How to Measure and Adjust Your Soil’s pH Level

A major factor in determining whether a plant will thrive in your garden soil or not is your soil’s pH level. Each plant requires a different soil pH level to sustain and flourish. In the absence of compatible soil acidity or alkalinity, the plants fail to draw proper nutrients and eventually die.

The pH level of garden soil generally ranges from 5.5 to 8.0. If the number frequently varies, then you’ll need to adjust the pH level to make it more suitable for the plants to survive. Therefore, understanding the varying degree of soil acidity and alkalinity is necessary. To help you understand this concept, today’s post discusses how to measure and adjust your soil’s pH level.

Meaning of a Soil’s pH Level

The pH scale is used to measure the acidity and alkalinity of a substance. It ranges from 0 to 14 with a pH of 7 as the neutral point. If the pH is less than 7, then it’s acidic and if the pH is more than 7 its basic (alkaline). For example, when the pH level of a soil is 0, its purely acidic whereas when the pH level is 14, it’s purely alkaline (lye).

Measurement of a Soil’s pH Level

There are a number of ways to measure your soil’s pH level. But, the best one for your garden is a soil test kit. Follow these steps to test your garden soil.

Take one tablespoon of soil from the depth of 4 inches or 10 cm and put it in a bowl.

Pour some distilled water into the bowl and stir well so that water is mixed completely with the soil.

Dip litmus paper (test strip) into the mixture and leave it for 20 to 30 seconds.

After the time is up, lift the litmus paper and compare its colour to the ones available in the test kit’s key.

The colour will show the pH number of your soil.

You can check the colours that indicate the pH level of substance here.

If the pH level of your soil doesn’t fall into the normal range, then you have to adjust it. You may have to increase its acidity or alkalinity.

Increasing the Acidity

If you want to increase your soil’s acidity (lower the pH), then use elemental sulphur. Dig your garden soil up to the depth of 30 cm and add sulphur along with leaf mold for long-lasting treatment. After adding sulphur to your soil, within one month it will turn into sulphuric acid, thus increasing the acidity. However, it should not be applied in excess amounts or else it can cause severe damage.

The amount of elemental surface to be added depends on the soil texture. For example, if the soil is sandy, then mix 1.2 ounces per square yard. For all other types of soil, mix 3.6 ounces per square yard.

Other additions that can lower the pH level are wood chips, composted leaves, sawdust, peat moss and cottonseed meal.

Increasing the Alkalinity

To increase the alkalinity of your soil, use agricultural ground limestone. It is readily available at most garden-supply centres. First of, dig your soil up to 20-30 cm deep and spread limestone evenly. You can apply it by using a drop or rotary spreader. Like sulphur, you need to be careful with the quantity of limestone you put. Limit the amount of lime to 25 ounces per square yard for peaty soils, 12 ounces for clay soil, 8 ounces for loamy soils and 4 ounces for sandy soils.

Other additions that raise the pH level are bone meal, hardwood ash, crushed oyster shells and crushed marble.

It is important to determine your soil’s pH level to maintain a lush garden. Before raising or lowering the pH level, read the manufacturer’s recommendations on the limestone and sulphur packet. Take precautions while applying and plant only those shrubs, flowers or vegetables that are compatible with your garden’s soil.