Every gardener must have the basic knowledge on how to test soil pH. If this doesn’t sound too familiar to you, don’t worry. Here’s a simple guide that can help you determine whether the soil you’re going to use is good enough for your plants or not.
Remember that the soil is a primary factor in growing plants. This is composed of nutrients that are technically designed to help grow plants and make them healthy. Aside from choosing the right types, soil must have a normal pH. It is not ideal if it’s high in alkaline or too low in acid.
Alkaline Versus Acid
The soil’s pH varies depending on various reasons. A pH level of 7.0 is neutral, which is the safe and recommended level. Higher than that implies the soil is alkaline, while lower than 7.0 is acid. It is still alright to have a soil between 6.9 and 5 or maybe even 4. That means you can still improve the soil. But more work is needed if the soil is too acidic or 1 pH. On the other hand, a pH level of 14 indicates high alkaline, which is also not ideal.
To lower the alkaline level, simply add organic materials and re-test the pH level. And to improve the soil by increasing the pH, add some lime – yes, that really works!
Be familiar with these levels as will help you determine whether there is need to test soil pH or not.
- 3.0 to 5.0 pH level – very acidic soil
- 5.1 - 6.0 pH level – acid soil
- 6.1 - 7.0 pH level – moderately acid soil
- 7.1 - 8.0 pH level – alkaline soil
Best Time to Test Soil pH
It is a pre-requisite to measure the pH level of the soil before planting or preparing a garden bed. This helps save your effort and avoids wasting time of planting in the wrong area only to re-transplant later.
If in case the soil pH requires a little improvement by adding either lime or organic materials, allow 3 months before you make another evaluation. How to test soil pH properly is important so you don’t end up having bad results or misleading outcome.
DIY Ways on How to Test Soil pH
Many first-time gardeners rely on shortcut solutions. While the use of do-it-yourself (DIY) kits that are easily purchased at local garden shops works, a few home items can do the trick. Why spend extra money if you have those DIY items, anyway?
1. Vinegar and Baking Soda
One easy way regarding how to test soil pH is to use the mixture of baking soda and vinegar. This is a common solution for many purposes at home, and also for garden.
Here’s how to do it:
Get samples of soil (1 cup each) from different parts of the garden.
Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar in each cup of soil.
Observe until it starts to fizz, which indicates an alkaline level between 7 and 8.
What if it doesn’t fizz? Try another test by putting 2 teaspoons of soil in a separate cup and adding distilled water then 1/2 cup of baking soda. If it fizzes then the soil is acidic between 5 and 6.
What if there are still no frizzes after both tries? Then good news, the soil has a neutral pH level!
2. Cabbage Water
Another simple trick on how to test soil pH is through the help of a cabbage – yes, you absolutely read that right.
Prepare the following:
- 2 cups distilled water
- 1 cup largely chopped red cabbage
Place the water into a saucepan and add red cabbage. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes in low heat. Remove from the head and cool down for 30 minutes. The liquid should turn blue and/or purple in color, which indicates a 7 pH level.
To test the soil pH, collect 2 teaspoons of soil and place in a small cup or container. Add the cabbage water and wait for 30 minutes before checking the color of the water. Once it is a hue of blue green, the soil is alkaline. If it is pink, then it’s acidic.
In regards to how to test soil pH, don’t just use one part of the area. Test different parts and types of soil in your garden. Also, keep in mind that there are plants that are more suitable in slightly acidic soil. This means that the soil doesn’t have to be alkaline or neutral. The pH level of your soil depends on the kinds of plants. Regardless, it simply suggests that there is a need to test your soil pH before planting.