Soil pH

Today we talk about soil pH and how it effects plants for the good and bad.

The cold weather is back for a few days, so it’s indoor gardening activities this weekend. After a couple of days of wonderfully warm spring days and a bit of rain, the surrounding hillsides are reminiscent of Ireland.

The other day while taking a run, I noticed a number of “non-grass” plants in a neighbor’s yard.   Most were the kind that have a pretty yellow flower which turns into a puffy white seed-head. In a few weeks, along comes a whispering wind and the tiny seeds float along like little parachutes until they eventually settle to the ground to begin the cycle again. Some people are not fond of these plants called Dandelions and will go to any effort, including the use of extremely toxic chemicals, to eradicate them from a lawn.

This observation lead me to think about natural plant control and how to encourage the growth of what people view as “good” plants, while discouraging “bad” plants. One of the first variables to consider in the process of improving soil is pH. pH is figure expressing the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, in this case soil.  It is measured on a scale from 1-14, 7 is neutral, lower values are more acidic, and higher values more alkaline. If you are unfamiliar with the term pH or acidic and alkaline, here are a couple of examples: lemon juice is an acid and baking soda is an alkaline.

How and why is this important to a gardener? Well, all plants have a specific pH range that they prefer. Providing a plant with soil of the proper pH range encourages growth. Growth is discouraged if the soil pH is outside the preferred range. Blueberries, for example, prefer more acidic soil. Dandelions are capable of growing in just about any soil pH, but thrive in slightly alkaline soil.

Potting soils are usually blended to have a neutral pH, which appeals to a large variety of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. If the soil in your yard and garden differs greatly from the neutral pH level of potting soil, then you may need to add minerals to either raise or lower the pH until it approaches neutral.

Your local county extension office can test your soil, offer a remediation plan, and other advice.  Here is a link to a federal government website which allows you to locate the closest county extension office.

For more detailed information on soil pH, here is a link to an article by Paul Wheaton.  Paul is a leading expert in permaculture, among a number of other topics. He writes in a funny, irreverent way and I think that you will enjoy the article.  Soil pH stuff

Happy Gardening!!!

Julie H.

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