Testing Soil pH: It’s Worth Doing

Ph Color Chart

Testing Soil pH: It’s Worth Doing

Testing soil pH – it’s important!

Do you know your garden soil pH?

Do you know whether you have acidic soil or alkaline soil?

You can find out without hiring the services of a soil testing lab.

It’s important to know your garden soil pH because different plants prefer different pH levels.

In fact, some plants are quite sensitive to soil pH – so much so that you’ll be wasting your time and effort in trying to grow them if your garden soil pH is out of their comfort zone.

If you don’t know the pH of your soil, it’s easy to find out by testing your soil pH yourself.

And if you find that you need to modify the pH of your soil?

Well, that’s a bit more difficult, but doable – at least to a certain extent. 

How to Test Your Soil pH

The easiest and most inexpensive method of testing soil pH is to buy a soil ph test kit (link opens to Amazon.com). They give reasonably reliable results, and are very easy to use.

Most soil ph test kits will consist of a container to mix soil and water in, and some drops or tablets. All you have to do is mix some soil with water in the container (the instructions will specify the amount of each), and add a tablet or the drops. Mix it thoroughly, and let it set for the specified amount of time.

TIP: For more accurate results, gather a bit of soil from several locations throughout your garden and mix them together. Also, be sure that you are testing soil pH before adding any fertilizers or amendments to the soil.

The soil solution will change to a color that you’ll match to a pH color chart to get the pH of your soil. 

Testing Soil pH: It’s Worth Doing

  Some soil pH test kits may use pH strips that will change colors when placed in the soil solution. The pH strips are also matched against the pH color chart to determine soil pH.

Soil pH meters (link opens to Amazon.com) are another method of testing soil pH. These soil ph testers have probes that you place in the soil (or the soil solution), and then read the pH from the meter. A very easy way to test soil pH, and probably more accurate than the pH test kits, but more expensive.

Another option is to send a soil sample off to a university or extension test lab.

Assuming that you gather and handle the soil sample properly, the results will be extremely accurate. And the soil test lab will give you lots of information in addition to the pH.

If you’re breaking ground on a new garden plot, it might be helpful to have the detailed soil analysis from a soil testing lab. They’ll usually offer recommendations for amending your soil to suit your purpose. 

What’s the Ideal Garden pH?

That depends specifically upon what you want to grow. For most plants, a range of 6.5 to 7.0 on the pH scale is good.

But for some plants, that pH range is well outside of their comfort zone. Blueberries, for example, thrive in soil with a pH of 4.5 – 5.0. Many other plants, though, would do very poorly at the pH levels that blueberries find comfy.

So if your garden soil tested in that ideal (for most plants) range of 6.5 – 7.0, and you wanted to grow blueberries, you’d need to modify your garden soil pH – a lot. 

Testing Soil pH Shouldn’t be ‘Once and Done’

After you’ve tested your soil, don’t just write your pH down somewhere for reference and then forget about it.

Because soil pH is something that is constantly in flux to some degree.

Of course, if you are making efforts to modify the pH of your garden soil, you’ll need to check the pH frequently to monitor the progress of your efforts. But even if your pH was just fine, and needed no modifications, you’ll still need to keep an eye on it.

Things such as fertilizer applications, additions of organic matter to the soil, and even rain can gradually alter the pH of your garden soil over time.

Testing soil pH is important to successful gardening. If you don’t test your soil, your soil might test both your patience and resolve with gardening results that are less than you’d hoped for. 

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