Test Your Own Soil for pH Alkalinity or Acidity
Taking a soil test using any method and utilizing the results to add soil amendments, if needed, can save you time, money and frustration.
The majority of plants grow best in a soil which tests 6.5 to 7 on the pH scale. This scale measures the alkalinity and the acidity with 7 being neutral. Numbers from 1 to 6.9 indicate acidity,such as vinegar for example,with above 7 indicating alkaline, like lye or lyme. Distilled water is pH7 and most tap water is very close to neutral.
What testing methods are available? Home test kits can be purchased. Samples can be collected and sent to a lab. Or try one of these inexpensive at home methods.
Method One – scoop a cup or so of soil and place in a container, cutting the top from a gallon milk container works fine, rinsing it well before use. Add half cup vinegar to the soil. If it fizzes the soil is alkaline. If you do not see a reaction use fresh soil but this time add a half cup water then mix in some baking soda. If it fizzes the soil is acid.
Method Two – dig a hole 2 to3 inches deep, fill with distilled water to form a muddy pool. Insert a clean test probe in the hole and take a reading after one minute. The probe will show acid, below 7 or alkaline, above 7 or perhaps exactly neutral, 7. These probes range in accuracy from those showing only 7, then below or above,being the least precise to those which indicate ion numbers, most precise and expensive. The least expensive varieties are usually available in hobby stores and lawn and garden shops. A little searching will yield more than enough to choose from.
Method Three – Collect one scoop soil from several areas of the garden and mix them together well. Spread this soil mix on paper to dry. Place one half cup of the dried soil in clear container and fill with distilled water. Swirl then allow to sit until all soil is at the bottom. Insert litmus paper into the water. Red paper indicates acidity. Blue paper indicates alkalinity. Litmus paper is commercially prepared to turn red or blue according to pH and generally can be purchased at lawn and garden, hobby shops or even pool and patio stores.
You may want to check pH of the compost if you are enriching your soil using compost . Wood ash or lime are alkaline substances which can be added to soils which test acid to bring them closer to neutral. Sulfur or pine needles are acidic and can be added to bring soil pH down to neutral.
To achieve best results for all the hard work required to plant, maintain and harvest a crop, measuring pH and making adjustments before planting yields best results. Soil amendments take a few weeks to a few months to work so late fall or early spring are good times to test soil and make additions.
And remember: Enrich the Earth Everyone Can Enjoy Composting Today!