Soil pH, what is it? It is a measure of your soils acidity or akalinity and this is very important for your plants, all of them. In the old days farmers tasted the soil to find out if it was sour, bitter or sweet. If it was sour it was too acidic, if it was bitter it was too akaline and if it didn't taste like sour or bitter it was called sweet.
Our soil is made up of decomposing local rocks and all the local decomposing vegetation and this is what creates the soil pH.
Many plants have a specific pH preference and this is important for their health and growth and production and quality of the leaves, stems, fruit, flower and seed. I think it even affects the taste of the veggies and fruit.
So How can you tell what yours is?
Well you can buy all kinds of tests and there are cheap ones and expensive ones but I am going to tell you the cheapest way.
Go to your local drug store and buy a roll of blue litmus tape, you may have played with this stuff in science class at one time. Litmus tape turns pink when it comes into contact with acids.
Well go out to the garden and get five or six different soils samples out of your garden, put it in a container and then pour a bit of rainwater on the soil to make a bit of mud at the bottom.
Now make sure your hands are all clean before you touch the litmus paper and then cut a few strips and place them into your muddy mix. Wait about 15 seconds and pull out one strip and rinse it off with clean water. If it is pink then your soil is highly acidic. The intensity of the pink color is also a sign of how much it is acidic. If the first strip you pull out is still blue then wait a few minutes more and then pull out another one. clean it off and then check again. If it is pink then your soil sample is acidic but not strongly acidic. After 15 minutes take out another strip and if it still blue you soil is not acidic at all.
This is the simplest and easiest way but it is not the most accurate method. Soil pH tests will have a color and number graph which is more prescise so if you want exact buy one of those soil kits. What you mostly want in your garden with many types of plants is a nuetral pH of 7. These tests kits come with instruction so read them first.
Now once you find out what the soil pH is then you can fix your pH if you need to.
If it is too acidic then crushed dolomitic limestone is the best thing to add to your garden. You can also use the other type of limestone called calcitic but the dolomitic adds manesium to your soil which is a good natural fertilizer. But becarful around your azaleas, they like acidic soils and lime could harm them. If you have access to hard wood ashes this is a great pH changer for the soil instead of lime.
If your soil is too alkaline then the best way to add acid to the soil is with organic material like swamp and bog muck, peat moss, cottonseed oil and leaves and bark and even the sawdust from the oak tree. Also any ornganic matter breaking down adds acid to the soil so composting is the best way to create a great soil structure, acid is produced from the decomposition of that organic matter.
Herer are some acid loving plants you may already have in your garden or plan to put in this year: azaleas, blackberry, blueberry, butterflyweed, heather, lily, marigold, peanut, potato, radish, sweet potato and watermelon. These plants like a high acid soil of 4 to 4.5.
Plants that like a little acid, 5.5 to 6.5 are: apples, cornflower, gardenia, nicotiana, pansy, pumpkins and turnips.
Alkaline soil loving plants are: alyssum, asparagus, beans, beets, cabbage, cantaloupes, cauliflower, cucumber, iris, lettuce, onion, parsnip and squash. These plants will tolerate soil pH from 6.5 and up.
Checking your soil pH is just another good and fun idea if you love to garden and grow plants. It may even help you understand all those dead plants over the years.
Well go get some litmus paper, a pH soil kit or go out and take up a hand full of dirt and taste it.
On a side note, if you have hydrangias you can change the flower color either blue or pink based on the soil pH.