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Soil pH Simplified

Checking_Soil_pHIf your thermometer says you that you have a temperature of 101F, you don't need to have studied immunology to know it's time to take an aspirin. Likewise, if a pH test says that your soil's pH is 5.2, you don't need to have studied plant science to know that it's time to add lime.

Any reading below 6 means your soil is acidic. The lower the number, the more acidic it is. Adding lime will correct this problem.

Any reading above 7 means that your soil is alkaline (sweet). The higher the number, the more alkaline it is. Adding sulfur will correct this problem.

And that, right there, is most of what you need to know about pH. Read on to learn the rest.

Planting to Match Your Soil's pH

Different plants have different pH preferences. Though most of them like a pH between 6 and 7, there are a number of acid-loving plants, and also a few alkaline-loving plants.

So, before you plant anything, do a quick test of your soil's pH and write down the test results. Then put that away, and make a list of the plants you want to grow.

Next, take a look at the Old Farmer's Almanac to find out the ideal pH range for those plants you want to grow. Does your soil pH fall within the ideal pH range of those plants?

If so, you're in luck.

If not, you have two options:

  1. Substitute other plants that will do well in the pH of your soil.
  2. Modify the pH of your soil to accommodate your preferred plants. As we said earlier: Add lime if your soil is too acidic. Add sulfur if your soil is too alkaline.

Learning More

For additional information about how to make your soil less acidic, read Strengthen Your Soil with Agricultural Limestone.

For additional information about how to make your soil less alkaline, read Acidifying Soil.

To learn more about pH, read Understanding pH.

To learn more about soil testing and how to improve your soil, read our three-part GHS Guide to Soil and Soil Testing.

Parting Advice

Soil testing has become extremely cheap and easy to do. Running a soil test is the single most important step you can take to ensure the success of your gardenprovided you know what to do with the test results. We're here to help. Please email us or call us at 888-907-4769 if you have any questions.

Happy Gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

One Response to “Soil pH Simplified”

  1. David Laderoute says:

    An excellent (and quick read) overview of the importance and general aspects of soil pH. Where I live in NW MO we deal with alkaline soil, so I often have to make it more acidic. Many people in this neck of the woods do not have a clue about pH and wonder why their Rhododendrons don’t grow well. 🙂 Aside from not enough acidity, they typically grow them in the wrong places – far too much sun.

    Previously, I lived in New England where our challenge with pH was increasing the alkalinity.

    In my experience, even areas in you own garden can lean one way or the other. For example, an open area particularly that has some fill under it may be alkaline. Move over to a forested area and it may be much more acidic.

    The lesson to learn is to CHECK. Small test strips or even meters these days are quite inexpensive.

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