden. Is there anything that can be done now.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jul 5, 2016 7:32 AM CST
Welcome to NGA, @Skytrooper .

How much did you actually add, to how large of an area?
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Skytrooper
Jul 5, 2016 10:44 AM CST
Thanks for the reply. The area is approx. 2000 ft2. The local co-op told me 2lbs per 100 ft2. I was in a hurry the day i did it last spring and spread the whole 50 lb bag on it then roto tilled it in. I had some fine looking little plants that I had started inside. I planted them and they turned yellow and layed down within within a couple days. I was hammered on time and just figured that the season was over so went on. I was told that only time would settle out the sulfur, that bein' said tried again this spring and it hasn't killed the plants yet but they aren't kickin' off like they should. I got on this site looking for any and all advice on what I could do.
Thanks
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
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Leftwood
Jul 5, 2016 12:07 PM CST
Was the sulfur in powder, flake or granular form?
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Jul 5, 2016 4:41 PM CST
Were you adding the soil as an acidifier? (That's what I use it for, for growing blueberries.) You should probably check (or have checked) the pH of your soil, and then ask at the co-op (or your local extension service office) how much lime to add to counteract the acidity -- if that is actually the problem. Truthfully, it doesn't seem to me that you put all that much over the recommended amount on your area -- I wonder if something else could be going on with your plants? I would consider checking with the local extension service about having a soil test done and take it from there.
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Name: Andi
Pocono Mountains, PA (Zone 6a)
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GardenQuilts
Jul 5, 2016 10:49 PM CST
A soil pH tester is handy and inexpensive. .. about $10 at a big box hardware/garden store. I use mine a lot for houseplants and in the garden. Adjusting the pH has helped many ailing plants.

My soil is naturally acidic. Rhododendrum and Mountain Laurel grow wild here.

Skytrooper
Jul 6, 2016 6:12 AM CST
It was granular form. Yes i should have bought a ph tester at the big box. I'm here now, my question is what can be done to counteract the sulfur. Thank you

Skytrooper
Jul 6, 2016 6:23 AM CST
I did call the co-op and was told that there wasn't anything that could be done to counteract it. I'm not so sure about that. That is why i joined up on this forum. The garden has done great in years past. Other than bein' hardpan clay. When you know you don't know, just how much don't you know, you know.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Jul 6, 2016 7:34 AM CST
"my question is what can be done to counteract the sulfur."

What I'm wondering is, whether you actually need to counteract it. If your soil is actually too acidic now, you should be able to add agricultural lime to raise the pH. But, if you don't know what you're starting with, you have to no way to know what direction to go. It could well be that your plants just need a balanced fertilizer, or something else. The 50# that you added to 2000 sq ft isn't all that far off from the 40# that was recommended.
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Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Jul 6, 2016 11:33 AM CST
If you're starting out with clay soil, seems to me like adding some compost would be a good idea. Not sure how that would affect pH though.
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Name: Jean
Prairieville, LA (Zone 9a)
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Moonhowl
Jul 6, 2016 1:46 PM CST
This article may be of use to you. I would think that the yellowing problem may have been caused the first year by the sulfur sitting in the clay soil and blocking the absorption of nitrogen/nitrates. The sulfur in and of itself was slightly more than the recommended amount, but usually does not cause damage. The addition of good organic material would be beneficial.

http://www.spectrumanalytic.com/support/library/ff/S_Basics....
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Jul 6, 2016 6:48 PM CST
Skytrooper said:Thanks for the reply. The area is approx. 2000 ft2. The local co-op told me 2lbs per 100 ft2. I was in a hurry the day i did it last spring and spread the whole 50 lb bag on it then roto tilled it in. I had some fine looking little plants that I had started inside. I planted them and they turned yellow and layed down within within a couple days. I was hammered on time and just figured that the season was over so went on. I was told that only time would settle out the sulfur, that bein' said tried again this spring and it hasn't killed the plants yet but they aren't kickin' off like they should. I got on this site looking for any and all advice on what I could do.
Thanks


You spread and tilled it in last spring, and the plants were unhappy this summer? Was that "last spring, around 3 months ago"?

Or was it "LAST spring, around 15 months ago"?

Or did you put down 50 pounds LAST spring (15 months ago) plus another 40 or 50 pounds THIS spring?

I ask because it is supposed to take a lot of time (more than just one year) for elemental Sulfur to be converted by soil bacteria into sulfuric acid, which is the only way it can lower pH. (My guess is that Sulfur "pellets" are still finely ground Sulfur, just powder glued together somehow into granules. Thus I would expect it to break down almost as fast as finely powdered "flowers of Sulfur".

But not in just 3 months! Especially if your soil is heavy clay. Heavy clay is a good buffer for mineral ions and also pH. It takes around 3 times as much lime (or Sulfur) to change the pH of clay soil, as sandy soil.

So I would look for some other problem than just too much acid. If 40 pounds was an average dose for normal soil, I would expect clay soil to accept twice that much without getting TOO acid.

Assuming it was too basic to begin with.

If it was already acid enough, and you've added 1-2 doses of Sulfur, now it is TOO acid, and will be getting more acid for the next few years, as the soil bacteria convert S and H2O to H2SO4. Add lime.

But first, check the pH! If you have been fixing a problem that you don't have, you ARE creating other problems.




Skytrooper
Jul 7, 2016 4:28 AM CST
Thank you all for the replys. Rick it was last spring ( May 15 ). Weedwhacker adding the sulfur was the only thing it could be. That's the only thing that was different. I will take another sample to the co-op and see where the ph is at. I'll be back to let you all know what they say. Thanks again.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 7, 2016 1:04 PM CST
Thanks for coming back and letting us know.

>> I planted them and they turned yellow and layed down within within a couple days.

If the co-op can test for many things, they might find something surprising, like some minor nutrient that a pH change has made toxic, or possibly even some soil-borne root disease. If the pH is way too acid, they probably will suggest ag lime, and hopefully a dosage rate.
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Jul 7, 2016 2:19 PM CST
So you rototilled just as deeply in other years as in your problem year? And when you rototill, the soil was always just as wet and chunky as in your problem year?

Name: J.R. Baca
Pueblo West Co. ( High Dessert (Zone 6a)
josebaca
Jul 18, 2016 2:59 PM CST
Skytrooper;
Hello and WELCOME!! You seem as though you've been around the gardening block once or twice, so I'll TRY to throw out only the points I think need be made. You only put down appx. one half pound of sulfur extra per 100 sq. ft. You have hard pan clay ( which is notoriously high in P.H.) and even though you didn't mention what kind of plants you put in, I'm betting that they are more high P.H. tolerable than they are lower. Try planting tomatoes, peppers or potatoes ( all nightshades ) radishes, rhubarb or sweet potatoes.Speaking for myself, I wouldn't put lime down, that's like throwing good money after bad.
Keep in mind that each season is ALWAYS different from the last, so your problem may not be from any amendments you add or don't add. I don't know anyone who marks things like precip. levels, wind speed/direction, ambient air temp.and so on every single day of each growing season, just for next years harvest!
My advice is to enjoy the low P.H. because sooner than you realize it'll be back up. I don't know where or what zone you live in but I'm sure adding a S$#T ton of compost wouldn't hurt either!
Good Luck & Good Gardening! Crossing Fingers!

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