I read in a book once that your pH level does not matter when you grow vegetables and that you should really ignore it. The problem is if you have soil that is too alkaline and try to plant tomatoes, they will taste terrible or even worse not grow at all. That is because tomatoes love your soil to be on the more acidic side of the pH scale.
If you don’t remember from high school chemistry class, the pH scale is a range that lets you know how acidic or alkaline something is. The scale goes from zero which is the most acidic, to fourteen, which is the most alkaline. Seven is considered neutral.
Now that you know what the pH scale is the next step is to find out what the pH level of your soil is. There are a variety of tools you can use including having your local co-op do the reading for you. Each varies in cost and usually the higher the cost for which one you choose the more detail you will receive about your soil. You can make a stop at your local home or garden center and pick up a pH soil tester for as little as four dollars.
Once you have your tester and have followed the tester’s instructions to obtain your pH level reading you are ready, if necessary, to adjust your soil to get it in the level for the fruits and vegetables that you want to grow. If you grow a large variety of fruits and vegetables then you will want to keep your soil’s range in the 6.0 to 7.5 range. Most vegetables and fruit do really well here.
Regardless of where your soil ends up on the pH scale, if you have to make adjustments to it using the suggestions below, it is best to do so in the fall months. This will allow for enough time for proper breakdown of the items listed below.
If your soil is too acidic, meaning it falls below the optimal level of 6.0 (although some vegetables grow very well at 5.5), here is what you can do to raise that level.
There are two types of lime you can add to your soil. Which one you will need is based on the results of your pH soil test. The two types are calcitic and dolomitic.
Calcitic lime contains just calcium where as dolomitic contains both calcium and magnesium. Your soil tester will basically tell you what your soil has and which one you need. For example if you need to raise your soil’s pH and have ample amounts of magnesium then you only need to use the calcitic lime, otherwise use dolomitic.
Combine your application of the lime you choose with heavy amounts of good compost from your compost pile that I know you are keep around right? If not, you should start one immediately.
If your soil is too alkaline and is above 8.0 on the pH scale, then here is what you can do to lower it to put your soil in that optimal range.
To reduce your soil’s pH level there are a number of things you can do, all of which are natural and safe to your home vegetable garden. As before, adding good quality compost to your soil helps tremendously, but the fall you should work in some wood shavings, pine needles, peat moss if available in your area and plenty of leaf mold. An equal combination of all of these will help.
Maybe you will get lucky and your soil is perfect so you will never need to make any adjustments. But why take that chance. Spend the four dollars, get your soil’s pH level just to make sure. Give your home vegetable garden every advantage it can have so your fruits and vegetables will thrive.
About the Author
Mike is the administrator for the largest vegetable gardening group on Facebook and the very popular Seeds of the Month Club. You can now join the Seeds of the Month Club risk-free.