pH Levels in Garden Soil
Do you give your garden as much love and attention as your neighbor,
yet your garden is not as healthy and productive? Chances are, your soil
pH level may be out of balance. "pH" is a measure of your soil's acidity
or alkalinity. Each plant in your garden or yard, has an ideal range that
it will thrive in. This ideal range varies from plant to plant. If your garden
soil is outside of this ideal range, the vital nutrients and minerals your
plants need, may become "locked up", and the roots are unable to absorb them.
Sweet, sour, or bitter? Sweet garden soil is the mid range, or ideal
levels for most plants. Sour soils are acidic, with a low pH level. Some
plants prefer a slightly acidic soil. Bitter is used to describe alkaline
soils or high pH.
Why do nutrients get "locked up" in the soil? The mid range of the
pH scale is the optimal range for bacterial growth to promote decomposition,
a process that releases nutrients and minerals, making them available to
your plants. Mid range pH is also the ideal range for growth of microorganisms
that convert nitrogen in the air into a form that your plants can use. Outside
of the ideal range, both processes are increasingly inhibited.
Tip: Don't forget to check the soil pH for houseplants. The soil in
your pots and containers may not be ideal. "Ya never know....... until you
Testing your soil's pH (and nutrient levels, too) should be a routine
task for gardeners. It is also a fun task, if you test it yourself. Even
if your garden has been productive over the years, testing can be beneficial.
Soil ph can get out of balance for a number of reasons. Most often, using
inorganic fertilizers will make your soil more acidic over time. Adding
amendments to the soil can also alter your soil's pH. If you do not test
your soil occasionally, you are passing by the opportunity to maximize your
plants' potential in the size, health and quality of flowers, vegetables
More on Soil Testers
About Electronic Soil Testers
Find the ideal level for your favorite indoor and outdoor plants:
Raising and lowering pH:
If your soil is acidic, you will want to increase soil pH. Lime is most commonly
used. It is readily available in your local garden store.
To lower the pH of alkaline soils, compost and manures are the best materials
Changing your soil's pH takes time. It is best to work towards improving
your soil in the fall or early spring. Planting time is too late.
A soil tester, or meter, is invaluable to measure soil pH. If you don't have
this vital garden toy, err tool.
Compost, like garden soil, has a pH value that varies, depending upon what
you put into your composter. Learn
about compost pH.