Most people know that vegetables need a few basic things to thrive: the right amount of water, the right amount of light, and quality soil. But did you know that there is more to soil than simply buying a bag at your garden center, or planting vegetables directly in your backyard? One of the biggest determining factors of how well your vegetables will grow is the pH of your garden soil. All plants like their soil to be a certain pH in order for them to thrive. So what is soil pH, and how can you change it to meet your vegetable’s needs?
What is Soil pH?
Much like water, soil has a natural pH level that is either acidic or alkaline, and is determined by conditions in your area. Soil pH is measured on a scale from 1 to 14, with 1 being the most acidic, 14 being the most alkaline, and 7 being neutral. Most plants like their pH to be somewhere between 4.5 to 8.0, but even this is a large range. A soil pH of 5.0 is considered to have a high acid content, and a soil pH of 7.5 is considered to have a high alkaline content.
The pH of your soil is important because it affects how well a plant can absorb nutrients, including nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, as it grows. Knowing what pH your vegetables prefer helps you to group plants with similar requirements together, and grow happier, healthier plants. Determining your soil’s pH is easy. You can buy easy-to-use tests at your local garden center or online to see where your soil falls on the pH scale. Many soils tend to be too alkaline, so you will have to alter your garden to be more acidic depending on the vegetables that you wish to grow.
How to Change Soil pH
While all of this may seem a little daunting, changing the pH of your soil can be quite simple. One quick and easy way to make your soil more acidic is to use horticultural vinegar. Vinegar is made of acetic acid, making it a great option to raise acidity. To use, simply mix 1 cup of vinegar with 1 gallon of water, and apply to your soil. Wait a day, and then test your soil again to see where your pH is now. If you still need to make it more acidic, apply again at the same strength. Be sure not to splash any of your vinegar mixture on plants, as it can kill the plant. However, as an added bonus this same mixture can be applied to weeds and plants in unwanted areas as an all-natural weed killer.
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