Balance your soil's pH level for a healthy garden

February 29, 2016

You water your plants regularly. You add fertilizer. And yet, something is still wrong. Your plants need help. Have you considered the level of acidity or alkalinity in the soil? Here are some ideas for your consideration to maintain healthy pH levels in your garden soil.

Balance your soil's pH level for a healthy garden

Soil pH level

  • To find out the level of acidity or alkalinity in the soil, you can buy a pH test kit (there are also electronic testers fitted with a probe) from garden centres, by mail order or online.
  • From zero to seven, the soil is acidic; at seven, they are neutral; and from seven to 14, they are basic or alkaline.
  • For a complete analysis of your soil, take samples from different parts of the garden.
  • From five to seven, the pH is considered acceptable; most plants prefer a slightly acidic soil at value of 6.5. There are exceptions of course: lavender, for example, prefers the alkaline limestone soils of the Mediterranean, whereas blueberry, rhododendron and azalea prefer acidic soils.

Measuring the acidity of the soil with a pH test kit

To find out if your soil is acid, alkaline or neutral, you can measure its pH level with a simple test kit. Avoid touching the soil samples with your fingers, because the pH of your skin could alter the final result. Take samples from different parts of your garden to get complete picture of soil quality.

  1. Following the kit instructions, crush a small sample of soil and insert it into the tube, adding the product supplied. Shake vigorously and leave to rest.
  2. Compare the colour of the liquid to that of the pH chart. A green shade indicates an alkaline soil.
  3. Yellow denotes a slightly acidic soil.
  4. Ochre corresponds to a neutral soil.

Balancing the pH

  • A soil with a pH outside of the normal range (five to seven) may be toxic to your plants, either due to lack of nutrients, or over-absorption of the same.
  • If you notice signs of deficiency in your plants having given them the correct amount of fertilizer, remember to check the pH of your soil. If it is too acidic, re-balance by adding lime (calcium oxide), which can also help improve the structure of clay soils.
  • If your soil is loamy and lacking in magnesium, correct it with dolomite (calcium magnesium carbonate).
  • If it is too alkaline-rich, use sulfur or iron sulfate.

Remember to check the soil's pH regularly because annual adjustments are sometimes useful.

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