PH- what it is and how to change it.

The acidity or Alkalinity of soil is determined by its lime content and PH is a measure off how acid or alkaline your soil is. It is measured in units from 1 to 14. Neutral soil has a PH of 7; anything above that is alkaline and anything below is acid. Testing the Ph is very simply done with soil testing kit you can buy from any garden centre. You should test your soil in various parts of your garden as it can vary depending upon the conditions.

Soil Testing Kit

You need to know the Ph of your soil as some plants will only thrive in acid conditions whilst others need lime to live. It is easier to make an acid soil more alkaline by adding lime than the other way round. Lime has other advantages too. Adding Lime to clay soils, for example, will help to bind the particles together and help water to drain. However adding too much lime can chemically ‘lock up’ nutrients so that they are not available for plants to feed on them. This will result in nutrient deficiencies, and plants prone to disease and pest damage..

In the vegetable garden, most plants thrive on a PH of about 6.5 so you need to know what it is and take steps to change it should it be necessary. In the ornamental garden you will find that there are many plants which will thrive best in acid (or alkaline) soil, so it is best to grow these, rather than try to alter your soil.

If your vegetable patch has too much lime, then try growing on a deep bed system. This is  beds raised above the level of your normal soil and filled with a neutral compost. This is then kept neutral by adding lots of organic matter when digging (at least once a year) and regular mulches whenever necessary.  This sound like hard work, and the first year it will be but after that it will be quite easy. If you work a deep bed system, then you never walk on it, it does not become compacted, so is easy to dig.

All this may seem like a lot of fuss and work but in the long term it will pay dividends. There is nothing worse than buying and planting an expensive tree, like Magnolia for instance only to watch it slowly die over three years or so because the soil is too alkaline. Much better to know your soil and if you want to grow Magnolias (or any other plant not suited to your soil conditions, then grow them in pots or raised beds.


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