Knowing the right soil pH level in your garden is essential for healthy plant growth. Measuring the correct pH value allows you to determine whether your growing media is naturally acid or alkaline.
Sometimes the plants you are growing will require you to make your soil more acidic.
The amount of sunlight a garden receives does not solely contribute to healthy plant growth. Managing your soil is also essential as the soil fertility, pH, and moisture levels all contribute to higher yields.
Being aware of how the pH level affects your plant growth is crucial as it affects the soil’s availability of nutrients. And essentials nutrients are available to most plants at a pH between 6 to 7.5.
How To Naturally Increase Your Soil Acidity
Acid-loving plants like perennials, shrubs, ground covers, and trees can fill your garden with life and colors. But they thrive most successfully in acidic soils. Follow these steps:
1) Conduct A Soil Test
A pH is the standard measurement of the soil’s alkalinity and acidity. It ranges from 0 to 14, being 7 the neutral level. The soil below 7 is acidic, and above is alkaline.
Before attempting to either raise or lower the soil’s pH in your garden, conducting a soil test is essential. A soil test will help you determine whether the growing media you have is neutral, acidic, or alkaline. Determining soil pH is the first step for successful soil management.
To see whether the soil you have is alkaline or acidic, you can contact and send samples to a reliable soil testing lab for a pH test.
Another option is to conduct your own homemade soil acidity-alkalinity test using items commonly found around your home.
2) Consider How Wide Your Growing Areas Is
Determining your soil’s current pH level allows you to choose what method to use to increase the acidity in your soil.
Of course, there are some factors you have to consider. Apart from the soil pH, you also need to consider how wide the area is you’re going to amend and how fast you want results.
3) Know What Causes Soil Acidity
Wet climates and the following four factors are the significant contributors that make soil more acidic. These are: rainfall and leaching, decaying organic matter, acidic parent material, and the harvest of crops.
Excessive rainfall drains away elements like calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. These are the elements that potentially prevent soil acidity. Also, the decaying organic matter produces hydrogen ions (H+), which are responsible for acidity.
The harvest of crops also contributes to increasing soil acidity. As the crops grow, calcium, magnesium, and potassium are absorbed by the plants for healthy growth. And as the yield increases, more nutrients are required, thereby removing them from the soil.
4) Manually Increase Your Soil’s Acidity Level
Natural soil acidification happens when the concentration of hydrogen ions in the soil increases. And ammonium-based fertilizers are significant contributors to soil acidification.
Soil is also acidified naturally when acid rain and other organic materials like lichens and algae break down rocks.
Plants take up nitrogen in the form of ammonium, the positively charged ions, and nitrate, the negatively charged ions. The rule is, plants tend to release a hydrogen ion (H+) when it absorbs an ammonium ion and releases a hydroxide ion (OH-) when a nitrate ion is taken.
However, plants cannot absorb nitrate during the assimilation process due to waterlogging and lack of oxygen. Unabsorbed nitrate is washed away by rainfall, causing an increase in the acidity of the soil. Here are some things you can do to increase the acidity of your soil.
Amend Soil With Compost
Adding an aged compost to your soil will help lower the pH level over time. The decaying organic matter in the compost is by far the best way to increase acidity in your soil.
Not only does it improve the soil structure and encourage more beneficial micro-organisms, but it also gradually lowers the pH in your garden.
Water Plants With Compost Tea
Watering your plants with homemade compost tea can also contribute to soil becoming more acidic. Compost tea is famous for feeding your plants fast-acting nutrients. Still, it can very much make the soil more acidic organically.
Apply Sulfur To Your Home Garden
Sulfur is another essential element growers use to bolster plant resistance against diseases. But it is also a natural substance that effectively acidifies soil in the garden.
Using sulfur is the most favored method of large scale growers, commercial gardeners, and farmers to acidify the soil. And you can definitely use it in your home garden too.
To determine how much sulfur you’ll need depends on the size of your garden, the starting pH, and how compacted or sandy your soil is.
Make sure to do your soil test to get accurate pH measurements before starting to amend your soil with sulfur. Follow the instructions carefully and let the natural wonder of elemental sulfur work on its own after the application.
Releasing beneficial nutrients and organic materials like bark, pine needles, and oak leaves into your soil can also boost soil acid naturally when used as mulch in your vegetable garden.
Consider Sphagnum Peat Moss
Peat moss is also famous for contributing to soil acidity. It is often used to amend the soil for acid-loving plants in sandy and slightly acidic soil. However, soil containing minerals like limestone is not acidified by adding peat moss.
Apply Coffee Grounds For Short-Term Solutions
There are lots of recommendations online how coffee grounds positively contribute acidity to the soil. However, coffee grounds do not acidify your soil permanently.
They’ll boost the soil acidity in the immediate area they’re added to, but definitely do not in the larger surrounding areas.
However, coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen. So, it can be an excellent addition to your compost pile if you are hesitant in using manure because of the concern about pathogens. It makes a perfect substitute for nitrogen-rich manure to amend your plants.
5) Maintaining Soil Acidity
After all the hard work of making your soil more acidic, regular monitoring is necessary to maintain the soil’s pH level. Amend by adding compost and homemade liquid fertilizers when the pH starts to rise up again.
Also, make sure to conduct a soil test periodically. The use of elemental sulfur does not guarantee to keep the soil acidity. Changing climates and a decrease in precipitation in your area can cause soil pH to increase.
Understanding the concept of acidity and soil pH that affects your plant’s healthy growth helps you determine the elements your plants require to thrive and the elements that are toxic to them.
Soil acidity is measured and expressed as soil pH using a scale from 0-14, indicating values below 7.
Your plant requires other elements like zinc and iron to grow healthy. But they cannot absorb the nutrients when the soil is too alkaline or when the pH level is above 7.5.
Therefore, soil acidification by amending your garden to increase the amount of iron, zinc, and other micronutrients available is essential for your plant’s optimum growth.
Plants with yellowing of leaves are sometimes suffering from iron deficiency and not because of pest infestations.
And iron deficiency occurs when the soil has a higher pH than the plant can tolerate. The most common solution to this problem is to acidify the soil.
Understanding how to make your soil acidic naturally allows you to determine issues affecting your plant’s growth.
By keeping your soil healthy, your happy plants will surely thank you. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section below. Happy gardening!