My friend Cerina came over the other day and showed Gigi and I a neat trick that we never heard of before. A quick and easy test for my garden soil to determine what pH level I am working with. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical that this test would produce a real viable outcome but as you can see in the video… It. Really. Works!
Soil pH: A measure of soils acidity or alkalinity
Getting a jump on my soils health is important to me. As a real garden newbie, there are so many obstacles that can defeat me, well I just want to do all things possible to get a leg up on my endeavors. In other words, while it would be nice for me to blame the seeds, weather, birds, authors who wrote the books I’ve read, water quality or anything I can get my hands on… the responsible party is me.
I have a camouflage thumb which means my abilities are hit and miss. I can grow carrots and radishes like nobodies business. In turn, I can kill broccoli and kale like nobodies business. Hence my green/brown thumb. This camo status has not drown my desire to get better at growing my veggies but hey, any opportunity to enhance my ability for success ~ well I’m all over it like peanut butter on jelly.
So how does this test help? Let’s understand a little about pH:
- If your soil tests at a pH level below 7: you have acidic soil
- If your soil tests at a pH level of 7 and above: you have alkaline soil
Typically, plants enjoy pH levels between 6.5 and 7. If you’re shooting for perfection 6.5 is where you want to be (see the chart above). However, some plants require higher or lower levels in order to really do well.
Let’s say the vegetable garden pH is too acidic. This means certain nutrients become less available, while other nutrients, can become toxic. Acidic pH levels are also unwelcoming to beneficial bacteria.
Opposingly, alkaline soils cut off the availability of good nutrients. Plants dependent on high levels of let’s say iron… perform poorly in alkaline soils. That is why it is useful to know if you are dealing with acidic soil or alkaline soil if you are really going to take your gardening efforts seriously.
This is a very basic explanation and soil pH can be quite complicated but I just want to do what I can to give my plants the best chance to grow without getting a degree in soil pH. There’s lots you can research on the internet and I will never be a soil expert so I’ll leave the scientific details to the scientists and we can continue on with our fun test! Here’s what you need to do:
A quick way to find out where your soils pH lies.
- 1 cup garden soil split this in half so you will have two 1/2 cups
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup vinegar
Be sure your samples are taken from the area you plan to plant in.
Using your first soil sample, pour in the vinegar. If the soil
begins to bubble and fizz then you have alkaline soil. Your soils pH
level is above 7.
If your first soil sample just sits there like a bump on a log,
take the second sample and pour in the half a cup of water and half a
cup of baking soil. If this soil sample bubbles then you have acidic
soil. Your soils pH level is below 7.
A caveat: You will not be able to achieve a specific pH level number using this test. Look at it as more of a guideline that can help you decide which plants would be best for your soil, or if you would like to amend your soil, what general balance you are working with to purchase corrective amendments.
It’s kinda like a cooking recipe in my house. Definitely a guideline to get things rolling but when it comes down to it I have to invest some time and my own knowingness to achieve the taste I want. Ummm, of course we aren’t tasting the soil and many of my analogies revolve around food… you just get me.
Here’s another bit of help for you. I compiled some of the more popular veggies, herbs and fruit trees to show their favorite pH number. You will see some items cover a few rows. That just means some veggies are comfortable in a wide range of pH levels. Click on the Veggie pH Happiness link below:
I know this is a lot of information so why don’t you just sit back and watch Cerina, Gigi and I conduct this test on my
crappy lovely garden soil!
I hope this bit of knowledge gets you started down the path of better soil. There’s lot to learn in the arena of soil amendment and I feel that starting with the best soil you can is a great way to begin a successful garden. Plus, it’s fun to have your friend come over and create a little science experiment!
Have you ever tested your soil for it’s pH?