As a gardener, there are plenty of things that you must be accustomed to so that you can be successful in your endeavor. While having a green thumb may contribute to the success of your planting project, a percentage of the outcome depends on your basic knowledge of the terms involved in gardening.
They say not everyone is born with a green thumb but the good news is, with some research, good gardening can be learned. And like what we said earlier, it all starts with a working understanding of gardening terms.
This article will talk about soil pH and why it is important to a gardener or a farmer. Soil pH is one of the most understated factors in the world of gardening. The knowledge of basic soil pH can make or break your success in your farming efforts. So what exactly is soil pH?
It is the measure of the soil’s acidity or alkalinity. Acidity is the amount of acid a certain element contains while alkalinity is the amount of acid that is needed to lower the pH of an element to below 7. The pH of any element can be measured from 1-14 with 7 being the middle or neutral ground. Anything that goes below 7 is considered acidic soil and anything that goes above 7 is alkaline.
When you say a soil is acidic, it means the soil is sour. An alkaline soil is considered to be sweet. Deep forests and areas where blueberries grow
Soils which have extreme pH levels: too acidic or too alkaline will have to be adjusted to reach the ideal pH levels. Farmers and gardening experts have methods to do so. Wood ashes and ground limestone works well to make acidic soil sweeter while sulfur in well-measure amounts lower the pH or increase the acidity of a soil.
To look at it in a more technical angle, a soil’s pH is the amount of hydrogen-ion in the soil. Knowing the measurement of soil pH is enough for most farmers to successfully grow their crops or plants. Plants are only able to access the required nutrients if they are planted in an area with an acceptable pH level. The best environment for growing plants, crops and fruit is in an almost neutral pH level ranging from 6.2 to 7.0. Of course, there are some plants that have a preference for very acidic soil (blueberries) and a more alkaline soil (lilacs).
So why is the soil’s pH important in growing crops? Plants use the nutrients found in the soil for their food. Even if the soil is packed with fertilizers and nutrients, if the pH level is not correct, the plant will not be able to access any of these. If a soil is too acidic or too alkaline, the nutrients in the soil will be locked up in the soil and go to waste. If the soil is at its recommended pH level, the food and nutrients are readily released by the soil for the plant.
The three most important nutrients for a plant are potash (K), phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N). If the soil pH is at an acidic level of 5.0 and below, these nutrients are completely blocked off. Phosphorus will not be accessed by a plant if the pH level of the soil is anywhere below the moderately acidic level of 6.2. Even if you drown your garden in phosphorus, nothing will be taken in by the plant if your pH level is too acidic.
Sometimes, the addition of good quality compost or organic matter may help the soil fare better in distributing nutrients to the plant but generally, any good farmer knows that it is important to maintain the correct level of soil pH.
Soil-testing kits available and by and large they do a very good job of accurately testing your soil. However, if you are only interested in knowing if your soil is acid or otherwise, without worrying about degrees of acidity or alkalinity, here is a simple test you could make.
First, buy a packet of blue litmus papers from your chemist. Next, using a trowel, take samples of soil from different sections of the area you wish to test. Mix well together.
Then add sufficient of this soil to fill a breakfast cup and pour boiling water over it to form a sticky mass. Then, using a knife, make a slit in the soil an inch or so deep and insert a litmus paper for about three parts of its length. Make sure that both sides of the litmus paper are making contact with the soil and allow it to remain there for 15 minutes. After that time remove the paper.
If it has turned red your soil is acid. If the paper is only faintly red the soil is only slightly acid, but if it turns very red your soil is very acid.