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How to Test pH of Your Soil
It really helps to know if your soil is acid or alkaline. You will avoid making expensive mistakes like buying lots of lime hating plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias when your soil is chalky or limey. Ericaceous plants include rhododendrons and they need lime-free conditions, known as acid. Soil acidity is measured in terms of pH, and most soils in the UK range from a pH level of 4.0 (acid) to pH 8.0 (alkaline). As numbers, these may not look like much, but a fraction of a change in pH value will make a lot of difference to your soil. Neutral soil has a pH value of 7.0. Acid soils have a value below this, alkaline soils have pH levels greater than 7.0. For good plant growth, you need a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5. The majority of garden plants including fruit and lawns prefer a slightly acidic soil, which is somewhere between pH 6.0 and pH 6.5. It is simpler to work with nature rather than against it, so testing your soil is important if you want to grow plants that have particular acidity or alkalinity requirements. You can test your soil yourself by buying a soil test kit. There are also soil testing meters available, but these are more costly. A soil test kit uses a chemical that changes colour when mixed with soil and water in a small test tube. Follow the instructions on the kit - here we just outline the basics and principles.
you will need
A clean hand trowel; a clean container to collect soil; a widger or old, clean teaspoon; a soil testing kit.
You will need to take several tests across your garden, since soil can vary even within a small space. You need to use a clean trowel and container to get true results. Dig down about 10cm and take a small (teaspoon) sample of soil from a border or area where you intend to plant. Put this in the clean container. Repeat this action several times at regular intervals across the area, each time mixing the soil with the other samples. This will help to give a correct result.
Remove larger objects from the soil sample, such as stones and twigs. Break up any lumps of soil with a teaspoon. Mix the soil together and take a small sample from the container and add it to the powder in the test tube supplied. Follow the test manufacturer's instructions as to quantity and mixing methods.
Add water, put the stopper on the test tube and shake the contents. Allow the particles to settle, usually they should be left for a short time. Use the colour chart supplied to match the colour of the liquid to give you the pH level of your soil sample. As a rough guide: yellow or orange = acid soil; bright green = neutral soil; dark green = alkaline soil.
Take a small sample of your soil
Add the soil to the powder in the tube
Add water, shake to mix and record the colour

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