Advice to advice givers

I believe Scott’s forum is a fabulous new venue for North American Fruit Growers and foreseeably could expand to a world-wide forum.

At present, I wish to call your attention to novice fruit growers discovering the site. They will tend to take most any advice from what they perceive to be an accomplished grower as valid advice – whether or not it is valid for their local conditions. Further, when such advice fails they tend to believe it is their fault for being a lousy gardener and do not realize the number of parameters that differ between their home and the information source.

In particular, the pH and nutrient content of municipal water supplies vary greatly in the U.S. alone. In the northeast quadrant, water supplies (and rain water) tend to run from near ideal pH to serious acidity. Further, the soils tend to have some mineral fertility although many are bound in clays. Organic and granular fertilizer methods tend to work well. Further, there is a hard freeze every winter and relatively minimal pest control measures can control noxious pests. Ok, you might need a 14’ fence to keep the deer out!

But contrast this with the southwestern US where municipal water supplies have a pH range of 7 to 8.5 and have been purposely buffered with Calcium compounds. Just on the basis of pH alone fertigation is a necessity for serious fruit farmers. And not only is there Calcium in the water supply but also in the soils. Advising a novice to “loosen” their clay soils with gypsum is entirely the wrong idea because their clays are calcium-based. In southern California there is rarely a freeze and so organic pest control measures are generally inadequate for persons trying to produce a marketable crop. On top of that, there is relatively low humidity here so ripening times and lack of a worthwhile breba crop mark another difference.

Now have a gander into the southern US and farther where humidity plays a large role in ripening crops. Notice that fruiting plants native to the tropics or near-tropics have thicker skins (e.g. Mango, Citrus) which are beneficial in their indigenous environment, in contrast to say peaches which need specific cultivars for those areas so that they don’t rot off the branches before they are ripe.

And so on throughout regions of Canada, US, Mexico – and ever more so throughout the world.

Further, people here have a variety of backgrounds. If you disagree with a stated opinion there is no need to demand references or a pitched battle. No one here is your gratuitous researcher. Some of us have in the course of our enterprise studied numerous publications and will repeat what we have learned from them. Asking them to go back and dig out information from their studies 10,000 pages ago is really out of scope.

Finally, I’d like to point out that we are all very interested in growing fruit. It is the subject that binds us. Personally I have respect for everyone’s motivations and methods of application. It is near and dear to my heart. When I see a posting that might not be applicable to the more general public – particularly novices – I will point it out. But please, do not take it personally. It is my opinion about the subject and nothing about you!

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This is why I believe it is very important to indicate your geographical area when you make a post. Yes, there is a way for the reader to click on a couple controls to learn the poster’s zone, but the novice most likely won’t realize that. In some cases the date would be helpful, also. I really enjoy the photos, too. I will have to learn how to do that eventually.

Richard, I would say your area is the least relevant. hardly anybody I know has your conditions. Your multiple harvests just don’t happen in most places. So yeah location, location, location.
Also just a comment, any city water works that allows acidic water, needs to be replaced with competent people! I’m in the Midwest, my water is 7.8. I don’t know anybody with acidic water.
If you like to replace public pipes, maybe your buddy owns a business that does that, then use acidic water as you’ll need new pipes constantly!
My house was built in 69, it is totally copper pipes, run acid through that and my skin will turn green in a month.

“Live long and prosper” - Mr. Spock

My customers in the Nor’east consistantly report municipal water with pH 4.5 to 5.5.

Yup, growing conditions certainly can vary in many ways from area to another. They can even vary significantly within a small property. I’ve made it as easy as possible for anyone who clicks twice on my icon to pinpoint my location within a few miles.

Speaking of opinions, is where I disagree with what you’ve said here. There is a difference between outright saying that something is a personal opinion and declaring that something is a fact. Opinions can be based on personal experience, hearsay, something one recalls reading but doesn’t remember what reading to cite, a myth heard in childhood - whatever. They are simply opinions and may be valid to the circumstances, or not. However, when something is declared as fact, especially in an environment where one is placing oneself in a role of educating or aiding others, that declaration has little to no credibility when the author refuses to back it up.

I attempt, for the most part, to be a non-confrontational person, open to a variety of opinions, and realizing that there are often many appropriate means to a desired outcome, as well as inappropriate. I place credence to each person’s opinions and stated facts based on, in the case of a forum, their past reliability, and their ability to back up what they say. In my opinion, it is the right thing for people to ask for citations when something is stated as fact. If a person doesn’t want to back up their statement with evidence, then they should have said that they believed something to be true, instead of declaring it a fact.

That’s the way it is in my personal life. My kids are always sending me references and links to scientific papers. They’ve learned to back up what they say to me.


Hey, Drew. It’s been a year since I’ve tested my water, but it always ran between 6.0 and 6.2. Soil in my vicinity runs around 5.0. Pines, azaleas, and blueberries love it. It would make sense to me if people with well water had a somewhat different pH than municipal water in that area.

