Alkaline or acidic soil? How to check the soil reaction?

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In plant cultivation, not only the fertility of the soil is important, but also its pH value. This determines whether the plant has the right conditions for growth. Some plants require an acidic soil and others a neutral one. How can you check the soil pH and can you change it?

What is soil pH and why is it important?

Soil pH is the ratio of hydrogen to hydroxide ions in a soil solution. Soil pH is one of the most important parameters for plant growth. It is best to test the soil pH in spring, just before sowing. The soil reaction provides information on

  • the more acidicthe soil is, the slower the plants will grow and the more susceptible they are to disease,
  • soilrequirements – most plants can tolerate slightly acidic or neutral soil. Although some plants such as azaleas, roses, heathers and blueberries prefer acidic soil.
PH levelSoil pH
less than 4.5very acidic soil
4,6- 5,5slightly acidic soil
5,6- 6,5acidic soil
6,6- 7,2neutral soil
above 7,3alkaline soil
Source: Internet

How can the soil pH be checked?

Soil pH can be tested in every agricultural chemical station. The cost of such test is less than 100 PLN. A much better solution is to buy a device to test soil pH on your own. The most popular devices for this are:

  • acid meters – the most popular is an acid meter with a pointer that shows the soil pH value on a scale,
  • soiltest kit with a test tube – this is a disposable kit, and its cost does not exceed several zlotys,
  • litmus paper for soil,
  • electronic instruments – this is a solution for farmers, as the cost of such equipment is high,
  • weed monitoring – the type of weeds indicates the soil reaction. Some of the most common weeds that indicate soil reaction are:
    • daisies, marsh marigolds, white clover – infertile soil,
    • nettle, mint, mustard – acidic soil,
    • field horsetail, buttercup – heavy, waterlogged soil;
  • soda or vinegar – put the soil sample into the jar and pour distilled water over it. Then pour baking soda or a little vinegar on top of the resulting solution. If the solution fogs up, the soil is acidic. If bubbles appear in the solution, the soil is alkaline.

How do I take soil for testing?

The more samples taken, the more accurate the test will be. As a rule of thumb, you should take 3-4 samples per acre of soil from different parts of your garden. The top layer of soil (about 5 cm) is scraped off and then a sample is taken from a depth of about 15 cm. When all the soil samples have been taken from the garden, then mix them together and then take the main sample.

How to change the soil reaction?

If the soil is:

  • alkaline – then it should be acidified by adding peat to the soil or applying sulfate fertilizers,
  • acidic : the soil must be limed.

Soil acidity is not a permanent condition. Therefore, it is important to monitor the acidity of the soil.

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