All Things Gardening forum: How To Test Soil Acidity/Alkalinity without a Test Kit Do-It-Yourself Soil Test

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Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Aug 12, 2014 6:19 AM CST
I'm going to give this a try!

http://frugalliving.about.com/od/gardening/ht/Soil_Test.htm
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Name: Caroline Scott
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CarolineScott
Aug 12, 2014 7:10 AM CST
The pH kits are cheap enough, and do not create the waste of vinegar or baking soda and soil.
Micro chemistry is more environmentally friendly than bucket chemistry.
The kits use smaller quantities and create less waste.
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Aug 12, 2014 7:14 AM CST
That makes sense.
"We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us."

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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Aug 12, 2014 7:51 AM CST
Interesting, though... Smiling
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Aug 12, 2014 8:18 AM CST
It's not going to give you a very precise result, there is nothing in between alkaline and highly acidic even assuming it is accurate (no soil amount is given) and how alkaline is "alkaline"? It's also not as simple as adding lime or sulfur to change pH either way, you need to know how much to apply which depends on knowing an accurate pH and your soil type. You'd probably get as close an idea of your pH by looking at the plants that grow well for you, or don't. If you can grow rhododendrons, azaleas and blueberries well, then your soil is pretty acidic, for example. If certain iron chlorosis prone plants get yellow between the leaf veins then chances are the pH is too high for them. If everything you want to grow is doing just fine, no need to tweak the pH.

Another option besides buying a soil test kit for home is to take a soil sample to your extension office for professional testing. Looking at Clemson University, SC, for example, it costs $3 for a simple pH test, and $6 to test pH, nutrients and to give fertilizer and pH adjustment recommendations, according to their website.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Aug 12, 2014 8:58 AM CST
I agree Not enough information to actually be useful. Did you scroll down the same page and read their ideas for fertilizer, etc. They are saying just an Epsom salts solution is a 'substitute for fertilizer', same with coffee grounds and egg shells. Sounds like the same people who advocate putting ice cubes on orchids . . . they want to sell more plants when you kill off the ones you have.

Good grief, there's a lot of marginal info on the internet.

Forgot to add, I just ordered a soil test kit from Amazon, 10 tests incl. pH and nutrients for $12. It's called Rapidtest, I think, and one of the universities in California tested it against their lab test, found it 94% accurate. That's cheap, easy and is going to give you a lot more good information.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
[Last edited by dyzzypyxxy - Aug 12, 2014 9:00 AM (+)]
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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Aug 12, 2014 4:54 PM CST
"Good grief, there's a lot of marginal info on the internet."

That is SO true, Elaine! (and thanks for the info about the test kit you ordered on Amazon, that sounds like a good deal) Thumbs up
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Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
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CarolineScott
Aug 12, 2014 5:39 PM CST
Yes, a great deal of info is not accurate on the internet.
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
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Seedfork
Aug 13, 2014 7:26 AM CST
I read on the internet if it was posted there it had to be true! Rolling on the floor laughing
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Aug 13, 2014 7:36 PM CST
Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing
Bon jour!!
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Name: Annie
Waynesboro, PA (Zone 6a)
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LysmachiaMoon
Aug 14, 2014 7:30 AM CST
My grandpap's "soil pH test kit" was his mouth! He'd pick up a bit of soil and taste it to tell what it needed. I never got up the nerve to try this myself!
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Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Aug 14, 2014 8:28 AM CST
I'm really sorry this has caused such turmoil. I saw the article as a quick way for generalities for acid/alkaline .. obviously it can't be used for specifics.

When the Zombie Apocalypse descends on us it will be invaluable for sure.
"We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us and wealth classified us."

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Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Aug 14, 2014 10:31 AM CST
Some see turmoil, others see conversation and opinions, what fun would a forum be without a little turmoil? Rolling my eyes.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Aug 14, 2014 12:09 PM CST
No turmoil, Ann, but I can see an inexperienced gardener doing this test, and getting into trouble. "Oh my gosh, my soil is acidic!" Then adding way too much lime and messing up the soil the other way, very easily when the acid soil may not have been the problem in the first place. I'd kill for a little more acidic soil, it's really hard to lower the pH of alkaline soil, long term without huge amounts of amendments, repeated regularly. This is the kind of info you get from your Extension service.

As Sue says, it's just not enough info to tell you what to do, and if you're testing your soil at all for gardening purposes, you must be looking for that much info. A much better option for someone inexperienced is to take a soil sample to the County Extension for testing, or for more experienced people like us, to buy a soil test kit and do it right.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
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RickCorey
Aug 14, 2014 6:11 PM CST
In New England, it was a given that "everyone" had acid soil. Even if you put down lime, a few years later you needed to put down more lime.

I was amazed to learn that other regions had mostly alkaline soil!

If you've never limed or applied agricultural sulfur to acidify your soil, isn't it pretty safe to assume that, if all your neighbors lime regularly, that you probably would be better off liming also?

Or are some regions "patchwork" collections of soil types, some acidic and some basic?

Or, borrow a few cups of lime from someone with a big bag. Sprinkle that on one square yard of one bed. If, next year, that square yard does much better than the rest of the bed, you need lime. Of course, if next year that is the sorriest-looking part of that bed, you're out of luck!

Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
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RoseBlush1
Aug 14, 2014 8:58 PM CST
Elaine ...

>>>A much better option for someone inexperienced is to take a soil sample to the County Extension for testing, or for more experienced people like us, to buy a soil test kit and do it right.


This may be true, if you have a County Extension.

Smiles,
Lyn
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Name: Annie
Waynesboro, PA (Zone 6a)
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LysmachiaMoon
Aug 15, 2014 6:40 AM CST
Know what? Just add a lot of compost and the soil pH will be ok. I dont think there's much point in trying to drastically change the pH of garden soil...whatever you add will just leach away after a while...

Who knew gardening could be fraught with such debate! Rolling on the floor laughing
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Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Aug 15, 2014 10:28 PM CST
Still, the original idea is kind of interesting. I would think that if your soil is either extremely alkaline or extremely acidic, you'd get noticeable results from the vinegar/baking soda test. At which point, you might be motivated to do more refined testing. Or not. Hilarious! Heh, I'm tempted to give it a try.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
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CarolineScott
Aug 16, 2014 5:04 AM CST
A horticultural pH meter which also does light and moisture measurements
was about $12 CDN.

The test for alkalinity may not work on all alkaline soils,
as the alkalinity can be due to different chemical components in the soil.
Lakeland Florida (Zone 9a)
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cycadjungle
Aug 16, 2014 6:04 AM CST
I'm +1 on the pH meter. We can find a double probe meter for $12 at home depot where you take some soil and put it in a cup of water and then stick the meter in there. It will give a fairly accurate reading within a tenth or two of a point. Most of the worst alkaline soils are only around 8 pH which is just 1 point over neutral I would think you would only hay a slight reaction with the vinegar, but would still not know how much to compensate. Another good thing to test at the same time is the water you would use to water your plants. If you are using well water or "city water", in many areas that can be around 8. Someone cancompare all they want with the soil, but of they don't use a neutral water, they can have the same problem.

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