Ericaceous compost, what is it and how to use it?
Ericaceous compost quite simply is acidic compost for acidic loving plants. Some examples of plants you would need to grow in Ericaceous compost are Camellias, Rhododendrons, Cranberries, Blueberries, Hydrangea and Pieris.
Acid loving plants usually originate from areas of extensive pine forest. Due to the acidity of pine needles it has long been thought that the dropping of pine leaves creates an acidic soil. For year’s people owning private gardens have been weary of planting too many pine species in case it lowers the PH value of their soil. However it has been discovered that it is not the pine needles that turn the soil acidic. Even when the pine needles reach the ground by the time they have decomposed the remaining matter is more of a neutral PH.
Acidic soils are formed in pine forests due to lack of light reaching the forest floor this means soil ecology can become quite stagnant with decomposition happening very slowly within the soil. This process means water also permeates the ground at much slower pace creating boggy subsoil which releases and forms acidic elements in the soil.
It is important to note that it is extremely difficult to turn one area of your garden into and acidic area by simply adding Ericaceous compost to a trench. Over time soil live will move the soil around and water can leach the acidity away. The best option for growing acid loving plants in your garden is growing them in pots or at least raised beds of ericaceous compost.
If you wish to have a go at making your own ericaceous compost the process is the same as creating regular compost but you do not want to add anything alkaline to the mix especially lime. Historically lime has been added to compost to lower the PH for growing vegetables and creating an alkaline neutral soil which most plants prefer. Add acidic material such as oak leaves, bracken and chipped rhododendron shrubs to create acidic compost your camellias will love to grow in. Happy composting.