What You Need to Know About Soil pH
Posted on July 10 2018
When the time comes to design and plant your garden, you will need to know whether your soil is acidic or alkaline, as different plants thrive in various soils.
Maintaining the correct pH level for your plants will ensure that they intake essential minerals, absorb enough water and ultimately produce at their best. In this article, we'll show you how to figure out your soil pH and ways to correct it if it's not where you need it to be.
What is Soil pH?
Soil pH is a number that describes how acidic or alkaline your soil is. This number is represented on the pH scale as varying levels of acidity or alkalinity. On this scale:
- 7.0 is neutral.
- Below 7.0 is acidic.
- Above 7.0 is alkaline.
The optimum pH range for most plants is generally between 5.5 and 7.0 -- don't let this deter you if your soil is outside this range as many plants have learned to thrive at values not in this bracket.
Many chemical processes taking place in your soil depend on healthy pH levels, so it's critical to maintain them. This way your plants achieve their full yield potential.
Finding Out Your Soil's pH
To find out the pH of your soil you will need to test it. Testing your soil is relatively quick and easy – simple pH testing kits are available in most garden centers, or you can send it to a laboratory for a more accurate reading.
You should always select a sample representing your overall quality of soil, that is, a sample from a patch that has not been recently treated with any fertilizer or compost.
If you're unable to get your hands on a soil test kit, it's also possible to test your soil without one. All you will need is some vinegar and baking soda.
DIY Soil Test:
- Grab a shovel and scoop one cup of soil from different parts of your garden.
- Take two spoonfuls of soil from that container and place each spoonful into its own container.
- Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar onto the soil in one container. If the soil fizzes, you have alkaline soil.
- If the soil doesn't react to the vinegar, proceed to step 5.
- Add distilled water to the other container. You'll need enough to make the soil muddy.
- Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to this container. If the soil fizzes, you have acidic soil.
- If your soil does not react to either of tests then it is neutral with a pH of 7.
How Soil pH Affects Plant Health
Certain plant diseases such as club root and nutrient deficiencies are often associated with acidic or alkaline soil conditions and can often be fatal. Club root is treated by raising the soil pH by liming (treating with dolomite lime).
To Increase Soil pH
Apply a compound made from powdered limestone, or lime approximately two to three months before planting to give it time to take effect.
Dolomite lime raises pH levels as it is a micronutrient made of calcium and magnesium carbonates.
To Decrease Soil pH
Add organic matter, such as pine needles, compost or composted manure. Although, this will take a considerable period of time to act and is only really an option if you are keen to garden organically and have no time constraints.
Adding Sulfur is also an effective way to gradually reduce your soil's pH.
Or if your plants need an extra kick of iron in addition to lower pH levels, Ferrous Sulfate can get the job done.
Meanwhile, Ammonium Sulfate helps to reduce pH level by adding nitrogen and sulfate and is commonly used to help meet the nutritional requirement of growing plants.
We Can Help
When it comes to your soil's pH level, you shouldn't have to guess. Following the recommended steps above, will lead you down a path towards gardening success and a harvest to remember.
For more information on eco-friendly fertilizers that may help you to regulate the pH level of your soil, visit our website and browse our wide range of products.
- The 5 Fertilizers That Will Also Encourage Soil Health
- How to Easily Determine Your Soil Type
- How to Improve Soil Health With Soil Amendments