Here’s the simple truth: growing a garden without testing your soil is equivalent to a surgeon performing a heart operation with his or her eyes covered with a blindfold. It makes no sense because you can’t properly grow plants if you don’t have a thorough understanding of what you’ll be growing your plants in.
The first and foremost property to keep in mind is that of pH. It’s a measurement of soil’s acidity or alkalinity, and it runs from 0 all the way up to 14. The former refers to very acidic soil, while the latter points to very alkaline soil.
Every single plant has its own precise requirements when it comes to pH. You need to know the exact requirements for those plants you wish to grow. If your soil turns out not to be a correct fit, you’ll need to either adjust its pH levels with fertilizer or grow something else.
Below are the required pH levels for some popular plants:
- Broccoli: 6.0 – 7.5
- Cauliflower: 5.5 – 7.5
- Celery: 6.0 – 7.0
- Corydalis: 6.0 – 8.0
- Cucumber: 5.5 – 7.0
- Fennel: 5.0 – 6.0
- Gourd: 6.0 – 7.0
- Hop: 6.0 – 7.5
- Horseradish: 6.0 – 7.0
- Kale: 6.0 – 7.5
- Mint: 7.0 – 8.0
- Mushroom: 6.5 – 7.5
- Mustard: 6.0 – 7.5
- Pepper: 5.5 – 7.0
- Peppermint: 6.0 – 7.5
- Plum: 6.0 – 7.5
- Potato: 4.5 – 6.0
- Rice: 5.0 – 6.5
- Rosemary: 5.0 – 6.0
- Sage: 5.5 – 6.5
- Tomato: 5.5 – 7.5
- Turnip: 5.5 – 7.0
- Violet Flame: 6.0 – 7.0
- Water Cress: 6.0 – 8.0
- Watermelon: 5.5 – 6.5
- Get a Soil Test!
Organic Matter Property
This property points to concentration of organic mass within soil. The thing about organic matter is that it helps increase soil’s water-holding capacity. Furthermore, organic matter releases vital nutrients. It is for these reasons that you want your soil to contain as much organic matter as possible.
The good news is that you can easily fix soil with low levels of organic matter. All you need to do is add substances to it like manure, compost and sawdust. It’s actually wise to add organic matter to soil on a frequent basis, especially if you intend to keep growing a garden for years to come.
Here are additional tips to help:
- Avoid tilling your soil too frequently, as it excels the decomposition of organic matter. It also increases the rate of erosion.
- Try to reduce topsoil erosion. Organic matter resides within topsoil, so as the topsoil erodes, so does the organic matter.
- Properly fertilize your plants. Fertilization done properly is great for the building and maintenance of organic matter.
- Take advantage of cover crops, as they also help with the enhanced production and maintenance of organic matter.
The last property covers the quantity of nitrate in soil. Nitrates are required for plants to properly grow and produce seeds. This is because they also need protein, and the production of protein relies on said nitrates.
What makes nitrate so complicated is that too much of it can be just as harmful as too little of it. It just so happens that plants accumulate too much nitrate when they face added stress from bad weather and too little light, to name a few.
The best way to deal with low nitrate levels is through cover crops. By the same token, the best way to deal with excess nitrate levels is by introducing green mulch into the soil.