Garden Soil pH – Acid and Alkaline Effect on Plants

Your gardening experiences tell that it is not easy to maintain a garden. There are factors affecting the growth and well-being of plants. Among them are right location, the amount of sunlight, the type of soil and more other factors that determine the growing capability of your plants. Some gardeners overlook or are not aware of the big influence of soil pH on garden soil
What is garden soil pH?
The soil pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline is the garden soil. The range of pH is based on a 1 to 14 scale where the soil is acidic if the pH is less than 7 and it is alkaline when the pH is greater than 7. A measure of 7 indicates that the soil is neutral, neither alkaline nor acidic.
You have to know the pH of your soil because this will tell you what plant is suitable to your garden soil. The pH affects the level of nutrients in the soil thus it affects the health of growing plant. Plants need nitrogen and phosphorous. If the soil has a pH of 5.5, nitrogen is available in the soil. When the pH is between 6 and 7, phosphorous is available. The best pH reading of the soil is 6 to 7 because this is the type of soil that has the needed nutrients. Lacking in the needed nutrients, the plant will be susceptible to diseases.

How to find the pH of garden soil

Finding the pH level of soil is not a problem for gardeners as test kits are available in most garden shops. The kit consists of a test tube or a small container, testing solution and color chart. A sample of the soil is placed on the test tube or container, a few drops of the testing solution is added. The mixture is shaken to produce color that has to be compared to the provided color chart.
There are plants that grow well in alkaline soil and there are those that thrive best when planted in acidic soil. If you already have chosen a plant whose growth does not conform to the pH of your soil, you can still remedy your situation. You can change the pH of the soil.

Increasing the soil’s pH

If your soil is acidic and you need to make it alkaline for your chosen plant, make it alkaline by increasing the soil’s pH. What you have to do is simply add a form of lime, a compound consisting of calcium and magnesium. The required kind of lime may be agricultural limestone, hydrated lime or burnt lime. If the particles of your lime are small, the soil will quickly increase in pH thus making it alkaline. Since hydrated lime is the smallest particles and is easy to dissolve in water, it has a quicker effect. It can easily permeate into the acidic soil to make it alkaline. You have to know that the conversion from acidic to alkaline does not occur overnight. Making the soil turn alkaline will require 2 to 3 months.

Decreasing the soil’s pH

A lot of ornamental and fruit-bearing plants thrive better in acidic soil. This means that your soil must have a pH of less than 7. Decreasing the garden soil’s pH makes it acidic and suitable for these types of plants. Making your soil acidic is adding aluminum sulfate or sulfur. Aluminum sulfate reacts faster. Soon as it is dissolved and applied to the soil, the pH of the soil goes down to become acidic. However, the drawback is that the acidity is not long lasting so you will be required to reapply ammonium sulfate.
Although ammonium sulfate reacts faster, sulfur is better recommended. Sulfur makes the soil acidic through the help of the bacteria in the earth. The length of conversion time is longer and the length of time depends on the presence of bacteria, soil texture and moisture.
In deciding to start a garden, your first step is to determine the pH of the garden soil. This will let you know the suitability of the plant you intend to grow. Even if not suitable, you can change an acid soil into alkaline soil or vice versa through application of lime, ammonium sulfate or sulfur, depending on the desired conversion.