Lower the Soil pH in Your Garden

Although it is possible to find high pH soil anywhere, alkaline soil is most prevalent in the arid west. Lack of rainfall causes the soil to hold on to calcium and other high pH minerals. If your dirt has a high pH, you'll need to lower the soil pH in your garden.

Garden soil with a high pH is considered "alkaline." The soil pH measures the level of acidity (low pH) or alkalinity (high pH) in your soil. Most plants grow best in soil that is neutral with a pH of between 6 and 7. Unbalanced soil pH  restricts the ability of plants to draw nutrients from the ground.

Working With Soil Amendments
Typically, soil is composed of 90% minerals and 10% organic material. Amending the soil is the process of adding material (either mineral or organic) to change the composition of the soil.

Sulfur is a soil amendment that can bring down the soil pH. Sulfur can be found in two forms: dusting sulfur and aluminum sulfate. If soil conditions are not favorable, sulfur can take several months to break down into the soil. Aluminum sulfate, on the other hand, begins to lower soil pH shortly after application.

If you prefer a more organic method, amending your soil with compost will gradually lower the soil pH in your garden. As an added benefit, compost acts as a buffer to protect plants from unbalanced soil pH. Mulching with an acidic organic material such as pine straw is another way to gradually lower the pH of your garden soil.

Apply Carefully, Follow Instructions
Minerals amendments to lower the soil pH in your garden can do more harm than good if applied incorrectly. Follow application, concentration and cleanup instructions carefully. Sulfur and aluminum sulfate can burn the leaves of existing plants if not washed off shortly after application.

The amount of amendment to be applied should be determined using the existing pH and soil type. Sandy soil will require a smaller amount of amendment than clay soils. Remember, it is always easier to add more than to correct the mistake of adding too much. Start out slow and test often to insure the proper application of any soil amendments.

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Soil pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline your soil is. The number you get when you test your soil's pH can tell you whether your plants are likely to thrive in your garden spot or not. Luckily, if the answer is no, there are ways to change your soil's pH and make your garden into a more hospitable environment for your vegetables, flowers and lawn.

Plants make their own food, but they sometimes need a helping had from fertilizer. By conducting a soil test and knowing how to read a fertilizer bag, you'll be able to make choices that benefit your plants instead of harming them.

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