Gardening in Acidic Soil

Along the pH Scale (which ranges from 1-14) acidic soil is when your soil is ranked below a 7 and a rating of 7 is the ideal pH level for your plants to succeed in. Certain plants will thrive in an acidic garden because when a garden is acidic that means that the phosphorus in the soil (a macro-nutrient all plants need to survive), is able to dissolve into the water in the soil and therefore be soaked up directly by the plants roots.

You can do a simple at home test to see if your soil is acidic or alkaline.

  1. Take two containers and fill them half way with soil from your garden.
  2. Put in half a cup of vinegar into the first container, if the soil begins to react and bubble or fizz then it is alkaline.
  3. In the second container put in half a cup of water into your soil and mix it up to make a muddy paste. Then add in half a cup of baking soda into the mix, if it reacts with bubbling or fizzing then this means that your soil is acidic.

(You only need to complete step 3 if there is no reaction with step 2).

You can also purchase a simple at home soil testing kit at your local hardware store if you want more precise results.

There are three major causes for your soil to become more acidic. The first reason is due to the breakdown of the organic material within your soil, certain materials leach more acid into the soils, such as pine trees or peat. The second reason could be a result of heavy rainfalls or over watering. This could cause certain nutrients such as calcium, potassium or magnesium to be washed out of the soil, and they are responsible for bringing the acidic levels down in soil. The last reason, which is very easy to avoid, is the use of high-nitrogen synthetic fertilizers in your garden.

Although acidic soils can be beneficial, if your gardens acid level is too high there will be negative effects to your garden. Some symptoms of the acid levels being too high in your garden are a higher level of weeds growing, discolored leaves, lack of fruits or vegetables being produced and an overall lower production of crops within your garden. This is a result of shallow roots which are caused by highly acidic soils. A solution to correct acidic soils it to add wood ash or lime evenly throughout your gardens soil.

There are certain plants that prefer acidic soils such as any type of fern or hydrangeas (whose flowers change colour depending on the acid level in the soil). Some vegetables and fruit that also prefer acidic soils are radishes, peppers, potatoes, rhubarb, blueberries and cranberries. As well there are some fruits and vegetables that are able to adapt to acidic soils such as beans, cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, apples, grapes, raspberries and strawberries.

Test out your soil and adapt how to plant and garden to your soils needs.

Written By: Stacey Almas

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