Sorting out soil PH in your garden

Soil Ph is essential for your plants to grow, but can often seem quite daunting and scientific.

But it doesn't have to be. It can be as simple as adding compost and fertilisers to the soil. Here are some of my tips for ensuring your Soil PH is always spot on in your garden.

What is the Correct PH Level?

Firstly, you must ensure you have the correct PH to start with. PH is a scale that tells you how acidic or how alkaline your soil is. The scale goes from 1 – 14. Low PH is very acidic and high is alkaline. There are exceptions to the rule, but generally a good PH to have is neutral or 7 and either end of the scale is not a good place to be for plant roots.

At neutral PH your plants can take up all the nutrients in the soil as they are easily converted into compounds the plants can use. Either side of neutral these compounds get harder and harder to be taken up to the point where you may have all the nutrients a plant could ever want however the plant simply can’t access them.

Testing your Soil PH level

Testing for PH is simple and only needs to be done once a year.  There are probes you can insert into the soil that give you a reading (costing around $45) and there are cheaper soil testing kits (around $18) that sample the soil and tell you the pH by simply adding indicating solution and powder to compare the colour change against a supplied chart.

When testing your soil make sure you take a sample from various spots in the garden and ensure you scrape away the mulch and take soil from around 5-10cm in the ground – where the plants are actively taking up water and nutrients.

How to Raise the Soil PH

If you are on the low side of the scale raising the soil PH is easy, you just add some lime; not the fruit but horticultural lime available from the local nursery or hardware store. Here are some important things to remember:

  • Apply the lime to the dose outlined on the packet and always wear gloves.
  • Adding more won’t speed up the process, it will just raise the PH past where you want it to be.
  • A high PH is harder to lower and does take more time (up to six months) but this can be done by adding lots of compost.
  • For a drastic change apply Iron chelate at a rate of a handful per square meter.

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