How to Test and Adjust Soil pH? – The DIY Guide
If you are planning to raise a garden then it’s important that you know the pH level of the soil. A working knowledge of the pH level of your garden soil will allow you choose the right plants, because plants require different levels of alkalinity to thrive. Once you know the soil pH, you can adjust it accordingly to suit your needs. There are a number of ways to test and adjust the pH of your soil – let’s go over a few of them:
Testing Soil pH
1. By using a Commercial Test Probe
2. By Using Paper Test Strips
pH reading using paper test strips is one of the oldest and most common ways of testing the pH of garden soil. Its popularity stems from the ease of using strips. Follow the outlined procedure below:
Adjusting Your Soil’s pH level
We’d like to emphasize that the right soil pH is important for the health of your plants. Optimum pH can dramatically improve the plant's ability to absorb nutrients. The first step to adjusting your garden soil’s pH is knowing what changes to make – either to increase acidity/lower the pH or increase alkalinity/increase the pH. To do this, there are a number of compounds you can add to make lasting changes and improvements.
By now, you should know your soil type. The type of soil you have can determine the kind of changes you employ to adjust the pH. A well-drained soil can be altered easily than compacted soils with lots of clay.
pH is defined as the level of acidity or alkalinity of the soil. A pH of 7 indicates neutrality while pH reading below 7 indicates acidity. Any reading above 7 is alkaline. For most plants and micro-organisms a pH between 6 to 7.30 is the most ideal condition. However, the type of plant you intend to grow will determine the right soil pH for it. If you are confused about this, do a little research online to find the various pH levels for garden plants.
How to increase soil pH?
Increasing soil PH improves the alkalinity of the soil. To do this, follow one of the methods below:
Adding a liming material
If you have tested your soil and found it to be too acidic, and a liming material to reduce the acidity or increase the alkalinity of the soil. Using compounds made from limestone or limes are the best way to reduce the acidity of the soil. Pay a visit to a local garden shop to buy these compounds. Lime comes in four variants that can be used depending on the amount of moisture in the soil:
Pulverized: Pulverized lime compounds are easier to absorb by the soil because of their finely grounded nature. However, they are harder to apply because they often clog the applicator.
Pelletized or granular lime compounds are easier to spread around the soil but not readily absorbed by the soil.
Only use hydrated lime compounds in highly acidic soils because they are a more water-soluble alternative to others.
Lastly, there are lime compounds that contain some micro-nutrients like dolomite. Dolomite is a source rich in calcium and magnesium so they ought to be used in soils deficient of these nutrients.
Read more: 17 Amazing DIY Drip Irrigation Systems
Using wood ashes
An inexpensive way of increasing the alkalinity of your soil is by using the ashes of burnt wood. Ashes of burnt wood not only reduce acidity but it’s also a source of calcium, boron, phosphate and potassium. Applying wood ash is not an immediate solution to the acidity of your soil rather it’s a gradual approach to reducing the acidity of your soil over time. Here are two pro tips for applying wood ash:
Applying the lime source
Follow these useful tips to apply the lime source for optimum results:
Decreasing soil PH or increasing acidity
To decrease soil PH or increase acidity follows one of the procedures below:
Make use of organic materials/matter
Over time organic matter such as compost or manure can slowly lower soil’s pH. Be warned though, that changing soil pH with organic matter can take years – only use this technique if you have long term gardening goals.
Consider sulfur application
Adding sulfur is another way to increase the acidity of soil by lowering the pH. Applying sulfur depends on some environmental factors like temperature, bacteria, and moisture. The unpredictability of these environmental conditions means it can take up to 8 months before notable changes occur. Here are some pro tips to sulfur application:
Try adding Aluminum Sulfate
The chemical reaction involving aluminum instantly makes the soil more acidic. Because of the instantaneous results, many gardeners prefer to use aluminum sulfate to organic matter. However, despite the positives it’s very easy to outshot soil requirements and potentially harms the plant.
You will still have to till the sulfur, organic matter and aluminum sulfate into the soil for best results. Remember to apply organic matter multiple times if you want to see substantial results.
Read more: 15 Amazing DIY Garden Hose Reel Plans