Savvy gardeners know that the success of their crop always starts with the condition of their soil. One of the most important soil properties to keep tabs on as a grower is your soil’s pH levels.
What is pH?
pH is a numerical rating of its 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 does pH matter?
If you surf some of the grow message boards out in the interwebs you will find quite the debate regarding the importance of checking the pH of your soil. However, here at Way to Grow, we urge you not to ignore soil pH. Determining the pH of soil is essentially determining how available soil nutrients will be to your plants. Achieving the optimum pH for your plants will allow them to absorb nutrients more effectively. If you plant your crop in soil outside of its preferred pH range you will most likely see poor yield and your plant may even struggle to survive.
What affects pH?
The pH of soil is affected by many things such as the dominant rock type in the area the soil came from, the types of plants growing in the soil, as well as weather conditions. Soil pH varies with climate, as well as physical surroundings. For example, climates with dense forests such as those along the Pacific Coast will have acidic soils with pH ratings of about 4.0-5.5. Arid regions, such as the Rocky Mountain regions, will generally have soil pH levels that are closer to neutral ranging from 6.0- 6.5. Keep in mind that even these general ranges are subject to variability.
What is the ideal pH for growth?
All plant species require their own unique pH to achieve optimum growth. For most vegetable plants you will want to aim for a pH level between 6.0-6.5 (slightly acidic) for optimum nutrient uptake.
How can you obtain optimum pH?
While there are a variety of techniques that may adjust the pH of your soil here at Way To Grow offers we recommend these products.
- Botanicare pH DOWN: 29 percent concentrated Phosphoric Acid solution that rapidly lowers pH levels with its gentle, non-burning formula. Easy to use for beginners and easy to customize for advanced growers.
- Advanced Nutrients pH DOWN: Specially formulated professional, pharmaceutical-grade version of phosphoric acid that immediately lowers hydroponics pH without harming plants.
- Botanicare pH UP: 29 percent concentrated potassium hydroxide solution that has an extremely low level of phytotoxicity and does not contain salts or chlorides. Easy to use for beginners and easy to customize for advanced growers.
- Sensi-Grow/Bloom A & B: Two-part base nutrient formula that includes pH Perfect technology, your pH will constantly be maintained at the perfect level for optimal growth.
Note: For these products use small amounts when adjusting the nutrient solution to affect the pH level, as required. Apply to the soil by mixing the product with water. Make sure to check the pH of your mixture before adding it to the soil. For best results, check the pH level daily.
The More You Know the Better You Grow
If you want to produce a nutrient-rich and high-yielding crop keeping tabs on the pH of your soil is a must. Keeping your soil pH level between 6.0 and 6.5 will ensure that your plants can absorb as many soil nutrients as possible and will lead to a very happy crop. There is a multitude of soil amendment products you can add to your soil to obtain an optimum pH. While this article focused mainly on soil pH, pH is important still if you have decided to go the soil-free route and grow hydroponically. For more information about pH and hydroponic gardening check out Way to Grow’s blog post, Getting Started with Hydroponics.