Soil pH: The Secret to Plant Success

The typical players in plant health are water, soil, and sunlight. Everyone learns that in elementary school and it’s the basic formula for having a successful plant. However, under the surface, there are hundreds of critical factors that influence plant growth and garden health. 

Concentrations of different nutrients, microorganisms, and even harmful bacteria that can cause common plant diseases all make up the comprehensive network of nature. Among those hundreds of factors lies soil pH. The importance of soil pH and nutrition cannot be overstated, and many gardeners may not fully understand it. Regardless, it’s a wildly important factor that deserves some digging into. 

What is pH?

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The pH of something refers to its measure of acidity or alkalinity. This is determined by the concentration of hydrogen ions present in the solution. The pH scale ranges from zero to fourteen, with seven being neutral. The lower numbers refer to acidic substances, and the higher numbers are alkaline or bases. 

Pure water is considered neutral and should have a pH of seven, but any minerals present can change it very quickly. Other examples include lemon juice, which has a pH of around two to three, while ammonia has a pH of around eleven or twelve. 

Why Does Soil pH Matter? 

The pH of the soil is very important, as it can directly affect whether plants thrive or suffer. The main factors that affect soil pH are: 

  • Weather and climate 
  • Mineral content
  • Soil texture
  • Pesticide and Herbicide Use
  • Fertilizer types

Each of these factors can either directly or indirectly impact soil pH levels, ultimately shaping the health and productivity of the soil and the plants that grow in it. Weather and climate play a significant role in determining soil pH because of precipitation patterns, temperature fluctuations, mineral leaching, and humidity levels. In regions with high rainfall and humid climates, soil pH tends to be lower and vice versa. 

Surprisingly, soil pH is highly reliant on soil texture. Sandy soils are usually more acidic, which makes a lot of sense based on the information above. Humid climates and sandy soil textures are often in the same areas, which is what contributes to certain plants, like palm trees, thriving there.  

Do Pesticides, Herbicides, and Fertilizers Affect Soil pH?

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Pesticides and herbicides can impact soil pH by altering the microbial community and nutrient-cycling processes in the soil. Some pesticides and herbicides do this on purpose to help support certain growing goals, but others are less intentional, and you must be careful in their application. 

Organic herbicides and pesticides are a healthy way to combat this problem. Typically, herbicides and pesticides that are loaded with chemicals tend to disrupt soil activity and the microorganisms that live within. This changes nutrient availability and soil pH over time. However, organic products contain ingredients that help condition and neutralize the soil, promoting a healthy pH and nutrient absorption. 

Fertilizers are perhaps one of the most common ways in which soil pH is affected, and they are one of the most common products used in growing. Many fertilizers contain acidic or alkaline compounds that can shift soil pH toward either end of the spectrum. Proper application of organic fertilizers can help balance nutrients in the soil, prevent major pH fluctuations, and improve soil fertility in the long term. 

What Is the Ideal Soil pH

The ideal soil pH really depends on a lot of factors, and there’s no concrete answer that is a one-size-fits-all. However, plants generally prefer slightly acidic or neutral soil pH, ranging somewhere between six and seven. There are tons of things that can affect what type of soil pH plants need and prefer, including: 

  • Location 
  • Water quality
  • Surrounding plant species 

The best way to figure out the current soil pH and optimize plant health is by testing your soil. Soil testing is easy, affordable, and gives you concrete answers about your soil. A simple soil testing kit allows you to collect a soil sample and send it back to the experts at Rocky Mountain BioAg® for complete, comprehensive testing. 

Once we find out the pH and many other factors of your soil, we send back information about your soil type and all of our recommendations on how to help your plants thrive in your current conditions, as well as changes that can be made to improve soil quality.  

Soil Conditioners and pH Tools

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Soil conditioners are products that are designed to enrich the soil in various ways, most often by affecting the pH or adding specific nutrients. Gypsum is a popular and easy-to-use product that improves soil structure, drainage abilities, and pH. Gypsum contains calcium sulfate, which helps neutralize acidic soils. 

Dolomite lime is another product that effectively makes soil more alkaline, so plants are more likely to thrive. Dolomite lime also promotes nutrient absorption in plants, so it’s great to combine with fertilizers to get the most out of each product. 

If you test your soil and there’s a major pH issue, there are two products that can very quickly rectify that: Microbe Life Hydroponics’ pH Up and pH Down. The specific purpose of these products is to change soil pH, and both boast superior functionality and can be easily combined in your watering routines, allowing quick absorption and even quicker results.  

Choosing Organic Products for the Environment

Choosing organic products for soil management is essential for promoting the longevity of your soil fertility. Chemical-laden products can cause nutrient leaching and water retention issues and can even burn your crops and damage them permanently.

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Organic products are safe for plants, soil, and the environment. These non-synthetic, all-natural products nurture soil health, support biodiversity, and produce healthy, nutrient-dense crops. Choosing organic farming products is the responsible choice for the environment and will help contribute to a healthier planet for current and future generations.  

Organic Soil pH Management

With a deeper understanding of soil pH, you can go forth and create new strategies to support your garden and crops. Embracing organic gardening practices can not only improve soil pH but can have long-lasting positive impacts on your gorgeous garden and Mother Nature. 

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