In my disciplines of study, a good portion of the sources are in textbooks which are not available online in any form and the majority of the remainder are available behind a pay wall. Further, the volume of material is significant. I have slowed down in recent years to 30-40 pages per day but I have colleagues who are still perusing over 100. Now if we are under a paid research project then asking us to be specific about a particular source is a reasonable request – but otherwise it is just a request for gratuity.

I take it for granted that if someone disagrees with me then they have good reason for doing so. Further, if they seriously wish to discuss the point they’ll bring there own references to the table. I welcome such discussions. However, on bulletin boards such as this I often encounter pitched battles between opposing opinions - each backed by non-reviewed sources with extremely biased agendas. In such cases I will avoid comment and move on.

Richard, you recently contradicted a statement about copper not being useful post infection for fire blight control made by one of the more experienced and knowledgeable growers here . You didn’t provide any back up support for this statement that clearly contradicts the information widely dispersed by credible university info sources. Someone following your advice about the use of copper post infection would seem to risk exactly what you are talking about here.

Now you offer no examples of “gurus” offering advice on (this?) forum that is only valid regionally. I think the experienced growers here frequently refer to the need to consider one’s region.

No informed gardener considers gypsum a cure all for sodic soils and I wonder why you mention this as common bad advice given in the context of this forum. The most active and experienced growers here tend to be myth busters not propagators.

Is this just a general beef you have about forums in the past and a suggestion based on those past experiences? If so, I heartily agree with you.

Incidentally, my growing career began in S. CA and now I’m in the northeast. Dealing with nutritional needs of the fruit trees I managed there was similar to here (my soil wasn’t sodic clay), but here we obviously have much more insect and disease pressure. This is also part of the “humid” region.



You must be on a well, because the PH in the Columbia water system is
8.3, and I’ve always had to adjust almost everything I do, especially for roses
because of that fact.
I have to agree with most of what Richard has posted, especially about referenced research results.
Having spent most of my life in the academic realm, where publish or perish is the standard, I have seen research paper after research paper, regardless of the subject matter result in pure drivel, that has very little basis to real world results. In fact most so called Master Gardeners only possess a general knowledge about gardening, with very little specialization in any area whatsoever. That’s why it’s so important for novices to seek out those of us who live in their part of the country and grow the same crops that they are trying to grow. They need to learn from the experiences of these people, instead of relying on some research report from another area or from someone who really has no practical knowledge of the subject matter. In other words, learn from their mistakes, and not from someone who is doing PHD research or publishing so he or she can keep their job, or from someone who lives in another area of the country.

Good idea. I updated my profile location detail.

My prescription is sunshine. :smile:

When I look at public forums in general, I do see some folks using them for gorilla marketing (haven’t seen much here). I do like the idea of forums with rules that require that signature lines require folks with business relationships to products disclose the relationships.

Other than that, I think the majority of posters are simply sharing the best they have to offer with others about a hobby they enjoy. The best cure for bad advice is good advice. Steel sharpens steel. Rather than admonishing posters about how to advise others, simply providing another viewpoint to the thread adds the requisite sunshine. Readers quickly learn from posting history how to weigh individual posters advice.

I love it when I see posts like: “That might work well in sandy soils, but with my heavy clay, I find that…” or “That may work well in your zone, but here in zone 5, the growing season is too short to…”.

As long as the critique focuses on the topic and not individuals, it benefits all of us as we share from various experience levels to form a community.


Off topic for this thread.

Ray, you just gave me one more thing to do on my end been at least 2 years since I tested it. Now I want to figure out why my results differed so much from yours. It was probably me, the method, or the supplies used. It might even be partially a matter of memory, but I don’t think I’d have that much of a gap in what I remember and the actuality. In any case, I’m going to want to figure it out because that much difference would affect many things I do. It’s not something I have time to do right now, but it will be on my To Do list. Thanks.

More on the off topic.

The water from our water district is very alkaline. Every year our water district sends out a report on our water quality. The report includes a long list of contaminates, minerals, and parameters tested. From the report, our water consistently runs between 9.3-9.5 pH. I’ve verified this with my own tester which was calibrated with known pH calibration tester packets.

According to the report from our water district, contaminates like barium, lead, arsenic, atrazine, etc. have what is called a maximum contaminate level (MCL). This is the maximum level allowed by the EPA. However, minerals and other parameters (i.e. magnesium, Chlorate, Odor-Threshold (T.O.N), pH, etc.) have no maximum level set by the EPA. Instead these parameters have a Federal recommended level. This means it’s the water district which ultimately decides the profile of the water in regards to these unregulated parameters.

According to the link below, the EPA recommends the pH of drinking water be between 6.5 and 8.5.

That said, I agree with Drew I would rather have slightly alkaline drinking water than acidic. I once lived in AR where we were on well water. The water was always blue when you first turned it on (from sitting in the copper pipes). I never tested the water, but I’m pretty sure the reason it was eating the pipes (and solder) was due to its acidity. Our skin never turned blue, but our bathtub would. The pipes were installed before lead solder was banned for plumbing potable water, so we probably drank more than our fair share of lead.

Our very alkaline water here doesn’t eat pipes, but does result in lots of scale inside the pipes, which clogs things up.