As all keen gardeners know, it’s not always easy getting those damn plant to grow. Indeed, sometimes it feels like no matter what you do, you can never quite achieve the growth you expected, maybe its that godforsaken azalea that just wont flower as well as it did in its first year. The good news is that no matter how bad things may seem, there are always things you can do that’ll push things in the right direction. It’s just that sometimes you’ll need to dig a little deeper.
For example, did you know that the pH level of your soil can greatly influence how healthy your plants can grow? It could be that you’re trying to grow a particular plant in soil that it’s just not suitable for. Understanding what type of soil you have, therefore, can do wonders for the overall health of your garden.
Of course, many of us are not scientists: we’re not able to take a sample of soil into our home laboratories and figure things out. Thankfully, there’s an option that makes the process straightforward: a soil testing kit. They’re easy to use and understand; all you need to do is invest in one, and it won’t be long before you have some valuable knowledge about your garden’s soil.
Best pH Soil Testing Kit
This is a great value kit that once calibrated will give good readings. Please note that although the meter is meant to be pre-calibrated it is the best advice to calibrate it as some customers have reported inaccurate readings. Don’t expect laboratory precise results at this price point but it is more than accurate enough for finding out your soils pH level.
Best Soil Moisture Testing Kit
Immediately know the moisture level of your soil, so no more over or under watering. You can the soils moisture level just right.
How to use a soil testing kit
These are definitely the simplest soil testing kits to use, simply stick the metal rod into your soil and wait for the reading to appear on the digital screen, hey presto you know your soils pH level.
Chemistry style kit
The good news is that soil testing kits all broadly work the same way, so the instructions that we outline here will most likely apply to the one that you’ve bought. The only variable is with the test solution. Sometimes, the package will include a solution that has already been prepared. Other kits will come with a powder, and you just need to add water. If your packaging doesn’t include these things or doesn’t work with the method we’ve outlined below, then consult the instructions, or get in touch with the manufacturer.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the general way to use a soil testing kit.
The first thing to do is to grab all the equipment that you’ll need. This includes, of course, your testing kit. You’ll also want to grab a trowel and something for you to put your soil samples in, such as a mason jar or zip lock bag. Next, head out into the garden. One thing about soil is that it’s unlikely to be the same everywhere in your garden. You’ll probably be able to see for yourself that this is the case; for example, if one flower seems to do well in one area but not another. For that reason, you’ll want to take samples from various corners of the garden or allotment. You’ll be testing each sample individually. Remember to put a label on each of your samples, so that you know where it came from.
Once you’ve identified an area to sample, use your trowel to dig down. You don’t want to take samples from the top layer as this can be impacted by other things, such as mulch. Take a decent sized sample from around 5 inches below ground.
Next, sort through your samples in order to remove anything that shouldn’t be there, such as stones and twigs. They won’t be needed for the test. From there, add the soil to the container that will have come with your package.
Now you can begin the test. Add some of the barium sulphate if it’s provided. If you’re using a premade solution, add the amount that’s recommended, put the top on the container, shake, and then leave to settle for ten minutes.
If your testing kit has provided powder, mix the recommended amount with the recommended volume of distilled water, add to the container, tighten the lid, shake, and then leave to sit for ten minutes.
After ten minutes, you’ll see that the liquid in the container has changed into a colour. To figure out what soil you have, you simply need to compare that colour with the colour chart that has been provided. It’s usually pretty easy to tell what the results are, but make sure you’re holding it up to a bright light just to be sure. Just like that, you’ll know whether your soil is acidic, alkaline, or neutral.
What plants do well in acidic soil?
Most people hope that their soil is neutral, but if you’ve invested in a soil testing kit, then you probably knew that your soil wasn’t neutral. So what happens if it’s acidic? There are plenty of different types of plants that grow in acidic soil just fine, though it is true that your choice will be more limited. Still, there are more than enough options for you to have a beautiful garden.
Let’s just take a look at some of the more interesting plants that do well in acidic soil. Magnolias do exceptionally well; you’ll just want to ensure that the water is moist. The beautiful Liriope muscari also grows well; it thrives in acidic, dry, shaded soil.
The Japanese anemones are one of the more durable plants that you can buy; they do well just about everywhere. And they’re gorgeous to look at, too. The Calluna vulgaris will do well all year-round and can provide an excellent base for your garden since they live close to the ground. This is just a small selection of the plants you can grow; there are plenty more!
What plants do well in alkaline soil?
And what if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, and have alkaline soil? As with acidic soil, there are still plenty of great options for you to have in your garden.
One of the best options is Lily of the valley, which lies close to the ground and also provides a garden with a wonderful aroma. If you want to attract pollinators to your garden, then take a look at adding phacelia. Let it flower and your garden will be a hive of activity. Polemoniums and Wild marjoram are both easy to grow and can provide your garden with colour.
Changing the pH level of your soil
what if you want to grow a plant that thrives in acidic soil but yours is alkaline or vice versa? don’t fret, changing the pH level of your soil is easily accomplished with the right knowledge and a little elbow grease. In fact we have written a guide dedicated to changing the pH level of your garden, you can find it here.
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