The other day, I was trying to measure the pH level of my pot where I planted a beautiful houseplant. While waiting for the meter to settle, I wondered if I could test the pH level of the soil in my garden without using any test kit at all. Out of curiosity, I did my research and found a few ways for me to get the soil’s pH level without a meter. The techniques I learned were very fun and interesting.
Soil pH measures how acid and alkaline the soils in our gardens are. It’s what you need to know to have a better grasp of what type of minerals your plant will have once planted or potted. What you’ve to keep in mind is that the perfect pH level depends on what type of plant you are growing. The PH level is measured from 0-14. The neutral levels are 6-7. If you use a meter and your soil measures between 0-5, it means that it’s acidic. A pH level of 7-14 means your soil has more alkaline in it.
The Soil pH matters because it affects how plants are nourished. Some plants prefer acidic soil, while others would not survive in it because they need a higher level of alkalinity. Some plants prefer a neutral pH level, which is 6-7.
There are areas where soil is generally acidic or has more alkaline, but you aren’t stuck with acidic or alkaline soil because you can change it.
Factors that Affect pH Level
How the soils are formed; some soils are formed from rocks, and those rocks already contain a certain pH level.
Rain or snow and its components can affect soils that are exposed to it. If the rain is acidic, it could affect the soil’s acidity level.
This can wash out the soil’s minerals and components that can affect the acidity or alkalinity level of soil.
A lot of fertilizers contain nutrients and minerals that affect the pH level of soil. Fortunately, you can choose the type of fertilizer you use to help control pH levels.
This method is very easy. I like it a lot since the needed materials can be easily found in almost every kitchen.
Testing For Alkalinity
Testing For Acidity
If both tests are done and nothing happened, meaning the vinegar and baking soda both remained calm, the soil has a neutral pH level.
Red cabbage has a component called anthocyanin and it is an excellent substance to use for checking soil pH levels. Some use this with vinegar and baking soda, but you can also get interesting results without them.
The water will begin to change color and depending on the color the pH level of the soil is:
Pink – Soil is Acidic
Blue-Green – Soil has More Alkaline
No Color Change – Neutral Soil pH Level
To get the most accurate result, get your soil sample 6-8 inches below the surface. This is best to do since it’s where the root of the plants will be.
The bottom line is that you can do it anytime. I always check for the pH level before planting to make sure that it fits the needs of the plants that will be planted. Aside from that, I do it at least every month, especially for plants like the Black Tulip Magnolia. It’s an acidic plant, and I want to make sure that the soil stays acidic.
You can change the pH level of soil as needed. If you need your soil to have a higher acidic level, you may add soil sulfur. If your plants need less acid, you’ll be surprised to know that acidic fruit juices will help your soil be less acidic. When I say acidic juices, I’m talking about lime, lemon, and oranges.It does seem like it should increase the soil’s acidity level, but it doesn’t! Science works that way.
Lindsey Hyland is the owner of Urban Organic Yield. You can visit her website at UrbanOrganicYield.com.