If you’re already using quality nutrients, the most common reason growers see nutrient deficiencies in their plants is because the pH at the roots is off. Having a pH meter and using it regularly can make sure you have a healthy, happy grow from start to finish.
What is pH?
pH is a numerical rating of acidity or alkalinity. All pH is measured on a logarithmic scale from zero (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline or basic). In chemistry terms, when you measure pH, you are essentially measuring the number of hydrogen (H+) ions in a solution.
Why is Checking pH Important?
Among the growing community, there is debate on the importance of checking and maintaining pH. Here at Way to Grow, we urge you not to ignore the pH of your grow, whether your medium is soil or water. Determining the pH of your medium is essentially determining how available nutrients will be to your plants. Achieving the optimum pH for your plants will enable them to absorb nutrients more effectively. If your grow medium is outside of the plant's preferred pH range, you will most likely see a poor yield, and your plants may even struggle to survive.
What if I Don’t Check pH?
Many successful crops have been harvested without ever checking pH, but we don’t recommend going that route. Having an optimal pH will allow your plants to absorb maximum nutrients and, in turn, your plants will produce their very best.
Failure to check your pH can cause a variety of problems. You may be overfeeding your plants, and this could put your plants at risk for nutrient burn. You may also misdiagnose a problem as a nutrient deficiency, when in fact the problem is not the amount of nutrients, but the ability of the roots to absorb the nutrients.
Remember, nutrients can be costly, and if you are overusing them to make up for unbalanced pH levels then you are throwing money down the drain.
What is a Good pH For My Plants?
The optimum soil pH for most vegetable plants is between 6.0-6.5 (slightly acidic) for optimum nutrient uptake. Growing hydroponically requires a more acidic medium ranging from 5.5 – 6.5.
How Often Should I Check pH?
When growing plants in soil, you should check the pH every few days to ensure levels are remaining stable. Due to hydroponic systems being more sensitive to pH changes, it is important to check the pH of your hydroponic system daily.
Types of pH Kits
There are several types of pH testing kits available on the market today. Learn more about the different types below to determine the best kit for your grow.
To use in soil, you will have to make a mixture of soil and distilled water that is about the consistency of a milkshake. Place the strip in the solution and wait for the color to change. Compare this color with the color chart on the bottle, and will be able to tell what your pH is. For hydroponic systems, you can just dip the strip directly into your water.
- Simple to use
- Only give a general idea of pH
Chemical Solutions (AKA Dropper Kits)
To use, place some of your soil in a vial, add distilled water and then apply the amount of chemical solution as per the instructions. This will give you a color that you can compare to the attached chart.
- Results are left to interpretation and can be inaccurate
Digital pH Testers
Digital pH pens offer a precise way to measure the pH of your water or soil. You will need to make a solution with your soil and distilled water. No need to squint at a color chart with a pH pen, you simply look at the number on the screen.
- Provides the most accurate and precise pH you can achieve
- Requires diligent maintenance and calibration
The More You Know, The Better You Grow
Being a gardener or farmer (or however you choose to self-identify) can be considered an art form. Managing your soil’s pH enables you to perfect your craft and produce a high-quality product. If you have any further questions about the pH levels of your grow, stop in at one of our store locations and ask one of our knowledgeable staff members!