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How To Test Soil Ph

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If you have a garden, you likely know what soil ph is. This number measures the level of acidity in your garden and can be an important indicator of how healthy or unhealthy your plants are.

In this article, we'll go over how to measure the level of acidity in your garden, when you should be testing it and why this number is important.

What is Soil pH?

Soil pH measures the level of hydrogen ions in your soil. This measurement will tell you whether the soil in your garden is acidic, alkaline, or neutral.

The scale that measures this goes from 0 to 14 – with 7 being considered neutral. If a soil has a pH less than 7 then it has high acidity and if it has a pH greater than 7 then it is alkaline.

How to test your soil's pH
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A soil that has high acidity will have trouble absorbing nutrients and will be prone to disease and fungus growth. Soil that doesn't allow for healthy plant growth probably also won't contain enough of the micro-organisms necessary for decomposing organic matter because they simply can't survive in the environment created by acidic soil. So what you get is continuous dead plants and no nutrient compost or other organic matter because it can't break down in the lack of healthy microorganisms. Not a great situation.

To help with this you can decide to make a compost bin to add organic matter and nutrients to your soil. You can also add lime to the soil to raise the pH levels if they are too low.

Alkaline soil can be hurtful for some plants and may even kill the plant if it becomes too alkaline over time.

So you see, knowing your soil's pH level will help you to take better care of your garden and make sure that all of the plants in it receive the nutrients they need for optimal growth. Here are a couple of things you can do to test your soil's ph:

There are three different types of pH testing kits available. These include liquid, paper strips, and powder tests. Which one is best? That depends on whether or not you have access to electricity because not all of the tests require the use of electricity. The liquid test does require you to have access to a power source and it takes much longer than the other two methods. It works by placing a few drops of a liquid on a soil sample and comparing a color chart with a color wheel to see what your level of acidity is.

The paper strip test is probably the most commonly used because it doesn't require electrical power or any special training to do it properly. All of the materials are included in this kit so you won't have to go out of your way to get anything.

However, not all paper strip tests are created equal. Some on the market contain chemicals that will damage your soil over time which is why it's important to read reviews for any product before purchasing something like this.

How to do the Paper Strip Test

  • Get a piece of paper and cut it into strips that are about an inch wide.
  • Get some dirt from your garden but make sure it's not too wet or too dry. You don't want either of those extremes for testing purposes.
  • Place 2″ of soil on the strip and then fold it in half lengthwise. 
  • Wait 5 minutes and then unfold your paper and see where the color is between the two lines along the bottom of the strip. The middle line represents pH 7 which is neutral so you should be looking at levels above or below this number as per your results with this test kit.

If you get a number above 7 then your soil is alkaline. If you get a number around 6 or so then it's neutral or close to it. And if you land below 6 then congratulations – your garden has high acidity.

This test will give you an idea of whether your plants are suffering from nutrient deficiencies because of the soil they're growing in –  but if you really want to ensure you’re getting the most accurate results, then having the pH levels tested by someone who specializes in this type of thing can tell us why there are unequal amounts of certain nutrients in our plants, how much fertilizer we should be using and what kind would be best under certain conditions (such as plants that like acidic soil).

Liquid Test

These types of kits are very accurate if they're done properly. The downside is that they tend to be more expensive than the other two methods because of this accuracy. One thing that's nice about them is that you don't have to take samples from your dirt by taking clumps or chunks out with a shovel then trying to break them up into smaller pieces small enough for testing purposes.

How you can test the pH of soil
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All you need is a little bit of water and a liquid test kit for it to give you an accurate reading. You just place the liquid on your soil, wait 10 minutes, and then compare it to a color wheel.

What factors affect the pH level in my garden?      

The most important factor affecting pH levels in the garden is the type of soil. Most plants prefer a slightly acidic environment with a pH range of 6-7, though some plants require less acidic soils to survive. For example, many roses do well in soil with a pH level between 5 and 6, while blueberries grow best in soil with a pH between 4 and 5.

rose plant
Image Credit: Kitchen Infinity Photo

What kind of materials should I use to test my garden's soil?

There are various commercially available materials used for testing the acidity (pH) level of your garden's soil. You can obtain these products from local nurseries or home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe's. Whatever product you choose, make sure it is an appropriate soil test for the plants you wish to grow in your garden.

How can I make my garden look better?

In addition to ensuring that your soil is in the best condition for plants to thrive, there are various things that can make your garden look better. For example, making stepping stones in your garden is one way to add visual appeal while also adding value. You can use them as garden markers or just for decoration. They are particularly useful if you have a small garden that is difficult to navigate. Stepping stones give you the ability to walk through your garden without stepping on all of your plants, which can damage them and make it more difficult for them to get enough sunlight and water.

Final thoughts on how to test soil ph

In conclusion, soil ph is important for plants to grow. The ideal soil ph level is 6.5-7.0 but varies depending on the plant you are looking to grow. There are many different ways that one can test the soil pH of your garden or lawn, whether it be using a paper test strip, dropping some pH solution in the dirt, or using an electronic device to do all of this for you. 

Finally, check out this article on how to make a DIY composting toilet if you’d like to embark on some other great home DIY projects.

Heather Hardy

Heather Hardy

Heather is a professional writer with a background in real estate and home renovation. She enjoys research and contributing to DIY publications and loves to review home products and appliances.

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