You've just bought your first house and you're excited to plant some new flowers in the backyard. You get out there with a shovel, ready to dig into the dirt, only to find that it's not exactly what you expected. The soil is too dense or too loose - it almost feels like sand! How can you tell if your soil has good drainage? And how do you know if your soil isn't acidic enough for certain plants? Use these tips on testing the pH of your soil so that you can garden successfully!
How to Raise/Lower the pH in Your Soil
I'm going to teach you how to raise the pH of your soil. You may be wondering why this is important, or what it even means. Well, your soil's pH level determines whether or not nutrients are available for plants to use. I'll break down the steps to get rid of all that dirt so you can start fresh with a healthy home for your new plant babies.
So that being said, to determine your pH levels in your soil, you first need a soil test kit. The pH scale ranges from 0-14 with 7 being neutral. A reading below 7 means that it's an acidic substance or material such as battery acid while a reading above 7 indicates that it's alkaline such as ammonia. The ideal range for healthy plants is 6-7 which makes it slightly alkaline and therefore friendly to plant life.
When you get your results back from your soil test, and you find out that it is reading above a 7, you need to lower your pH level. Now we are all about safe and natural ways to treat your soil, so here are some safe and natural ways to do this. The most common way to raise the pH is by using limestone. The amount you use will vary depending on your soil’s needs. You can also use wood ashes. This can raise the pH quickly but does not have as long-lasting effects. You can use baking soda, too. This is a cost-effective method that is quick and easy to do. Baking soda also does not last as long as lime (similar to the ashes) but can produce results in just a few days. Baking soda is fairly gentle on both the soil and the plants, so you won’t have to worry about harming your plants.
If your results from your soil test come back below 6, you need to raise your pH levels. Sulfur is one of the most aggressive ways to lower soil pH. Always follow the recommended amounts! More is not better, especially when it comes to sulfur. When amending beds, peat moss will also help lower your soils pH. Peat moss is particularly helpful in sandy soils. However peat moss does not need to be added every time you amend your garden beds. Adding organic matter every time you plant, in the form of compost will lower the soils pH over time. We can't say enough about compost! While helping lower the soils pH it will increase the microbial life and improve the structure of your soil.
What Is the Process of Soil Testing?
If you want to know what is going on with your lawn, soil testing is the way to go. It's a quick and easy process that can tell you what nutrients are lacking in your lawn and how much of each nutrient you need to add for healthy growth.
Step 1) Use Clean Sample Tools - You need to make sure you use clean sample taking tools. Not using clean tools can contaminate your soil samples. It’s recommended to use a plastic bucket over a metal one. If the metal bucket has rust in it, or some flaking, or if it is even zinc coated, it’s going to contaminate the sample and give an inaccurate reading about the soil’s ability to supply nutrients.
Step 2) Sample at a Consistent Depth - Nutrients vary at different depths. It’s best to obtain a sample between 6-8 inches. If you sample too shallow, it will say it has a high nutrient-supplying capacity. If sampled too deep, it will say that our soil does not have much nutrient-supplying capacity.
Step 3) Collect Enough Cores - It is important to make sure you collect enough sample cores. The total amount of soil that is being collected may be 1.5 pounds. You should collect 15-20 cores per sample area. Not collecting enough cores will cause your results to be skewed.
Step 4) Thoroughly Mix Cores - If the samples collected are not thoroughly mixed of all the soil it can dramatically skew the results when it comes time for the analysis. It’s recommended to do a soil sample in the fall. The reason behind this is there’s more time to collect the samples, run the analysis, and purchase fertilizer based on the test results in the fall than in the spring. However, if you choose to collect samples at a different time of year, it’s recommended being consistent in collecting that particular time of year each time you sample.
Overall, consistency is the key to obtaining accurate samples. Be consistent when you sample, and be consistent about when you collect.
How Can You Test the pH in Your Soil?
Ever wonder how to test the pH in your soil? Well, you are not alone. Testing the pH is an important part of lawn care because it tells you what nutrients are needed for healthy growth. The best way to test this is by using a simple kit that can be purchased right here at Covington!
To get a representative sample, push a spade into the ground at least 12 inches deep and slice off all layers of sod down to bare dirt. Turn over about 1 cup of dirt from each spot and mix all of it together in a large bucket or box. Fill several small plastic bags with this mixed-together sample and take them to a nursery or garden center for testing. If you don't want to send away your soil sample, test the different sections of your yard separately and average the results. If one part is extremely low and another extremely high, don't average the readings together. Use only the lower reading in that case because it reflects how well plants will grow in that area.
The More You Know!
Soil testing is a great way to improve your garden by understanding how it can be improved. Whether you want the pH in your soil raised or lowered, there are simple ways of doing so with just a few tools and supplies. The process for getting started depends on what kind of test kit you buy at first—either liquid tests kits or paper strips. But once you have determined which one works best for your needs, then all that’s left to do is follow the instructions provided with it! Remember these tips about adjusting the pH level in your soil as well as other important gardening information like planting zones and watering schedules when choosing where to plant next time around.