Long before George Washington cut down the cherry tree, cherries were part of the American diet. If you plan on planting a cherry tree, or have a tree that is not performing well, check the pH of the soil to ensure your plant will have the best possible growing conditions. Cherry trees grow best in well-drained soil with a pH level from 6.2 to 6.8 according to Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Cherry Tree Soil Testing
Check with your local cooperative extension agent as to the variability of the soil pH where you are anticipating planting your trees. Your soil may be acidic, neutral or basic. The pH (potential Hydrogen) scale measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is with numbers ranging from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 the most basic.
Perform composite soil tests on the property at several locations and depths. If your pH level is too low, your soil may be too acidic and your cherry tree could die. A 1995 Michigan State University study on the effect of low soil pH on cherry trees in 250 orchards showed that cherry seedlings planted in soil with a pH below 4.7 died within four weeks.
Adjusting Soil pH
Soil tests will tell you if it is lower than a pH of 6.0. Add lime to sweeten the soil to the optimum of a pH of 6.4. If it is neutral at a pH of 7.0 or higher than a pH of 6.4, then you will need to add more acidic material to bring the pH down. An extension agent can tell to how much in pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Adding the pH Adjuster to the Soil
You need to add the necessary pH adjuster uniformly via a lawn spreader. Many spreaders have adjustments that allow you to feed your material at the proper rate. If you decide to do it by hand broadcasting, you may wish to have additional soil analyses run to check your newly established pH. In either case, mix well by hand or a rototiller to provide a uniform soil condition,
Check Soil pH When Planting Your Trees
After you have added nutrients, soil conditioners, and watered the new plant in well, another soil pH at root level from several locations is a good idea to ascertain if your adjusted soil is indeed slightly acidic. You must determine how far away from your goal of a pH of 6.4 you have achieved. A colour-change pH kit or a small pH meter for a nominal price at your local gardening supply house will give you quick readings of pH.
Annual Adjustments to Soil PH
The pH of soil around a cherry tree may change over time. Leaves falling or blowing on your cherry trees may cause changes, for instance. Oak leaves are high in tanic acid and can lower soil PH. Your dog may find the new cherry tree perfect for his property markings. How much fertiliser are you adding? A pH reading is reassuring at least for all the costs of the trees and fertilisers, not to mention your preparation work.