Different Ph levels - Knowledgebase Question

Fremont, NH (Zone 5A)
Avatar for marilyngate
Question by marilyngate
August 5, 2005
Although I don't understand the science of it, I know Ph level is important to plants. Here in the northeast, our acid soil is great for azaleas, rhodies, holly and blueberries but not good for some - Clematis, for example. Preferred Ph level is not usually listed on plants tags - how can I find out what the optimum level is for say, the Jasmine and Mandevillas I overwinter inside each year?
Also, how far from my holly should I grow Clematis, since I lime one and pour my leftover tea grounds on the other?

Answer from NGA
August 5, 2005
pH is the measure of alkalinity or acidity of the soil. Neutral soil pH is about 7, anything below that is considered acid, anything above that is considered alkaline. Most garden plants will adapt to neutral or slightly acidic or alkaline soils. but some plants have a specific requirement for very acidic or very alkaline soil and when the soil pH is too "acid" (low pH) or "alkaline" (high pH), nutrients present in the soil become locked-up or unavailable. Correcting the pH has the same effect as applying fertilizer since it "unlocks" plant nutrients already present.

Plants with a requirement for specific soil pH are usually indentified as such - blueberries, rhodies and azaleas, for instance, require acidic soils; lilacs prefer alkaline soils for best performance. If your soil's pH is different than the plant requires, it will fail to thrive, regardless of the amount of fertilizer you apply. That will be your first indication that you need to check your soil's pH.

Since you're only treating the rootzones of individual plants, you shouldn't worry about the lime or the coffee grounds leaching too far away from where you apply them. Give each plant enough room to grow comfortably without crowding and neither should be affected by soil treatments that you've applied to the other.

Hope this clarifies things for you!

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