Nutrient intake is the process in which plants receive their food and other necessary minerals to grow. Because much of the procedure happens underground, it’s usually pretty difficult to diagnose problems when encountered. Weather conditions can be ideal, rainfall can be sufficient, and garden maintenance can be top notch, yet it’s still possible for plants to have lackluster results due to problems within the soil itself. If this sounds familiar but you can’t identify the problem, there’s a good chance the pH balance is off.
What is it?
pH is the measure of how acidic or alkaline a substance is, and soil pH determines how easily a plant can absorb nutrients from the ground. The pH Scales ranges from 0 to 14, with 7.0 being considered neutral. Anything below 7.0 is deemed acidic, anything above 7.0 is alkaline, and while most plants have a preference, most garden varieties enjoy a wide range of pH levels.
The problem arises when pH levels venture a little too far out of acceptable ranges. Nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and iron become less available in the soil, causing plants to starve and not grow properly.
What determines pH?
Several factors determine the pH of your soil – these include things like amount of rainfall, temperature, native vegetation, and soil composition. Areas that receive large amounts of rainfall tend to lean towards the more acidic side of the scale, areas that receive only a small amount of rainfall, such as the Midwestern United States, tend to have soil that is neutral or near neutral, and areas infected with drought suffer from alkalinity. There’s a lot of variation though, as the top soil from your garden can be totally different than the soil located a mere 20 ft. away due to things like the movement or importing of soil during construction. To get an accurate reading of what you’re dealing with, soil testing kits are usually sold for under $20 and can be found at most home improvement and gardening outlets.
How can I change the pH of my soil?
Unless stated otherwise, neutral soils ranging from 6.6-7.3 are typically where plants flourish best. If your soil test comes back stating it’s too acidic, we remedy this by adding alkaline material. Simple enough, right? Limestone is the most common “liming” agent, and it raises the pH of your soil depending on how much you use per square foot. The best time to apply limestone is actually during autumn of the previous year – any later than this and the mineral simply won’t have enough time to seep into the dirt.
This also works in reverse! If your soil is showing signs of alkalinity, simply add acidic material. Elemental sulfur is a commonly used acid in home gardening to lower pH levels, and other items, like dead leaves and peat moss, can achieve similar results. In fact, organic materials in general persuade both acidic and alkaline soils to approach more neutral levels.
Here’s a chart that shows a few pH ranges and species of plants that can grow comfortably under those conditions.
(pH 5.0 to 5.8)
(pH of 5.5 to 6.8)
(pH 6.0 to 6.8)
(pH 7.0 to 8.0)
Putting it all together.
As gardeners, we have to be very attentive to the kinds of fertilizers we use, as they tend to turn neutral soils into more acidic compositions, and that’s why we promote the use of our PlantCatalyst® product so heavily to both home and commercial gardeners alike. Because PlantCatalyst® is not a fertilizer itself, but rather a garden supplement that aims to increase a plants ability to intake nutrients, it has virtually no effects on soil pH. In hydroponic systems the product may increase pH levels very slightly, but this is insignificant in most scenarios, and can be remedied very easily by products such as pH Down.
Without having to worry about changes in soil pH levels, you can enjoy the other benefits of PlantCatalyst®, such has increased yields, fuller blooms, lower days to germination, and less fertilizer usage. Our product has been tested on over 100,000 plants in greenhouses across the nation with nothing short of stellar results, and we encourage those of you who have used it to talk about your experiences on our Facebook page. We want pictures of your garden!