Some plants prefer alkaline, while others prefer acidic soils. Therefore, it is essential to understand the nature and type of soil favored by various plants.
These issues impact the growth of your plants significantly.
So, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with how the acidity or alkalinity of your soil affects your plants.
If you’re growing acid-loving plants, then their overall health greatly depends on soil acidity.
First, understand what is meant by acidic soils to help specific plants flourish.
What Is Acidity?
As mentioned, there are different kinds of soil. One common way to differentiate soils is to identify their mineral content, which can vary according to geological factors.
These variations determine the acidity or alkalinity of your soil, which is apparent by its pH value.
Let’s make this a bit more palatable for an easy read.
Firstly, soils can be neutral, alkaline, or acidic, with varying alkalinity or acidity levels.
A pH of seven indicates the soil is neutral. Any pH values below 7 are acidic soils, while those above are alkaline.
You might be wondering about the importance of soil pH for your gardening?
Well, soil pH is so crucial that the survival and health of your plants depend on getting it right.
The pH level of the soil indicates various critical factors about the ground. These factors include nutrient availability, toxicity levels, soil bacteria, and soil structure, which affect the growth of your plants.
Basically, some plants thrive better in alkaline soils, while others prefer acidic soils. Some plants absorb nutrients more effectively in acidic soils, allowing them to flourish.
You’ll want to plant such crops in the right soil conditions to enhance productivity. Making your soil acidic will give your plants a better chance and make you a happier gardener if you’re aiming to grow those that enjoy this type of environment.
Some nutrients have low presence/availability in highly acidic conditions. These nutrients include nitrogen, sulfur, molybdenum, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium.
You must maintain low soil acidity (pH levels ranging from 6 to 6.5) for optimal absorption of these nutrients. All these are the essential nutrients for most organic plants that thrive in acidic ground.
On the other hand, some nutrients tend to be available in high acidic concentrations at any pH below 5. Examples of these nutrients include copper, zinc, and manganese.
The positive news is that these nutrients are not very essential for most plants.
Another vital piece of info regarding soil acidity is that metals such as iron and aluminum cause toxic soil acidity. They induce high acidity leading to the withering of most plants.
Two types of soil acidity
To further comprehend soil acidity, the two types of acidity in the soil are also critical. However, before going into detail, appreciate that hydrogen ions in the soil also determine acidity levels.
The first type of soil acidity is called active acidity. Active acidity is influenced by the concentration of H+ ions in a 1:1 soil-water ratio.
The second type of soil acidity is called reserve acidity. Reserve acidity occurs when there are changes in the moisture content of the soil.
What Plants Love Acidic Soil?
It can be pretty tricky knowing which of your plants love acidic soils. So, let’s look at some common plants that prefer acidic soil as a head start.
Most plants love acidic soils, so the list is quite extensive. However, only the most popular ones make it onto this list due to a lack of space.
Your garden’s success starts with the soil. But it is impossible to gauge the pH level of your soil just by looking at it.
You must test the pH of your soil to determine if it’s acidic before planting your garden favorites. Follow our guide on a simple method you can use at home to test your soil’s pH level.
Testing A Soil Sample
Testing the soil’s pH is the key to determining whether it’s alkaline or acidic. There is an easy and efficient way of testing your soil acidity using vinegar and baking soda.
These are items you can easily source from your kitchen or your local retailer.
Two small plastic containers
White household vinegar
Use a trowel to collect a soil sample from the garden. Mixing samples from patches of land around the garden will give you more accurate results.
Then, place two saltspoonfuls of the sample in each of the two containers. Next, pour half a cup of water over each of the soil samples and stir thoroughly.
After that, prepare half a cup of vinegar and a half cup of baking soda into the first and second container, respectively.
If the mixture fizzes in the vinegar container, your soil is alkaline. If it fizzes in the baking soda container, then your soil is acidic.
No reaction means the soil has a neutral PH.
An alternative method for testing soil pH is to use dyes. Dyes react to different pH levels in the soil by changing color. This is a straightforward method.
Soil pH kit
Purchase pH strip kits with the necessary chemicals and color charts for measuring pH levels.
Take the soil sample and saturate it in the dye. Full saturation of soil samples is a must for accurate results.
Pour small amounts of the chemical into the saturated sample and observe the color change.
Check the pH chart for the appropriate color and its indicated pH level.
Sometimes there are areas of the garden that tend to have high acidity than others. For accurate results, consider mixing soil samples from different parts of the lawn or garden before doing a dye test.
Using pH meters
The previous pH testing methods are for those gardeners who enjoy doing practical work. Another viable way of testing for soil pH is using readily available soil pH meters.
Soil meters offer an accurate method of measuring pH levels. You don’t need to check through charts to obtain the exact pH either. You can even use the same meters to measure light intensity and moisture in the soil.
Making Soil Acidic
Too much alkalinity hinders the proper growth of your plants. If you measure the soil pH levels and find it is still too alkaline or neutral, there is no need to panic. You can easily acidify your soil using simple methods to create a favorable growing medium for your plants.
Let’s look at how you can raise the acidic levels of your soil.
There are tons of ways to acidify your soil which you can apply to your garden. Here are some effective methods.
1. Adding sphagnum peat
This is a simple way to increase soil acidity, especially for those who have small gardens.
You can add half an inch or one inch of sphagnum peat to the topsoil. Then, during the planting season, mix this properly into the topsoil to increase the overall soil acidity.
2. Using sulfur and iron sulfate
Apply sulfur or iron sulfate to your soil to improve the acidity. Use iron sulfate if you need quicker results, as sulfur acidifies soil much slower.
However, it might be more costly as you need higher volumes of iron sulfate than sulfur to create the right balance. If you decide to go with sulfur, apply approximately one year before you plant for greater efficacy.
3. Using acid fertilizer
I know, a year is pretty long to wait for planting. But, what happens if you want to plant immediately?
Then, you’re in luck because you can just use an acid fertilizer.
You can mix it with a water-soluble product such as Miracid before applying it to the soil for your acid-loving plants.
Should I Use Organic Solutions?
Using organic solutions is another brilliant way to lower your soil’s pH. Some standard organic solutions you can use in your garden include compost tea and white vinegar.
Using vinegar is an effective method for indoor container plants.
Make a solution of two tablespoons of vinegar for a gallon of water and water the plants. A vinegar solution has high acidity, so it adjusts your soil’s pH to cater to plants that thrive in these conditions.
Watering your soil with compost tea and diluted white vinegar are organic ways of soil acidification. Employ these two methods if you’re averse to using chemicals.
Compost tea is also nutrient-rich, so you will be doing your plants a double favor.
Maintaining the perfect acidity levels of your soil can be a constant struggle for gardeners. However, the result of rectifying the soil’s pH is worth the effort.
You might just find you have a better hand at gardening than you thought–all from managing your plant’s growing conditions.
Make sure to regularly test the pH of your soil to determine the best solution for plant growth.
You can improve the yield you get from your staples by amending the soil pH of your soil using this guide.
Try out simple methods that deliver outstanding results. It’s not always necessary to spend too much when simple solutions work perfectly well.
Tyler C Rich is the founder and chief editor at TopsyGardening.com. An experienced gardener and a professionally trained agriculture development expert, Rich has worked in the gardening and landscaping industry for more than a few decades. Although he has retired, his spark for developing the best urban and indoor gardens has not faded a bit. He uses TopsyGardening.com as a platform to come across enthusiastic gardeners and share the unique insights he has acquired through years of experience. Rich is interested in aquaponics and technology apart from conventional gardening techniques.