Getting the Right Soil pH

by April Reinhardt
(last updated February 12, 2013)

Whether you grow corn in a small garden or soy beans over hundreds of acres, finding the correct soil pH level in which to grow your particular plants is imperative to a successful growing season. When speaking of pH values, they refer to the acidity or alkalinity of your garden soil. The availability of nutrients to your plants depends upon the pH levels. Most garden crops grow very well within a pH range of 6.5 to 7.2, which is slightly acidic. If your soil pH is too low or too high, then your garden products will not grow optimally, if at all.

So, how do you make sure that your garden has the correct pH balance? First, you need to determine the pH levels in your soil and you can do that with a pH home test kit. Purchase a pH kit at your local home improvement store or garden center, mix your soil sample according to the instructions in the kit, then compare the color chart in the test kit with the test strip color, indicating the pH level of your garden. Be sure to take several samples from different spots of your garden.

If you find your garden's pH levels to be within the 6.5 to 7.2 range, then your soil has the proper pH levels. If not, then you can adjust your soil to get the correct pH levels. Some of the things you will need to do this are the compounds lime and sulfur and gardening tools. Once you have determined that the soil is too acidic, then you'll add sulfur to the garden. If it is too alkaline (commonly referred to as loamy), then you'll need to add lime. The rules of thumb for adding either lime or sulfur to raise or reduce pH levels are:

  • Six ounces of sulfur will reduce the pH level of one square yard of soil by 1.0
  • Four ounces of lime will raise the pH level of one square yard of soil by 1.0

With these guidelines in mind, follow these steps to balance the pH levels of your garden:

  1. Add either the sulfur or lime to your garden dirt, spreading it throughout instead of dumping it all in one area. Use your garden implements to distribute the lime or sulfur evenly within the dirt.
  2. Use a garden tiller to cultivate the soil, allowing the compounds to mix completely into the dirt where plant roots will grow.
  3. Two weeks after adjusting the soil pH with compounds, take another soil sample, then again at one-month intervals.
  4. Make further pH adjustments based on your soil sample findings.

Checking and adjusting the pH levels of your soil is an easy procedure that will save you time and help you to become a better—and more successful—gardener.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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