One of the biggest things you have to worry about when planning your garden or yard is something that you may not even think about at all: your soil. After all, it’s just dirt, right? It’s actually not that simple. Soil testing is a vital part of planning a garden or landscape maintenance because it looks at the pH of the soil, which determines which plants will thrive, among other things. But what is pH, and why does it matter?
What is pH?
pH is a scale that measures acidity/alkalinity. Potenz Hydrogen, which roughly means the potential to be hydrogen, is abbreviated pH. Hydrogen is the ion that gives a solution acidity. If there are a lot of Hydrogen ions, it is acidic, and if it has few Hydrogen ions it is alkaline. This is measured on a logarithmic scale from 1 to 14, with 1 being very acidic and 14 being very alkaline. The center of the scale, 7, is what we refer to as neutral. Since the scale is logarithmic, a change of one number is actually a change of 10 times the pH.
What does pH affect?
One of the biggest effects of pH is the ability of plants to take up nutrients. This happens when the nutrients in the soil dissolve in water. If the soil is too acidic or too alkaline, certain minerals will not break down, and plant roots can’t take them up to nourish the plant. For instance, if the soil is too alkaline, the plant won’t be able to take up iron, manganese, or phosphorous. If the soil is too acidic, plants will miss out on potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorous (again). Most plants need a pH in the range of 6 to 7.5 to be able to thrive.
How can pH be fixed?
Once you know the pH of your soil, you can fix it by adding things, or amending the soil. If your soil is acidic, you could add wood ash or limestone to make it more alkaline. If it is too alkaline, add coffee grounds, powdered elemental sulfur, or even shredded leaves. Some plants prefer a more acidic soil (like blueberry bushes), so reach out to a professional before making any changes or adding any new bushes or trees.
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