Keeping Plants Healthy Through
Soil pH Testing

Jun 21, 2023

Plants play a crucial role in gardens. Aside from the aesthetics they bring, they also contribute to oxygen production, habitat creation, and the pollination process. Plants also mitigate some environmental issues, including absorbing rainwater and reducing runoff and the risk of flooding. Furthermore, gardens with plants have positive effects on an individual’s mental health and well-being.

To keep plants healthy, it is important to make sure that the soil’s chemical pH level is correct. Let’s learn more about what a chemical pH level is in soil.

What is a Soil pH?

Soil pH is defined as the measure of the soil’s level of acidity or alkalinity. It influences myriads of soil chemical, biological, and physical properties and processes which affect plant growth and biomass yield. 

Soils usually have a pH value between 3.5 and 10. The natural pH of soils usually ranges from 5 to 7 in higher rainfall areas while 6.5 to 9 in drier areas. A pH level below seven is considered acidic while above seven is considered alkaline.

Soil pH is measured on a 14-point number system. Every unit on the number system is 10 times the next value on the scale. For instance, a pH reading of 7.0 is 10 times greater than a reading of 6.0. This just shows that there is a huge difference even between one unit.

Why is the correct chemical pH level vital in soils?

░ To absorb nutrients

Soil pH influences the availability of plant nutrients. The plant will not be able to take in enough nutrients if the pH level does not fit the needs of a certain plant. Without the proper nutrients, plants may not grow, may experience discolouration, or even die.

░ To avoid poison

The wrong pH level can cause poisoning to plants. If the soil solution is too acidic, plants cannot utilise the nutrients they need. As a result, the plants are more likely to take up toxic metals which, can cause toxicity or poisoning.

░ To soak in chemicals

Chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are essential as they fight off plant diseases and bugs that kill plants. With the wrong pH level, or if the soil pH level is too acidic, the plants will not be able to absorb the chemicals and may end up in garden water and rainwater runoff.

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How to test your soil?

Products, like pH testing devices or an electronic meter, can help you learn the pH of your soil. These can be found at nurseries (stores that sell plants), or you can order them online.

Kits come with a chemical colourant which you can put a small amount into the soil. After a minute or so, you can compare the colour changes to the examples provided in the kit. Test strips can also measure pH level when placed into a mixture of soil and water. Electronic meters can also be placed into the soil or sometimes with water to provide a reading of the pH level.

Some organisations offer soil testing for a small cost. This depends on the area you live in.

Soil amendments

If your soil’s pH is outside the required levels, you can amend your soil. You can use elemental sulfur to lower pH or ground limestone to raise pH. Before planting, work the product about 20 to 30 centimetres into the soil. Make sure to read the instructions that come with the product to better understand how much to put into the soil.

If you seek the help of an organisation, they can give you some advice about how much amendment your soil needs to meet the right pH levels. It is also recommended to test each area or bed in your garden separately. Moreover, because soil conditions change and amendments get used up, a pH test should be done at least every two to three years.

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