Soil pH Testers-Are They Accurate?

Every gardening book and web site recommends that you get your soil tested and one of the main tests is for pH. You can get a professional lab to do the test, or you could use one of the convenient soil pH test kits made for gardeners.  How useful and accurate are the results of such tests? It is more complicated than you think. Let’s have a close look.

soil pH tester
soil pH test kit – colored dyes, source: BBC Gardening Blog

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Solving Water Problems For Indoor Plants: Hardness, pH, Salts, Alkalinity & Chlorine

Indoor plants are not too fussy about the water they get, but certain conditions like pH, alkalinity, hardness, chlorine and sodium levels are a concern. If the water is not suitable, plants fail to grow properly and may die. Many gardeners blame themselves for having black thumbs when in fact their problem is “black” water.

In this post I will discuss things that you can do to try and correct any water issues you might have.

Hard Water Stains: Solving Problems With Your Water - For Indoor Plants
Hard Water Stains: Solving Problems With Your Water – For Indoor Plants, Source: Good to Grow

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Fertilizer Garden Myths

A lot of the stuff on the internet is garbage when it comes to gardening advice. I am not surprised about that since many people just repeat what they have heard and give it very little thought. Some garden writers don’t actually do much gardening – they are writers, not gardeners. I rarely believe information unless it comes from experts in a field, government sites or published research articles.

This post is about an information guideline on fertilizers and soil amendments which is published by a government source – one you should be able to trust. Unfortunately it is full of incorrect or misleading advice. Let’s have a look at some fertilizer gardening myths.

fertilizer garden myths; Lobelia cardinalis X Lobelia siphilitica, by Robert Pavlis
Lobelia cardinalis X Lobelia siphilitica, grows just fine without added fertilizer, by Robert Pavlis

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Compost Creates Acidic Soil

Does compost make acidic soil? It is a common claim made for compost but does it really work? Is it a good option for making alkaline soil more acidic? Let’s have a closer look.

does compost acidify soil
Compost pH madness – does compost acidify soil?

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Benefits of Composting

In past posts I have talked about some of the benefits of compost. It improves soil structure and it adds nutrients to the soil. What about the other benefits like adding microbes to the soil, reducing diseases and eliminating the need for additional fertilizer? Are these real benefits or just gardening myths?

Benefits of composting
Benefits of composting

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Increasing Soil Acidity

There is a lot of advice on how to make make acidic soil both in print and on the net. You can use coffee grounds, pine needles, and sulfur to name a few. This advice has two problems. Firstly, the recommended product may not actually acidify soil. For example in Do Pine Needles Acidify Soil I show that pine needles do not make acidic soil. Coffee grounds don’t acidify soil either. The second problem is that before such advice is given it is important to know the soil types (ie soil texture) being treated. Let’s take a closer look at this.

acidic soil texture
Soil texture is important when trying to acidify soil

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Liming Acidic Soil – Adding Lime

Your soil is acidic and you would like to change the pH so that it is less acidic. The universal advice is to add lime to the soil ie liming your soil. Lime is alkaline and it will neutralize the acidity of the soil and make it more neutral. Adding lime certainly works – but there is a catch!

Liming acidic soil
Anemone Pamina at Aspen Grove Gardens

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