Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What Works for 5th Grade Science Also Works in The Garden

Think back you your first elementary science experiment.  It probably involved some sort of paper mache volcano, baking soda, and some colored vinegar.  Well, the same can be used for testing the pH in your garden, minus the volcano.

The pH is a basic fact that every good gardener should know prior to sticking any plant in the ground.  It is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline something is, including your soil.  With the right pH, plants thrive, but without it, they can wither away or struggle, never maximizing their growing potential.

There are several different ways to test pH levels.

The following link is for the Georgia Cooperative Extension Office.  Your local extension office provides soil testing at a nominal price.  Usually this involves taking various soil samples from around your yard and mailing in to have a lab analyze them and send you the results.


Most home improvement stores or garden centers will have some sort of product that can be used to measure soil pH.  Although both of the above methods are more accurate, there is still another method that is much more cost effective. The best part is, it will still give you an idea of what you are working with.

When you mix an acid (Vinegar) with a base (Baking Soda), you get a chemical reaction.  In order to see this reaction in your soil the steps are pretty basic.

You will need the following for the measurements:

1)      A glass jar or bowl
2)      Vinegar
3)      Baking soda
4)      Distilled Water

1)In the glass jar or bowl mix in a small amount of soil that is going to be tested.
2)Add Vinegar-If it fuzzes, you have a more alkaline soil.
3)Wash the bowl out and dry.
4)Mix in another sample of soil into glass bowl.
5)Add small amount of distilled water.  You want enough to saturate the soil.  Distilled water is used here because your tap water or even rain water is slightly acidic.
6)Same as step 2, Watch for fuzzes, if so your soil is more acidic.

This process needs to be done several times in order to test a large area.  Even though it's not as accurate, it should at least give you an idea as to whether or not you need to add lime or something like wood ash to alter the soil to the proper pH for the plant.


  1. This looks like a cool blog, Adam!

  2. Syllepsis,

    Thanks for the comment. Let me know what zone that you are in. I'll try to include some posts that might be relevent more to your area. Feel free to ask any questions or suggest any blog topics you might want me to look into.

    Thanks again.