Soil pH – Why it is important
The success of crops always starts with the condition of their soil. One of the most important soil properties to keep tabs on is your soil’s pH levels.
What is pH? – pH is a numerical rating of its acidity or alkalinity. All pH is measured on a logarithmic scale from zero (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline or basic). In chemistry terms, when you measure pH you are essentially measuring the number of hydrogen (H+) ions in a solution.
Why does pH matter? – If search the web you will find quite a few different opinions regarding the importance of checking the pH of your soil. However, we urge you not to ignore soil pH. Determining the pH of the soil is essentially determining how available soil nutrients will be to your plants. Achieving the optimum pH for your plants will allow them to absorb nutrients more effectively. If you plant your plumeria in the soil outside of its preferred pH range you will most likely see poor growth and blooming and your plant may even struggle to survive.
What affects pH? – The pH of the soil is affected by many things such as the dominant rock type in the area the soil came from, the types of plants growing in the soil, as well as weather conditions. Soil pH varies with climate, as well as physical surroundings. For example, climates with dense forests such as those along the Pacific Coast will have acidic soils with pH ratings of about 4.0-5.5. Arid regions, such as the Rocky Mountain regions, will generally have soil pH levels that are closer to neutral ranging from 6.0- 6.5. Keep in mind that even these general ranges are subject to variability.
What is the ideal pH for plumeria growth? – All plant species require their own unique pH to achieve optimum growth. For most plumeria, you will want to aim for a pH level between 6.5-7.0 (slightly acidic) for optimum nutrient uptake.
How can you obtain optimum pH? – There are a variety of techniques that may adjust the pH of your soil.
Maintaining pH – Note: For these products use small amounts when adjusting the nutrient solution to affect the pH level, as required. Apply to the soil by mixing the product with water. Make sure to check the pH of your mixture before adding it to the soil. For best results, check the pH level daily
Why is Checking pH Important? – Among the growing community, there is debate on the importance of checking and maintaining pH. Here, at Way to Grow, we urge you not to ignore the pH of your growth, whether your medium is soil or water. Determining the pH of your medium is essentially determining how available nutrients will be to your plants. Achieving the optimum pH for your plants will enable them to absorb nutrients more effectively. If your growing medium is outside of the plant’s preferred pH range, you will most likely see a poor yield, and your plants may even struggle to survive.
What if I Don’t Check pH? – Many successful crops have been harvested without ever checking pH, but we don’t recommend going that route. Having an optimal pH will allow your plants to absorb maximum nutrients and, in turn, your plants will produce their very best.
Failure to check your pH can cause a variety of problems. You may be overfeeding your plants, and this could put your plants at risk for a nutrient burn. You may also misdiagnose a problem as a nutrient deficiency, when in fact the problem is not the amount of nutrients, but the ability of the roots to absorb the nutrients.
Remember, nutrients can be costly, and if you are overusing them to make up for unbalanced pH levels then you are basically throwing money down the drain.
How Often Should I Check pH? – When growing plants in soil, you should check the pH every few days to ensure levels are remaining stable. Due to hydroponic systems being more sensitive to pH changes, it is important to check the pH of your hydroponic system daily.
Types of pH Kits
There are several types of pH testing kits available on the market today. Learn more about the different types below to determine the best kit for your plumeria.
Test Strips – To use in soil, you will have to make a mixture of soil and distilled water that is about the consistency of a milkshake. Place the strip in the solution and wait for the color to change. Compare this color with the color chart on the bottle, and will be able to tell what your pH is. For hydroponic systems, you can just dip the strip directly into your water.
- Pros: Simple to use and Inexpensive
- Cons: Only give a general idea of pH
Chemical Solutions (AKA Dropper Kits) – To use, place some of your soil in a vial, add distilled water and then apply the amount of chemical solution as per the instructions. This will give you a color that you can compare to the attached chart.
- Pros: Inexpensive
- Cons: Results are left to interpretation and can be inaccurate
Digital pH Testers – Digital pH pens offer a precise way to measure the pH of your water or soil. You will need to make a solution with your soil and distilled water. No need to squint at a color chart with a pH pen, you simply look at the number on the screen.
- Pros: Provides most accurate and precise pH you can achieve
- Cons: Costly and Requires diligent maintenance and calibration