We've discussed fertilizing but didn't touch too much on the acidic needs of many trees and plants. Anyone who is new to gardening may think that it is as simple as planting flowers and other plants into a pot with soil and making sure that they do not dry out. However, one thing that most newbie gardeners fail to realize is that not all soils are the same, and certain trees and plants need specific types of nutrients.
As a result, more than one person has accidentally destroyed their tree or plant with an improper soil mixture. Another way that you can accidentally kill your trees or plants is with the wrong type of fertilizer. However, no matter which way causes the plant to shrivel up, the common enemy in most situations is too high of a pH level.
PH, or “potential for hydrogen,” is a chemistry term that describes how acidic something is. A pH of 7 is considered “neutrally acidic,” with anything above that being considered “alkaline,” or less acidic. Any amount of pH below seven is considered “hot,” or too acidic. For reference, battery acid has a pH of 0, while bleach has a pH of 13.
Most evergreen plants need acidic soil. Some acid loving trees are : • Dogwoods • Magnolias • Willow Oaks • Pin Oaks • Beech Most plants and trees require a pH level somewhere around 7, although there are exceptions. Acid loving plants and trees prefer a PH of about 5.5. Shrubs and trees that love acidic soil will benefit greatly from a mulch made of pine needles, peat moss or shredded bark. These materials will organically help keep the pH in the soil low.
How do you know if your soil is too hot for what you may be planting? There are many tools and kits on the market, but some can be quite expensive. Another method to check out a soil’s baseline pH is to do a simple chemistry experiment that is both safe and effective.
Begin by collecting two small amounts of soil, roughly one cup total, and set aside in separate bowls, about two tablespoons each. In one of the soil containers, add a half cup of vinegar. Most people use white distilled, but any type of vinegar you may have around the house should be fine for this application. If the vinegar causes a chemical reaction, noted by a fizzing and a slight white foam, then the soil is alkaline, probably hovering around the eight mark.
The second bowl can now be tested if the vinegar did not cause a reaction. Add just enough water that the dirt and soil resembles a muddy, coffee consistency. Next, add about one-half cup of baking soda to the mixture. If the soil now begins to fizz, then the acidity of the soil is high. At this level, the pH will more than likely be a 6, or even as high as a 5, which would be similar to the acidity of beer, or a similar lower alcohol by volume liquor.
If both bowls of soil failed to produce a reaction, you have found yourself a bag of fantastic soil! The lack of a reaction means that this soil is perfectly balanced at a pH of 7. Just about anything that you were thinking of planting in this should thrive.
If you have sensitive skin or perhaps would like a more visual way to test pH, especially if you are looking for an easy science experiment to do with children, there is another way that involves no chemicals. Take a small saucepan and add two cups of water. As it comes to a boil, rough chop one cup of red cabbage. Now bring the water to a rolling boil, and then add the cabbage.
Let the liquid simmer for five minute, then strain out the cabbage from the water. Carefully pour out a few ounces of water, no more than four ounces. Add two teaspoons of your soil and stir it until. Let the soil sit in the water for half an hour. The water will have turned one of two colors.
If the water is blue or a slight green color, then the soil is more alkaline. However, if it turns pink or red, then it is more on the acidic side.