Understanding Soil pH

by on December 21, 2011

UrbanFig: Dirty Feet in the SoilGood quality soil is the foundation of a good urban garden but most people have no idea what it means to have good soil. One of the important aspects of soil quality that has be to considered is pH.

What does pH mean and how does it impact soil?

In short, soil pH is the measure of acid or alkaline in soil. It stands for potential hydrogen.

Acid Soil: For a soil to be considered acidic, its pH must be lower than 7.0. As a rule of thumb, damp, humid climates will have acidic soil.

Alkaline Soil: For a soil to be considered alkaline, its pH must be higher than 7.0. Drier, arid climates will generally have alkaline soil.

How do I know what my soil pH is?

A simple test is all that is needed to determine the pH of your soil. You can find a testing kit at most good garden centers, or even, you know, right here on UrbanFig, but you should also consider making friends with the cooperative extension in your area. Most extension services offer low cost soil testing and analysis, and having a test of this nature performed might alert you to potential problem areas beyond just the pH of the soil.

How do I change my soil pH?

The process of adjusting the pH of the soil in your urban garden varies depending not only on the current pH of the soil but also on what type of soil you have. Whether acid or alkaline, the amount of amendment you’ll need depends on the soil, with sandy soils requiring less than clay or peat-heavy soils.

To raise the alkalinity of your soil, you can add hydrated lime which is easily found at most garden centers. To raise acidity, sulfur may be added.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Though the information provided above includes items that can help adjust soil pH in the short term, we strongly recommend taking a long term approach to adjusting the pH of your garden soil. This means using natural and organic matter such as hardwood ash or bone meal to raise pH over a long period of time, or sawdust and leaf mold (composted leaves) to lower pH.

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