Testing Your Soil for Healthier Crops

Jun 27, 2011

Read more about tips and tricks on how to test your soil for healthier crops.

Hobbies: Testing Your Soil for Healthier Crops

Does your garden need a little help compared to your neighbor’s bountiful yard? The answer might be right under your feet: the pH of your soil. Few people realize that the pH of the soil affects plant growth. To help, we recommend visiting your local garden center. Most carry inexpensive kits for testing the pH of your soil. What’s pH, you ask? Simple: it’s the degree of acidity. A pH reading of 7 is considered to be neutral; below 7 means your soil is acidic and above 7 means it’s alkaline. Most plants thrive in a soil pH of around 6 to 7.5, but some are more sensitive than others. For example, lettuce barely grows once the pH is over 7, while tomatoes are significantly more adaptable, growing in a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5.

Make sure to test each bed separately, as conditions can vary significantly, even within a single garden. You’ll also want to test your water since many deep wells are alkaline heavy and city water can vary widely.

If your soil is too acidic, the most common remedy is lime. But use it sparingly, since overcorrection is a common problem and can take months to reverse. The best approach is to add very small amounts to the soil and retest in a few weeks.

If the soil’s pH is too alkaline, it generally means its lacking in organic matter. Start a compost pile; your garden will thank you! Or you can try adding sulfur, but again a light touch is necessary and retesting is key.

Once you’ve got your garden’s pH balanced, sit back and enjoy the results. You’ll be keeping up with the Joneses (or at least their tomatoes) in no time at all.