Testing Garden Soil pH Using Inexpensive Methods

Testing soil for pH can be done through age old methods handed down through the generations, or by buying testing kits through a local agricultural agency.

Garden soil pH is important in planning to the success of a garden. Some gardeners add grow mixes that are widely advertised and call it good. However, not all soil is the same and may not perform as expected, even with the added cost of pre-mixed additives.

The pH of soil is the balance of nutrients needed for the best growth for the variety and type of plant. Testing can be done by purchasing test kits at a garden department or shop or the local agricultural agency. However, testing can also be done by simply using home methods.

Garden Plants Indicate pH and Nutrition Needs

Hydrangeas also indicate acidic levels in the soil. Blue blooms indicate high acid soil and Pink blooms are a sign of alkaline soil. Slightly purple blooms means that the soil pH is perfect for the majority of plants.

If the bottom leaves of tomato plants turn yellow between the veins, the soil is low in iron, if they turn purplish brown, or the tomatoes have a black spot at the blossom end, calcium is needed, if the fruit ripens unevenly, with blotchy skin or shoulder left green, add potash according to package recommendations, if the tomato plant is stunted and limp, add nitrogen. Mix well into soil. Don’t overdo. Read directions.

Checking Soil pH with Litmus Paper

PH Indicator Paper

Buy Litmus paper from a garden shop or obtain from the agricultural extension service. To do a rough estimate of the pH of soil, mix a few small samples of garden dirt with an equal amount of distilled water. Bury a few blue litmus paper strips in the soil mixture. Time the sample for about 10 seconds, remove one strip and rinse. Pink will indicate very acidic soil. If the sample remains blue, wait five minutes and remove another strip. A tinged pink strip will indicate a slightly acidic soil, but if the blue still remains, the soil is fully alkaline.

Instead of distilled water, use rain water. A rain gauge can be helpful in testing pH in soil. Collect a few inches of fairly clean rain water and mix a equal amount of a dirt sample, following the above instructions…

Testing the pH with Cabbage Juice

Cabbage Juice

Cook red cabbage leaves until the water turns red. Strain out the cabbage. Collect a sample of garden dirt into a white bowl. Slowly add some of the juice. A red color that gets darker indicates an acid pH. Blue or purple tinted dirt is alkaline. If the color stays the same, the pH is neutral.

Testing pH in Soil Using Baking Soda or Vinegar

ph soil test using baking soda

Sprinkle a pinch of baking soda on a tablespoon of wet garden soil. If the test sample fizzles, the pH is at an acidic value under 5. If the test fails, try if with Vinegar. The pH is higher with more active fizzing.


About the Author

With the endless passion for organic living, I - Ann Sanders has come up with the idea of creating A Green Hand. Being the founder and editor of A Green Hand, my goal is to provide everyone with a wide range of tips about healthy lifestyle with multiform categories including gardening, health & beauty, food recipe,...