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How pH scale can have a big impact on the health of your garden

Posted at 10:43 AM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 13:43:39-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — You may have to think back to chemistry class to remember much about the pH scale, but it can have a big impact on the health of your garden.

"What happens is there's a potential hydrogen, a pH, and that is the reading in the soil. Essentially and functionally it's allowing plants, trees, grass, gardens, to metabolize nutrients," says David Herrmann, of Gardeners Supply, Inc in Bakersfield.

To put pH in simpler terms, it's a measure of how acidic or basic your soil is.

The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, lower pH is considered acidic, 7 is neutral, and higher pH is considered basic, or alkaline

Soil with a neutral pH is a good safe bet to grow most plants, but each plant has a specific range of soil pH that will allow it to thrive.

"We have succulents, cactus that do better in neutral or higher. We have blueberries and strawberries that do better in a 5.0 or an acidic soil. The nutrients they need are unlocked at that particular level," explains Herrmann.

Problems can arise when the pH level your plant needs doesn't match up with the pH of your soil.

In that case, additives can be used to change your soil pH.

"We'll see pH a little too high, so we'll use different products like gypsum of sulfur just to drop the pH and get a good balance in the soil. Occasionally we'll see some lower pH, some acidic soils. We'll usually draw those up with a pelletized lime, try and get a more neutral soil for them," says Herrmann.

If you don't know your soil pH you can purchase home tests at most garden stores or bring a soil sample somewhere that offers to test.