Easy do-it-yourself soil test

There is an easy way to find out if your soil is alkaline, acidic or neutral. Alkaline soils have a pH above 7, acidic is below 7 and 7 is neutral. A pH neural soil is usually the easiest to work with, but that comes along very infrequently. If your soil is alkaline you can choose to take measures to bring the pH down by adding organic matter, like compost, pine needles or peat moss.

You can also choose to leave it the way it is and grow plants that like a slightly alkaline soil: artichoke, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and Chinese cabbage, cantaloupe, grape vines, leeks, Lima beans, mustard and other leafy greens, peach, spinach, sugar beets, Swiss chard and turnips.

The same is true for soils that are on the acidic side: you can amend it by adding lime or grow plants that thrive in a slightly acidic environment, like blueberries, beans, broccoli, beets, bok choy, garlic, kale, lettuce and other leafy greens, parsley, peas, potatoes, onions and spinach. As you can see, there are some vegetables that will grow soil in either soil type.

I did this test over the weekend; it is really easy and takes about half an hour. It turned out my garden soil is more or less neutral. I heard a little bit of frizzing when I added baking soda, which means it is slightly acidic. That is probably the mulch breaking down!

To test your own garden soil you will need the following:

  • Soil sample
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Two sample containers
  • Follow these steps to test your soil:

    1. Collect one cup of soil you want to test; take a little bit of soil from different areas of your garden to get one cup and mix this well.
    2. Take a few spoonfuls of your sample and put in one of the sample containers.
    3. Then add ½ cup of white vinegar; if the soil bubbles or frizzes it is alkaline. This chemical reaction happens when something acid (the vinegar) comes into contact with something alkaline (the soil).
    4. If there is no reaction, you can move on to the next part of the test: scoop a few spoonfuls into the second container, add ½ cup of water and mix.
    5. Then add ½ cup of baking soda. If the soil bubbles or frizzes it is acidic. This is the result of something acidic (the soil) coming into contact with something alkaline (the baking soda).
    6. If your soil does not react to either test, it is neutral.


    Happy Gardening!

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    Guest post by Floortje - Bylands Inventory Coordinator & Social Media Communications

    I am originally from the Netherlands, where I worked for a municipal parks department and the promotion organization for the Dutch Nursery Stock Industry. My husband and I are still in the process of building our garden as we didn’t like all the plant decisions the previous owners made. Besides gardening there are a number of renovations going on in our house. Not to forget our dog and three cats, who keep us more than busy!