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Planting in Acidic Soil Conditions
November 9th by Anthony D'Atri

Nearly every homeowner desires, or in some cases, secretly desires a healthy lawn and plantings. This is achieved through proper maintenance practices and taking proactive measures to seen and unforseen problems on your property. One of the many common problems to the untrained eye is acidic soil conditions.

Overview & Facts

- Soil pH is important to plant nutrition because if affects both the physical and chemical properties of soil
- Slightly acid soil (i.e. pH 6.5 to 7) is best for most plants
-Minerals tend to be more soluble in acid than in neutral or alkaline soils
-The soil solution carries Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K), and all other required elements that plants need in order to grow, thrive and fight disease
-The availability of these elements is directly affected by pH. For example, if the pH of the soil is above 5.5, Nitrogen, in the form of nitrate, becomes available. Phosphorus is available between 6.5 and 7 and Potassium most readily available at pH 6 to 7.

Symptoms

It is common practice to take regular soil tests where acidic soil conditions could exist, such as under pine trees, poorly drained areas in your property and shady areas. A tell tale sign is the presence of moss.

Diagnosis & Tests

There are a few ways to go about having a soil test done. You can find a local soil testing company which will charge you a few dollars and send you out kit consisting of a couple of sample bags and instructions as to how to take proper samples of the soil in question and you just send it back to them where they can e-mail you the results. This is generally the most reliable way to take a soil sample as many factors can come into play when doing it yourself. On the other hand, if you insist that you can perform the pH soil test on your own, you can simply head to your local nursery at the beginning of the growing season and pick up a soil testing kit yourself. Included in the kit should be a test tube, some testing solution and a colour chart. Just put a soil sample into the test tube, add a few drops of solution, shake it and let it settle for an hour. Compare the colour of the solution in the test tube with the colour chart and you have a rough estimate of your soil pH.

Treatment

Soil pH may be lowered and soil made more acidic by the addition of organic matter such as compost, peat moss, pine needles, or oak leaves. Unfortunately very large quantities are necessary to change the pH measurement only a small amount.

To raise soil alkalinity use lime in the form of crushed limestone or dolomitic lime at approximately the rate of 7 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. Do not apply this with manure or chemical fertilizers. Wood ash can also be used but must be added roughly a week or two prior to planting, as amending soil takes time to see results.