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A Gardener’s Guide to Soil pH

Hands Holding Soil ready to be tested for soil pH
Balance your soil’s pH for amazing gardening results!

Having trouble growing healthy plants?

Before you attempt to bring you plants to life by over watering or fertilizing them, you should test the soil pH. In fact, all gardeners should test the soil pH before planting to avoid disaster. Testing your soil pH is quite easy. There are many inexpensive testers available. In this article, we provide you the information needed to get your soil’s pH under control.

Soil pH Basics

The pH of soil is a measurement of the amount of lime in the soil and the type of soil. Soil pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14; 0 being acidic and 14 being alkaline. A measurement of 7 is considered neutral or balanced, which is optimal for many plants. However, some plants prefer a slightly more acidic soil of 5-6. When amending your soil’s pH you will want to match the pH level to the needs of your plants. That being said, if a soil’s pH is below 5 or above 7 it is considered toxic for most plants.

Causes for Acidic or Alkaline Soil

In general, soils in dry sandy climates are more alkaline and soils in moist climates are more acidic. Rainfall in these moist climates causes soil to be more acidic by washing away natural calcium and magnesium. The type of rock which makes up the soil also determines its pH. For instance, if there is a lot of lime in the ground in your area you will have more alkaline soil. In addition to natural causes, certain can make soil more acidic.

How to Raise the pH of Acidic Soil

Slow and steady wins the race when raising soil pH. If you go too fast you risk killing healthy organisms in the soil, which are essential for healthy plant growth. You should to raise the soil pH by no more than 1 point each season and continue to test your soil each year. The level of acid is lowered in soil by adding lime. Follow the directions on the bag of lime you purchase to determine how much you should add to your soil.

How to Lower pH of Alkaline Soil

It is quite a bit more difficult to adjust overly alkaline soil than it is to lower acidity in soil. If you are planting a small to moderately sized garden and you have alkaline soil, your best option may be to use raised garden beds. In these beds you can use high quality soil, instead of the alkaline ground dirt. If raised beds are not possible, sulphur can be used to lower the alkalinity in soil. The sulphur will need to be mixed thoroughly into the soil before planting. Sawdust, wood chips, leaf mold and peat moss can also be added to soil to lower pH. These may work best in conjunction with sulphur, especially if the soil is very alkaline.

Balancing the Soil

The use of compost is highly recommended as a buffering agent to stabilize the pH in soil. In soil, the rich organic material of compost works well in keeping your soil pH from fluctuating dangerously, causing stress for your plants. Compost can be gathered in a compost bin or bought in the form of processed manure.

There are many reasons a garden might not thrive; be sure to not let pH be one of those reasons. We hope this article will help you establish balanced soil which will allow your plants to grow healthy and strong.

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