Differences in Soil pH
Posted by Eric Lancaster on
Plants need nutrients to grow. Nutrients needed in higher concentrations are called macronutrients and include things like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and calcium. Nutrients needed in lesser amounts are called micronutrients and include elements like iron, manganese, zinc, and copper.
Acidic soil is widespread throughout the United States due to the fact that most regions in the U.S. receive rainfall year-round in varying levels. As such, most crops do better in slightly acidic soils. Acidic soils are chock full of higher concentrations of micronutrients, but will have a difficult time absorbing potassium, calcium, and nitrates.
Basic (alkaline) soil is found more in areas of the United States that receive less rain on average. Basic soils more heavily feature macronutrients such as the ones listed above, and plants growing in more basic soils will have a difficult time absorbing iron or zinc, for example.
So what happens if you want to grow basic plants in acidic soil or vice versa? Luckily, there are some modifications you can make to the soil. Before anything, get your soil tested professionally or purchase a simple pH testing kit. To increase the pH of your soil (make it more neutral or basic) you can try adding firewood ashes, ground oyster shells, or the most common method of adding ground lime. Ground lime comes pre-ground as an agricultural additive and should be available through the proper retailers.
Soils in the southwest can be as high as 9. These high pH soils are loaded with micronutrients, but have nearly no organic matter. Organic matter helps increase moisture retention, nutrient exchange, and biological activity. To lower pH in alkaline soils you can apply acids in liquid or powder form (short–lived effects) or you can increase organic matter(long-term effects) by applying compost, cover cropping, and crop rotation.
An incorrect pH for the plants you are trying to grow doesn’t mean the end of your gardening days. With a few basic modifications to your soil base and some careful planning, maintaining a soil pH will be the least of your worries and you’ll produce strong, healthy plants.
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