Many people do not realize just how important the PH level of your soil is. When the PH level is too high or too low your plants can struggle to get the nutrition they need leaving you with sick and dying plants. By testing and adjusting your soil PH level you can prevent your soil from becoming baren and help your garden reach its full potential.
Why would you want to adjust your soil PH levels?
If you are starting a new garden bed directly in your soil you will want to know the quality of soil you are working with. If your plants are struggling to grow or showing signs of disease you will want to consider amending your soil to help keep your plants healthy and strong or fix issues they’re already having. you should also test soil after planting a heavy feeding crop like potatoes that can leave soil depleted so you can find the soil before adding something new.
How to check your soils PH level
You can test your soil at home easily. During your school years, you probably remember testing the acidity of different liquids with litmus paper or even red cabbage juice. Testing your soil follows the same basic principle. If your soil needs to be amended, it will help you get the best results from your garden.
Using test strips
Test strips can be used to check the acidity of soil by hand relatively easily. Label the container with the garden bed that the soil came from if you are testing multiple beds at once. After you have taken a teaspoon sample. Take all of your soil samples and add 1/4 cup of water to the string until the soil settles back down.
To determine if you need to adjust the soil to help your plants thrive, dip your test trips into the soil and compare the color they turn to the key provided on the package.
Using a digital soil testing tool
Technology makes soil testing easier than ever, so even those that struggle to keep plants alive can have a beautiful, thriving garden. Stick the tool into the soil you want to test and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. The PH meter will tell you the PH level of your soil and even if your plants need more water or sunlight, making it a great tool to use year-round if you struggle to keep indoor plants alive.
How to lower the PH of your soil
If the soil PH is high your plants need more acid to move nutrients and thrive. Many people confuse this and think that a high PH has too much acid so be mindful of this confusion when deciding how to amend your garden soil.
The plants cannot absorb nutrients if the soil is not acidic enough. Weak plants are more likely to succumb to daisies and mold issues and even die. All plants need some acid, but tomatoes and blueberries do best in soil with a lot of acid. There are a few things you can do to make your soil more acidic.
Add fresh compost.
Fresh compost has a high nitrogen content and is very rich in nutrients. Increase the acidity of soil that just needs a small boost, such as when you till it into your soil at the beginning of the season.
Mulch with pine needles.
Planting pine needles around plants like blueberries will ensure that they have enough acid to thrive. With time, the pine needles will break down, helping to stabilize the soil’s acidity levels. This is one of the best ways to increase your yield from blueberry plants.
Add sulfur to your soil.
You can raise the acidity of your soil quickly by sprinkling sulfur on top of the soil and then watering it. Alternatively, you can mix it in at the beginning of the season if you find the issue before you plant.
Add coffee grounds.
To increase the acidity in your soil and to reduce waste, place your used coffee grounds in your garden to increase the acidity and nourish your plants. If you do not drink enough coffee for this ask friends and family to save coffee grounds for you. Some coffee shops will even offer these for you to use.
How to reduce the raise the PH of your soil
If your soil has a low pH, you need to work on reducing the acidity and adding calcium to your soil. Acidic soil can quickly kill your plants. While acid is necessary to transfer nutrients to your plants, if there is too much acid and nothing else they need, they will be vulnerable to disease, have stunted growth, or die. You can lower the acidity of your soil and encourage your plants to grow tall and strong by doing a few things.
The fastest way to reduce soil acidity and provide your plants with the calcium they need is to add lime to your soil. The finely ground particles can be mixed into your soil before planting, or sprinkled on top to allow water to carry them into your plants.
If you have a wood-burning stove or a fire pit that you use to burn only real wood, then you can use the wood ash to raise your soil’s PH. This is why we save our wood ash when we empty the fire pit to use in our garden. Making use of waste you would normally throw away and repurposing it for your garden makes this an excellent long-term solution for reducing waste in your garden.
Eggshells are useful for your garden. You can add eggshells to your compost, break them up into chunks to get rid of slugs and snails in your garden, or powder them to raise the calcium levels in your soil. It takes time for these to break down, but they will do so much faster if you roast them in the oven, then powder them in a coffee grinder.
You can lower the acidity of your soil by simply sprinkling some powdered milk in your garden. The mix will quickly absorb into the soil where your plants can put them to work as soon as your garden is ready. Do not use spoiled milk from your refrigerator. The problem with this is that it tends to be a bit more acidic than calcium and raises the acidity of your garden soil.