Garden Series: Prepare Your Garden Soils With pH Testing


We have not had a good gardening article for a while, so heres some easy advice for acidic or high alkaline soils, we see this a lot in the west. 

How to Correct Acidic Soil or Alkaline Soil

Balanced pH level of the soil plays a vital role in keeping a plant healthy. A too high level, either of acid or alkali, can curb the proper nutrient absorption of your plants, thus making your garden unable to grow.

Several common compounds are available if you want to lower or raise the pH range and give your soil a change of heart.

PH testing for the soil Alkaline Soil Grid

For your plants to grow successfully and create a lush green garden, especially when the garden is a new one, you should at first check over the pH level of the soil. There are 2 ways for pH testing:

  • Testing by yourself using some soil test gear available in any garden centers.· One of the most popular test kits is the best soil pH meter that helps you get the particularly exact result.
  • Sending a sample of the soil to an extension center or laboratory in your locality and letting the specialists there do the job.

If you want to have a home test for soil pH using a soil test gear, remember to take the soil sample of 4 inches deep. After breaking into pieces a tablespoon of soil, add the soil into some test tube then mix it with the reagent. It takes some time until the color changes. Finally, you compare this color with the pH range chart (coming with the test gear) for pH determination.

How to Raise the pH in Acidic Soil

Lime:Raising the Ph in the Soil using lime

As one of the most favored additive, limestone is widely used to raise pH level of the acidic soil and lower its acidity. There are a lot of limestone types for you to buy and use for your soil. Depending on what nutrients the soil lacks, you can choose the most suitable type of limestone:

  • Dolomitic limestone is rich in magnesium and calcium. Although magnesium is not one of the three most vital nutrients for soil (namely potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen), it is often tested in a soil laboratory. This nutrient is no less important than calcium in making a plant grow healthily. If your soil is tested to lack magnesium, you can have dolomitic limestone as a useful pH adjustor for the soil.

Tip: Depending on your soil type and the initial level of pH, you should choose an appropriate rate of limestone to add. You can make a decision on the right application rate based on the results as well as recommendations after soil testing.

  • Hydrated Lime: This lime solution contains water as well as quicklime. Thanks to the water, calcium hydroxide makes its way out of calcium carbonate. If you use hydrated lime as a soil additive, the pH level will quickly be altered, and the soil will soon turn more alkaline. However, you should control over the application rate since the improper application can lead to too alkaline soil.

Tip:  Take cautions when you use hydrated lime since this substance is highly corrosive and can cause skin burns. You should equip yourself with protective clothes, dust mask, gloves, goggles, and boots. Meanwhile, you can feel free to use pelletized or ground lime since using this substance is safer and simpler.

I highly recommend you to add lime deep down into the garden soil. This is because all lime additives work far better this way than when they stay only on the top. So, when you apply limestone to the garden, you should also combine it with fall watering and core aeration.

To get the best results, you can use drop spreaders (these machines are similar to what you use for applying fertilizer) to add lime to the soil. A drop spreader is not too expensive, and it works wonders for the lime to be spread more evenly. You can even have this machine on loan or rent it quite cheaply from some nurseries.

Otherwise, you can manually spread the limestone, but remember to wear gloves and be careful enough. Whether you do the spreading by machine or by hand, make sure the soil is worked well later on.

Wood Ash:  Using Wood Ash is common soil additive providing micronutirents to the soil

Wood ash is another common soil additive, providing your soul with micronutrients such as calcium, phosphate, boron, and potassium. Although ash from burned tree doesn’t work as effectively as lime, over the course of time, it can raise your soil’s pH level significantly. For that reason, you’d better keep close track of the soil quality after applying wood ash.

  • Avoid letting the wood ash expose to plant roots or growing seedlings since it causes them damages.
  • Wood ash does wonders for sandy soil.

To lower the acidity of your soil, you can try this organic method: sprinkling about 0.5 inch of ash from burned trees then adding it to the soil of around one-foot depth.

When going this way, you only need to apply small portions of ash for several years. Yet, it proves to work effectively not only as a soil additive but also a wonderful way for fireplace ash recycling.

How to Lower the pH in Alkaline Soil

Sulfur: Sulfur, or more exactly plain elemental sulfur, is inexpensive, safe for users and works well on top of the soil. No doubt, it is among the simplest and most widely used methods to raise the acidity level of your garden soil. Because this additive is quite slow-acting, you should only add a maximum proportion of 2 pounds per one hundred square feet each time.

Sphagnum Peat: As a wonderful organic soil additive, this sphagnum peat helps nourish the soil as well as increase its capacity to retain water. You just need to add a layer of 2 inches into the soil with at least one-foot depth. You probably need a tiller for larger areas.

Iron Sulfate &Aluminum Sulfate: These substances are both fast-acting; however, they carry damaging threats since the salts or elements added can accumulate in your soil. So, make sure to apply only five pounds per one hundred square feet at most.

Acidifying Fertilizer: You can add fertilizers with urea, ammonia (like ammonium nitrate) or amino acid content to increase the acidity level of your garden soil in the long run.

Mulches & Compost: When organic matter breaks down, it is inclined to lower the acidity of the soil. Regular use of organic compost and mulches will, over time, alter the soil pH to reach the desired acidity level. The easiest way to lower your soil pH is just to keep heaping on the rotten stuff. Mother nature sure is smart!

When organic matter decomposes, it usually has an acidifying effect on the soil. Using organic mulches as well as compost regularly will lower the pH level and make the soil more acidic over the course of time. The simplest way you can do to acidify the soil is keep piling up rotten stuff. There’s nobody smarter than Mother Nature!

All in all, gardens are more enjoyable when everything is growing right! For the sake of your plants, pick some up today.

Leslie J. Shearer is the founder and owner of the blog colorgardening.com. Gardening is her passion and she has a deep relationship with nature. Growing plants and digging deep to germinate flowers and vegetables brings positivity in her life.
Related Gardening:
The Essential Guide to Self-Sufficient Gardening
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About Karren Haller

I am a +60 Blogger that loves connecting with other women through blogging. A new recipe always intrigues, finding a new craft, creating bracelets occasionally and gardening is a favorite and writing brand reviews is a favorite for my readers. But most of all the connection to other bloggers. Creativity, simple life and getting things done

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