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Testing Your Soil pH Without a Kit (Soil structure determination added)

edsl48

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#1
(scroll down for the soil structure determination and changes plan)

Learn Two Homemade Soil Ph Testing Methods
I’m always looking for quick tips to make my gardening chores easier. I ran across a couple of gardening hacks about testing your soil pH without a kit and I thought I would try them out and see what I need to do with my garden. Let’s do a little kitchen chemistry!




But first…

Why Do You Care if Your Soil Is Alkaline or Acidic?
Knowing your soil pH is the key to understanding if essential minerals will be available to the roots of your plants.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, “if you live in an area with alkaline soil — which has a pH above 7.0 — you have two options. You can either take measures to lower the pH, or you can choose plants well-suited to growing in alkaline conditions. If you take the latter path, you have a wide variety of plants to choose from.”

The pH Scale courtesy of www.chesapeakquarterly.net
You can lower the alkalinity of your soil by adding organic materials like pine needles, peat moss, and composted leaves. You should always make small changes, over time -so make your soil amendments and wait for it to work before making any more.

According to the article, Your Garden’s Soil, in Mother Earth News, “Raising the organic matter content of soil will usually move the pH of both acidic and alkaline soils toward the neutral range. This is because organic matter plays a buffering role, protecting soil from becoming overly acidic or alkaline. Finished compost usually has a near-neutral pH, so regular infusions of compost should be the primary method you use to improve the soil with extreme pH issues. If your pH readings are only slightly acidic or slightly alkaline, compost and organic mulches may be the only amendments you need to keep your crops happy and your garden growing well.”

#1 – You can test your garden soil pH with vinegar and baking soda
Test your garden soil ph without a soil test kit. Collect 1 cup of soil from different parts of your garden and put 2 spoonfuls into separate containers. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the soil. If it fizzes, you have alkaline soil, with a pH between 7 and 8.



If it doesn’t fizz after doing the vinegar test, then add distilled water to the other container until 2 teaspoons of soil are muddy. Add 1/2 cup baking soda. If it fizzes you have acidic soil, most likely with a pH between 5 and 6.

If your soil doesn’t react at all it is neutral with a pH of 7 and you are very lucky!

This test was fun to do. After I added the vinegar there was no reaction in my bowl and I thought my kitchen science experiment wouldn’t work. Then I added distilled water to another bowl of soil and poured on just a sprinkling of baking soda. Instant fizz! So much fizz that I could see it immediately and hear it working. There’s no doubt – I have acidic soil in my new garden.

#2 – You can make a cabbage water pH test
Measure 2 cups of distilled water into a saucepan. Cut up and add 1 cup of red cabbage. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow it to sit for up to 30 minutes.

Strain off the liquid – which will be purple/blue. This will have a neutral pH of 7.



To test: add 2 teaspoons of garden soil to a jar and a few inches of cabbage water. Stir and wait for 30 minutes. Check the color. If it turns pink, your soil is acidic. If it is blue/green, your soil is alkaline.

There are quite a few fruit and vegetable plants that thrive in acidic soil. These include:

  • blueberries
  • beans
  • broccoli
  • beets
  • bok choy
  • garlic
  • kale
  • lettuce and other leafy greens
  • parsley
  • peas
  • potatoes
  • onions
  • spinach
If your soil tests slightly alkaline (pH between 7 and 8) you’ll be able to easily grow these vegetables without making amendments:

  • artichoke
  • asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage and Chinese cabbage
  • cantaloupe
  • grape vines
  • leeks
  • Lima beans
  • mustard and other leafy greens
  • orange
  • peach tree
  • spinach
  • sugar beets
  • Swiss chard
  • turnips
Knowing the pH of your soil will help your plants grow by absorbing nutrients better from the soil. Their ability to do this depends on the nature of the soil and its combination of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter. The makeup of soil (soil texture) and its acidity (pH) determine the extent to which nutrients are available to plants. Use these 2 ways to test soil pH and have a great garden this year.
 
