How to Fix Soil pH

What is pH?

pH measures the level of acidity of a liquid-based solution. It also describes the chemical properties of a substance on a scale from 0-14. A pH of 0-5.5 is acidic, with 5.5-7.0 being neutral (like water), and 7.0-14 considered alkaline. 

Soil pH is an important aspect of lawn care that homeowners should also maintain. Fixing the pH of soil influences how the lawn grass grows. The wrong level of pH can cause weed problems, as it destroys the ability of grass to grow, thus allowing weeds to take over. 

Extreme pH levels can also cause nutrient deficiencies, as certain nutrients are only available at a certain pH level. If the soil isn’t receiving the nutrients it needs to maintain healthy grass, it could lead to a decline in growth in grass and gardening plants. 

 

Testing pH

Testing the pH of your lawn periodically is the best way to stay on top on your lawn’s health. pH kits can be purchased at hardware stores, but the most common is a test meter that indicates various pH levels. 

To start, find a spot on your lawn and dig small hole. Pour bottled or drinking water (rainwater is usually too acidic) into the hole until it is slightly muddy at the bottom. Cover the hole with soil and insert the meter through the middle. After a few seconds, the gauge should indicate where your soil is on the pH scale. 

Ideally, your pH should hit around 7.0, or neutral, to be considered healthy. A pH of 6.5 or lower is considered too acidic; a pH of 7.5 or higher means it contains too much alkaline. In both cases, steps need to be taken to correct the level of pH of your lawn.

 

Correcting pH

For soil that’s too acidic, apply lime. Lime is a mixture of calcium and magnesium in a powder form that counteracts high acid levels. There are few different types:

  • Ground limestone is finely ground and contains calcium carbonates. This is the most widely used form of lime because it is inexpensive and readily available. 
  • Burnt lime is a fast-acting form of calcium carbonate that requires gloves to be worn when spreading it.
  • Hydrated lime is another rapid-release type of limestone that is even more effective than calcium carbonate. 

For soil containing too much alkaline, sulfur should be applied. Because this problem typically affects dry, western states, there is not much widespread information on how to treat soil with high pH. However, sulfur is one component that is known to raise the pH. This can be acquired through an aluminum sulfate fertilizer. 

To apply, aerate the soil before placing the fertilizer and watering it. Then give it a few weeks to go into effect. This should raise the pH level of your soil and bring it back to a neutral, healthy state. 

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