About Soil pH

About Soil pH

pH is a measure of how acidic or basic things are and is measured using a pH scale between 0 to 14, with acidic things having a pH between 0-7 and basic things having a pH from 7 to 14. For instance, lemon juice and battery acid are acidic and fall in the 0-7 range, whereas seawater and bleach are basic (also called "alkaline") and fall in the 7-14 pH range. Pure water is neutral, or 7 on the pH scale.

Menu of pH requirements of various plants

  THE IMPORTANCE OF SOIL pH

The pH of soil or more precisely the pH of the soil solution is very important because soil solution carries in it nutrients such as Nitrogen (N), Potassium (K), and Phosphorus (P) that plants need in specific amounts to grow, thrive, and fight off diseases.

If the pH of the soil solution is increased above 5.5, Nitrogen (in the form of nitrate) is made available to plants. Phosphorus, on the other hand, is available to plants when soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.0.

Certain bacteria help plants obtain N by converting atmospheric Nitrogen into a form of N that plants can use.These bacteria live in root nodules of legumes (like alfalfa and soybeans) and function best when the pH of the plant they live in is growing in soil within an acceptable pH range.

For instance, alfalfa grows best in soils having a pH of 6.2 - 7.8, while soybean grows best in soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Peanuts grow best in soils that have a pH of 5.3 to 6.6. Many other crops, vegetables, flowers and shrubs, trees, weeds and fruit are pH dependent and rely on the soil solution to obtain nutrients.

If the soil solution is too acidic plants cannot utilize N, P, K and other nutrients they need. In acidic soils, plants are more likely to take up toxic metals and some plants eventually die of toxicity (poisoning).

Herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals are used on and around plants to fight off plant diseases and get rid of bugs that feed on plants and kill plants. Knowing whether the soil pH is acidic or basic is important because if the soil is too acidic the applied pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides will not be absorbed (held in the soil ) and they will end up in garden water and rain water runoff, where they eventually become pollutants in our streams, rivers, lakes, and ground water.

To learn more about the pH factor and do fun activities related to pH visit the Miami Museum of Science web site.

To learn more about nitrogen and play a fun board game click here.

 

 


Information derived from: "Nutrient Manager: Focus on pH and Lime", published by the Unversity of Maryland's Cooperative Extension Service and Department of Agronomy; The Handbook of Soils and Climate in Agriculture; the Topsoil on Tour Mini Curriculum and Hands on Test Kit by the LaMotte Company, and the Miami Museum of Science web site.

 


Field Crops

PLANT TYPE

SOIL pH

Alfalfa

6.2-7.8

Barley

6.5-7.8

Bean, field

6.0-7.5

Beets, sugar

6.5-8.0

Bluegrass, Kentucky

5.5-7.5

Clover, red

6.0-7.5

Clover, sweet

6.5-7.5

Clover, white

5.6-7.0

Corn

5.5-7.5

Flax

5.0-7.0

Oats

5.0-7.5

Pea, field

6.0-7.5

Peanut

5.6-6.6

Rice

5.0-6.5

Rye

5.0-7.0

Sorghum

5.5-7.5

Soybean

6.0-7.0

Sugar cane

6.0-8.0

Tobacco

5.5-7.5

Wheat

5.5-7.5


Vegetable Crops

PLANT TYPE

SOIL pH

Asparagus

6.0-8.0

Beets, table

6.0-7.5

Broccoli

6.0-7.0

Cabbage

6.0-7.5

Carrot

5.5-7.0

Cauliflower

5.5-7.5

Celery

5.8-7.0

Cucumber

5.5-7.0

Lettuce

6.0-7.0

Muskmelon

6.0-7.0

Onion

5.8-7.0

Potato

4.8-6.5

Rhubarb

5.5-7.0

Spinach

6.0-7.5

Tomato

5.5-7.5


Flowers & Shrubs

PLANT TYPE

SOIL pH

African violet

6.0-7.0

Almond, flowering

6.0-7.0

Alyssum

6.0-7.5

Azalea

4.5-5.0

Barberry, Japanese

6.0-7.5

Begonia

5.5-7.0

Burning bush

5.5-7.5

Calendula

5.5-7.0

Carnation

6.0-7.5

Chrysanthemum

6.0-7.5

Gardenia

5.0-6.0

Geranium

6.0-8.0

Holly, American

5.0-6.0

Ivy, Boston

6.0-8.0

Lilac

6.0-7.5

Lily, Easter

6.0-7.0

Magnolia

5.0-6.0

Orchid

4.0-5.0

Phlox

5.0-6.0

Poinsettia

6.0-7.0

Quince, flowering

6.0-7.0

Rhododendron

4.5-6.0

Rose, hybrid tea

5.5-7.0

Snapdragon

6.0-7.5

Snowball

6.5-7.5

Sweet William

6.0-7.5

Zinnia

5.5-7.5


Forest Trees & Plants

PLANT TYPE

SOIL pH

Ash, white

6.0-7.5

Aspen, American

3.8-5.5

Beech

5.0-6.7

Birch, European (white)

4.5-6.0

Cedar, white

4.5-5.0

Club moss

4.5-5.0

Fir, balsam

5.0-6.0

Fir, Douglas

6.0-7.0

Heather

4.5-6.0

Hemlock

5.0-6.0

Larch, European

5.0-6.5

Maple, sugar

6.0-7.5

Moss, sphagnum

3.5-5.0

Oak, black

6.0-7.0

Oak, pin

5.0-6.5

Oak, white

5.0-6.5

Pine, jack

4.5-5.0

Pine, loblolly

5.0-6.0

Pine, red

5.0-6.0

Pine, white

4.5-6.0

Spruce, black

4.0-5.0

Spruce, Colorado

6.0-7.0

Spruce, white

5.0-6.0

Sycamore

6.0-7.5

Tamarack

5.0-6.5

Walnut, black

6.0-8.0

Yew, Japanese

6.0-7.0


Weeds

PLANT TYPE

SOIL pH

Dandelion

5.5-7.0

Dodder

5.5-7.0

Foxtail

6.0-7.5

Goldenrod

5.0-7.5

Grass, crab

6.0-7.0

Grass, quack

5.5-6.5

Horse tail

4.5-6.0

Milkweed

4.0-5.0

Mustard, wild

6.0-8.0

Thistle, Canada

5.0-7.5


Fruit

PLANT TYPE

SOIL pH

Apple

5.0-6.5

Apricot

6.0-7.0

Arbor Vitae

6.0-7.5

Blueberry, high bush

4.0-5.0

Cherry, sour

6.0-7.0

Cherry, sweet

6.0-7.5

Crab apple

6.0-7.5

Cranberry, large

4.2-5.0

Peach

6.0-7.5

Pineapple

5.0-6.0

Raspberry, red

5.5-7.0

Strawberry

5.0-6.5