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Twisted

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#3
I saved this back in 2013 from somewhere, probably from one of the life hacks articles.

soil%20test.jpg
 

smilershouse

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#4
Yes, thank you so much edsl48.


Great post.

SH
 

newmisty

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#5
I love natural remedies. JUst did a baking soda/vinegar flush of a bunch of drains. Stuff the drain with a half cup or so of BS, add a couple cups of vinegar and chase it down with a pot of hot water from the stove. If really stuck use a plunger too. Unclogs drains safely and cheap.
 

edsl48

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#6
Here is something else from the same site
https://preparednessmama.com
Improve Soil Structure by Making Amendments
It’s winter time in my part of the world. I’m doing some research on how to improve soil structure by making amendments to it. My soil is (unfortunately) mostly clay. Which means it needs some help getting air to it and to release some of the water it wants to retain.

Basically, a soil amendment is any material added to a soil to improve its physical properties and the way it holds (or releases) water. Topsoil is usually used with another amendment, it replaces existing soil. You might need to change things like:

  • -water retention
  • -permeability – the ability of water to flow through a soil
  • -how water drains – fast or slow
  • -aeration – the amount of air space
  • -overall soil structure
The goal is to provide a better environment for the roots of the plants. After all, you are putting all your efforts into the growing process. Taking the time now, in the off season, to improve soil structure will benefit your garden during the growing season.

According to the Colorado State University Extension Office “Amending a soil is not the same thing as mulching, although many mulches also are used as amendments. A mulch is left on the soil surface. Its purpose is to reduce evaporation and runoff, inhibit weed growth, and create an attractive appearance. Mulches also moderate soil temperature. Organic mulches may be incorporated into the soil as amendments after they have decomposed to the point that they no longer serve their purpose.”

First Determine Your Soil Structure
Sand, Silt, Clay…Which are you?
This simple test, the mason jar soil test, is the perfect way to begin understanding your soil. It couldn’t be simpler. Just take a sampling of your soil from several different areas of the garden. Mix it together and fill half of a canning jar. Next, add an equal amount of tap water, cap and shake until the soil is suspended in the water. Then let is sit, undisturbed for a few hours. Your soil sample will separate into layers.

Which Amendments Should You Make?



Now that you know what kind of soil you have you can use these recommendations.

Amendments for Clay Soilhttp://www.wikihow.com/Amend-Clay-Soil

Lime: raises the pH of acid soil and helps loosen clay soil.
Bark, ground: made from various tree barks. Improves soil structure.
Sand, course: improves drainage in clay soil.
Compost: excellent conditioner.
Leaf mold: decomposed leaves that add nutrients and structure to soil.
Peat Moss: Conditioner that adds aeration to the soil.

Amendments for Sandy Soil http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/amending-sandy-soil.htm

Peat moss: conditioner that helps soil retain water.
Bark, ground: made from various tree barks. Improves soil structure.
Compost: excellent conditioner.
Leaf mold: decomposed leaves that add nutrients and structure to soil.
Clay rich soil: improves the water holding properties

Amendments for Silty Soil http://agverra.com/blog/silty-soil/

Compost: excellent conditioner.
Manure: best if composted, it’s a good conditioner.
Sand, course: improves drainage
Straw: composted

Having a great garden is all about planning – and soil. No matter what kind of soil structure you currently have, by making some amendments this winter you can improve your soil structure and have a great gardening season.

.
 
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Ragnarok

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#7
Excellent idea to test your soil before planting anything. Where I live the soil is alkaline and clayey. When I planted a garden some years ago and the plants didn’t seem to be doing too well, I got a soil test kit. The result was a pH of 10(!) it took ten pounds of sulfur in the 12’x12’ plot that autumn to bring the pH to neutral by springtime. The crops planted that year were splendid.

R.
 
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AgAuGal

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#8
What abt testing for other nutrients like calcium...