July 22, 2015 Guest Post
As a novice gardener, you’ve probably not thought much about the pH of your soil, but it’s an important part of successfully growing vegetables. If you’re an experienced green thumb, you know that pH measures how much acidity or alkalinity is in your soil. Soil pH is important because it dictates how easily plants can take nutrients from the soil. Don’t worry: most plants have a wide pH range in which plants can thrive. But if you’re unsure, consult your trusty gardening book for the preferred pH for your specific plant.
What Affects pH?
Many considerations factor into what affects the pH level of any given garden. First and foremost, regional differences, climates and environmental factors all come into play. Everything from amount of rainfall to vegetation type to temperature can affect soil pH, says Organic Gardening. You’ll find acid soils in Eastern states and the Pacific Northwest, which tend to get heavy rainfalls and feature forest cover. Light rainfall and prairie cover indigenous to the Midwest create a more neutral pH. Areas of the United States that experience little rain typically feature alkaline soils. But pH levels can even differ between you and your neighbor, as your soil could have been farmed in from another part of the state during construction, for example, giving you a much different type of soil than the lady down the street.
It’s easy to test the pH level of your soil yourself. Just pick up a simple home soil test kit or a portable pH meter, which may vary in accuracy but can help provide a good range for your particular soil. You could also call in a professional to take samples of your soil and analyze it in a lab setting. If you have vegetables that thrive best in alkaline environments and you find your soil is too acidic, you’ll have to correct it before planting. This involves adding ground limestone. If your soil is too alkaline and you need it to be more acidic to accommodate your desired plants, you’ll need to add powdered elemental sulfur. You can spread all of that using a garden spreader or by hand–just be sure to wear heavy work gloves to avoid getting it on your hands, and wash thoroughly after you’re through. Organic Gardening points out that adding organic matter is the most environmentally friendly option, rather than, say, incorporating peat moss, which is not a sustainable resource. Compost buffers the pH, bringing both acid and alkaline soils closer to neutral.
Veggies and Their Preferred pH Levels
Not sure which veggies will thrive in your garden? It’s important to first test your soil, then match up the best vegetables to plant based on the results. As a general rule, acid soil is one with a pH lower than 7.0 and alkaline soil has a pH higher than 7.0, according to The Garden Helper. For example, the optimal pH for avocados, beans, cauliflower and celery is 6.0 to 7.0, while the optimal pH for rutabagas, pumpkins, shallots and spinach is 5.0 to 7.0. Yams tend to accommodate a wider range of 5.0 to 7.0, while onions have the narrow range of 6.2 to 6.8. Keep these basics in mind when planning out your super yummy garden, and your vegetables are sure to thrive.
This article was written by Fergie McLachlan, organic gardener who grows her own organic veggies and has a fully organic flower garden. She is excited to share her gardening tips with you so can get the best soil for your plants when the growing season begins.