Determining Soil pH

Having taught soils classes during my teaching career I always advocated soils testing to determine your soil pH and nutrient levels before planting a crop. The acid-alkaline balance is given on the potential Hydrogen (pH) scale. Basically, the pH of the soil determines how rapidly the plant food (nutrient level) dissolves into solution and can be taken up by the plants. At certain levels the nutrients dissolve very quickly while at other levels these fertilizers are insoluble and can not be used or are taken up very slowly.

Soil tests can be done by your state agricultural university (see your County Extension Director) or you can purchase a home testing kit to determine your levels. Even simpler yet is to just press a strip of litmus paper into moist garden soil. This won’t give you the exact pH level but will tell you if the soil is alkaline or acid.

Some gardeners never test their soils. They depend on native shrub and weed growth to help them determine what to add to the soil. This is a risky method but is better than nothing at all. Here are some general guidelines and soil conditions:

Hard water in area springs and wells – alkaline conditions

Native trees are hemlock, white pine, red or black spruce, oak – fairly acid conditions

Native trees of American arborvitae (Eastern white cedar), white spruce – alkaline subsoil conditions

Wild blueberries, most ferns, wild orchids, rhododendrons, bayberries – acidity conditions

White & red clover – alkaline conditions in top soil and fertility

Keep your fork

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