Even though it seems early to be thinking about your spring garden, it’s never the wrong time. The secret to a great garden is great dirt! And that means building healthy soil with good structure, tilth, micro-organisms, a balance of particulate components and organic matter.
If plants grow in soil with conditions favorable for their development, they will be amazingly healthy, vigorous, and pest free. They will also be able to stand up to stress, drought, and other environmental issues with remarkable resilience. If the soil is healthy and contains a good proportion of organic matter no fertilizers and most other treatments will be unnecessary.
One of the soil characteristics that affects plant health is the pH level. Plants generally like either an acid or alkaline soil, i.e either a lower or higher pH . This is usually determined via a soil test. You can find info at your local garden centers or extension office as to how to sample the soil, and where to send it. Those tests are very thorough and will not only identify pH, but will access organic matter and levels of various minerals in your soil. Expect a report and recommendations for improving your soil.
For a shortcut in determining the basic acidity or alkalinity of your soil, try the process described below. If you have children or grandchildren, this would be a great “science project.”
Here is a little trick to test your soil type:
*Acidic:Take a sample of soil (about a half cup will do), mix it with a solution of half cup baking soda and half cup of water. If the soda fizzes, the soil is acidic. Great for Azaleas or Blueberries or any acid loving plant.
*Alkaline: Now test more soil from the same area, this time take half cup of soil and mix it with half cup vinegar. If it fizzes or has tiny bubbles, your soil is alkaline.
*Neutral: Your soil will not react to these home tests.
Your yard may vary depending on the location so do several samples so you know what will do best where. Have fun in the dirt!
Thanks to The Garden Geeks for the science experiment portion.