The pH of your soil is important because if a soil is too acidic or too alkaline many important nutrients needed by plants are not readily available as they need to be. Most landscape plants prefer a soil pH that ranges from 6.0 (acidic) to 7.5 (alkaline) with 7.0 being a neutral pH. There are certain landscape plants that actually prefer a more acid soil and there are a few that really like a more alkaline soil.
However, the issue for most homeowners is whether the soil’s pH around the house is more acid than 6.0 or more alkaline than 7.5. In those cases, most of your plants are not going to be happy and healthy and something needs to be done to rectify that problem. On the left are files dealing with both sides of the pH problem.
Simple pH Test
The best way to determine your soil’s pH is to take a formal soil test, however there is less accurate technique that has been used for many years by experienced gardeners. Dig up some samples of your soil with a trowel and make a little pile. Break up all the lumps and remove any stones and let the soil dry out for a day or two. With a plastic spoon scoop up a tablespoon or so of the dry soil and add several drops of vinegar. If the vinegar makes your soil fizz, it’s quite alkaline, probably with a pH of over 7.5. If nothing happens, then clean off the spoon and pick up another spoonful. Add enough water to make the spoonful of soil quite moist. Now add a pinch of baking soda. If it fizzes it means your soil has a pH of less than 5.0, which is going to be problems for most of your plants. If nothing happens with each of these homey tests, your soil is probably okay as far as the pH is concerned.