blue hydrangeas and coffee grounds

I planted a couple Nikko blue hydrangeas two years ago, but the flowers haven't been blue (they were more of a pinkish white). I watered them with an aluminum sulfate solution this spring and last fall to try to make the flowers blue this year. Now, I'm considering adding old coffee grounds to the soil -- Will this counteract the aluminum sulfate, or will it help to make the flowers blue?
Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
Suzanne
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You might be battling a high pH soil, in which case long term acidifying would mean laying down powdered aluminum sulphate (I like straight iron sulphate), along with an acidifying fertilizer like Espoma's Hollytone. The coffee grounds can only help.
Dave

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Ok Dave, since you've got yer stuff together on the fertilizers, I need to ask YOU a question.........my friend whose been in landscaping for years now (a couple of decades) has recently been fiddling around with mixing Ironite that Lowe's sells in granular form (a handful per container, or mixing soils and some ironite up with the soils and planting perennials). She convinced me to use it myself when I saw the massive improvement in the size and health of her plants in just a year. If I'm only using this in my perennials (the bag says NO BURN) why will they grow lush and larger? I have red clay soil and I've ammended with compost, worm soil, and cheap topsoil. I appreciate the trouble you're going to on this. I need to learn as much as possible, and before I start mixing massive amounts of soils and Ironite I need to make sure it won't have long term effects on my plants and possibly us. If it's safe, just let me know.... madgardener still learning about this whole thing

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In a response to a question concerning blue in hydrangea's, David J. Bockman so wisely remarked:
inmessage <
You might be battling a high pH soil, in which case long term acidifying would mean laying down powdered aluminum sulphate (I like straight iron sulphate), along with an acidifying fertilizer like Espoma's Hollytone.
The coffee grounds can only help.
"I planted a couple Nikko blue hydrangeas two years ago, but the flowers haven't been blue (they were more of a pinkish white). I watered them with an aluminum sulfate solution this spring and last fall to try to make the flowers blue this year. Now, I'm considering adding old coffee grounds to the soil -- Will this counteract the aluminum sulfate, or will it help to make the flowers blue?
Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
Suzanne "
Ok Dave, since you've got yer stuff together on the fertilizers, I need to ask YOU a question.........my friend whose been in landscaping for years now (a couple of decades) has recently been fiddling around with mixing Ironite that Lowe's sells in granular form (a handful per container, or mixing soils and some ironite up with the soils and planting perennials). She convinced me to use it myself when I saw the massive improvement in the size and health of her plants in just a year. If I'm only using this in my perennials (the bag says NO BURN) why will they grow lush and larger? I have red clay soil and I've ammended with compost, worm soil, and cheap topsoil.
I've done a search in my gardening books and nothing comes up on IRONITE. If you saw the results that Karol had with bareroot plants that were just 18 months old, you'd have converted to Ironite in the soil too. I appreciate the trouble you're going to on this. I need to learn as much as possible, and before I start mixing massive amounts of soils and Ironite I need to make sure it won't have long term effects on my plants and possibly us. If it's safe, just let me know.... madgardener still learning about this whole thing
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On Mon, 03 May 2004 23:47:51 -0400, madgardener wrote:

Sorry for steping in on this conversation, but I have at least two customers a year asking about ironite. I had to field so many questions on ironite that I researched it. My findings were a bit unsettling to say the least. Ironite is mine waste from the Iron King Mine in Arizona. http://www.envirolaw.org/poison.html
You can look up the metal contents here: http://agr.wa.gov/PestFert/Fertilizers/FertDB/Product1.asp
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In my part of the world there are many locals with blue hydrangeas whose neighbours just next door have all shades of red due to soil acidity and they swear its all due to the generous quantity of nails they put under when planting which have rusted. Red to blue, blue to red, this is a 'perennial problem' of trying to be different which we are all guilty of at one time or another. But one thing is for sure wherever we live, and whatever soil conditions nature provides its invariably more costly to go against her rather than with her. Regards Mike Gilmore www.winsfordwalledgarden.freeserve.co.uk

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THANKS!!! I've gone to the site and I'm appalled at this. I'm getting rid of my bag today.....NOW.

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I apologize for not getting back to you sooner, Maddy, but when you mentioned it to me, I remembered that one of my gardening friends said it was horrible stuff. That's why I earlier cautioned you against using it. We had company (not a good excuse) who consumed a lot of time. Sorry about that! :( This group really did an excellent job!
John
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http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/recycle/fertiliz/fert-fr.pdf
Federal Register / Vol. 67, No. 142 / Wednesday, July 24, 2002 / Rules and Regulations, pg. 15
"IV. Mining Wastes Used To Make Fertilizers
In the preamble to the proposed rule, EPA discussed and requested comment as to the regulatory status of certain fertilizers that are made from mining wastes which exhibit a hazardous characteristic (e.g., are toxic when tested according to the TCLP, cited earlier). One particular iron fertilizer product, which is widely marketed to consumers EPA continues to believe that concerns regarding exposure to arsenic in Ironite products are worthy of serious consideration, particularly since it is a widely marketed consumer product intended for use by home gardeners and others. As such, the potential for misuse and/or accidental exposure (especially to children) cannot be discounted. At the same time, however, we recognize that there are technical issues associated with estimating risks from exposure to contaminants in Ironite that merit further study before the Agency can reach any definitive conclusions as to the potential risks of the product. For example, there has been some controversy regarding the bio-availability of the arsenic and lead compounds in Ironite and Ironite-amended soils."
Dave

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I have a box of Ironite that I'm trying to figure out how to get rid of. I believe it has been banned for sale here in Minnesota for several years, but I bought it about 5 years ago before I knew what it was. There is no mention on the box about the heavy metals content.
The stuff is ground up mine tailings from a toxic waste site in Arizona. The arsenic and lead is probably bound up and not bioavailable, but if so, the iron is also bound up and not available. It's not worth taking a chance and contaminating ones soil with toxic heavy metals.
For that hydrangea or azalea, just use copperas (ferrous sulfate,) or sulfur, or a little aluminum sulfate as an acidifier. At least you know what's in them.
Best regards, Bob
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Generally speaking, increasing acidity to optimum levels for a particular plant will also allow for maximum nitrogen uptake. Clay soils in particular are notorious for locking up available N and are, of course, relatively high in pH.
If I were you, I would topdress, topdress, topdress with any organic material I could find. Grass clippings (thinly laid), shredded leaves, pine fines, shredded paper, compost..... anything. Simply topdressing over time will leave you with a rick dark organic loam down 10-14 inches. I'm not sure where you're located but it might be helpful to have a soil analysis done or consult a local soil map, from the Soil Conservation Service.
Dave

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In my part of the world there are many locals with blue hydrangeas whose neighbours just next door are like your description and they swear its all due to the generous quantity of nails they put under when planting which have rusted. Regards Mike Gilmore www.winsfordwalledgarden.freeserve.co.uk

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Maddy, you didn't ask me, but Ironite contains rather high levels of arsenic and you can get better results from using Greensand. It comes from NJ or TX, but my Lowes does sell it. The use of mulches and additional organic matter will give you much better results than if you took the fast road and used Ironite. I do not recommend it. It is polluting the local springs in Texas, so I imagine it's doing a number on all springs.

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