The Q&A Archives: Acidity And Plant Growth

Question: I am doing a science experiment about soil and levels of pH and how well plants grow. I have been growing marigolds and carrots. I used 5 different levels of pH from bleach to water to vinegar. The seeds in the cups with water came up just fine as expected. The seeds in the bleach "watered" soil did nothing as expected. The seeds in the cups that had a pH of 4.5 (we added a little bit of vinegar to water for this one) are growing almost as well as the cups with straight tap water. The cups that are watered with vinegar at a pH of about 1.5 or 2 have a strange growth all over the top of the dirt. It is white and bumpy and almost has little shapes like mushrooms. Two questions I have are: Why are the seeds in the pH4.5 growing as well as the pH 7 (water) and What are the growths on the soil in the cups "watered" with straight vinegar? Thanks in advance for your help. Katie

Answer: Many plants will tolerate a wide range of soil pH, so the combined effect of water and soil pH is probably within the tolerable range for those plants. Without being able to see it, I would suspect the white growth is some sort of mineral deposit developing on the soil surface, possibly as a result of fertilizer salts. Good luck with your project.

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