January 19, 2016

Conducting a Soil pH Test

Looking after, understanding and having an appreciation for your soils health is absolutely essential for any gardener. Soil acts as a foundation for all living things and in soil live thousands and thousands of beneficial microorganisms of which we need to make conditions ideal for them to help us. Soil pH is one of the easiest things to change in your garden. Soil pH is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline the soil is. Soil pH measures the amount of Hydrogen and hydroxyl ions are in the soil.  The pH strongly influences a number of soil processes including nutrient availability. Most plants have a preference to neutral pH which is between 6 and 7.

An easy and cheap method of conducting the test is through a powder kit which can be purchased from your hardware/nursery.

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pH test kit

You will need
Soil pH test kit
Spade or trowel

1. Using the spade dig down approximately 15cm so that you miss any organic matter on the top layer.

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Taking a soil sample

2. Place a 1 tablespoon size sample of soil onto the plastic card provided.
3. Squirt indicator solution on soil sample provided in bottle.

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Adding indicator liquid to soil sample

4. Mix until a thick paste forms.
5. Add the white powder provided onto the sample.

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6. Wait 1 minute.
7. Compare the colour of the soil sample against the colour chart provided.
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8. You now have your pH reading. You can also test at a depth of 10cm and 20cm in different locations.

What do your results mean?
If your soil pH is less than 5 and more than 8 it is considered poor and you should act on this.
A very good soil pH is between 6 and 7.

If your soil is alkaline (8 or above) sulphur products and organic matter need to be added. Low levels of organic matter would also cause other fertility problems in your garden including a low water holding capacity. Other methods to help lower pH include growing legumes in rotation with your garden plants and the addition of gypsum, which can be purchased from your hardware/nursery.

If your soil is acidic (5 or below) it may be caused by the use of excessive nitrogen based fertilisers. With the regular addition of agricultural lime purchased at your local hardware/nursery the pH should increase.

Potting mixes also have a pH and will effect your soil pH if added to a garden bed. Remember to continually test the soil.

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