Soil pH is a very important factor in plant health – if the soil is too acidic or too alkaline, plants will be unable to absorb nutrients properly, and your garden won’t grow. The degree of acidity and alkalinity is measured on a scale of 0-14, with a pH of 7 neutral, 0-7 acidic, and 7-14 alkaline.
The ideal soil pH for vegetables and lawn grasses is 6.5, just a little on the acidic side. A soil test is needed to determine the pH of your soil.
It’s important to identify the plants in your yard before attempting to adjust the pH level of your soil, since some flowers and shrubs thrive in a slightly higher or lower pH soil. If the results of a soil test indicate that the pH of your soil needs adjusting, here’s how to go about adjusting it.
Tips for Soil pH Correction
Read Label: No matter which product you choose, it’s important to follow the instructions on the package to the letter, even if you have to buy a special spreader or applicator to get it right. For example, one brand of sulfur may be more finely ground than another, and over application could damage your plants. While your soil test results will provide general guidelines about how much amendment is needed, follow the label on the particular product.
Proceed Slowly: Make one application of the product, wait at least three months, retest the pH of the soil, and reapply again if needed. It might take a year or more to get your soil on track, and overdosing can cause more harm than good.
Fall Application: For best results, incorporate pH-correcting amendments in the fall, to give them plenty of time to break down for spring planting. Many gardeners make soil testing and pH-fixing an annual fall ritual.
Plant Selection: You’ll have much better luck if you choose plants well suited to the soil you already have. It’s OK to tweak the pH a little to optimize the growing conditions, but your overall soil makeup pretty much is what it is.