How to Tell if Soil is Acidic or Alkaline? | How to Lower Lawn PH?

How to Tell if Soil is Acidic or Alkaline

People often underestimate the importance of the soil present in their lawns or backyard. Just as we take due care of all the plants and trees around, we need to pay equal attention to the soil as well. This is because we will use this very soil to plant more seeds. For that, you have to ensure that the soil alkalinity is just as required. However, failing to do this can ultimately increase the alkalinity of the soil. 

The soil present in our yard or backyard is a combination of balanced pH levels that helps keep the grass healthy. The soil has to be looked after to ensure that the grass remains intact and healthy. But if you fail to do so, you may start noticing signs of acidic soil followed by alkaline lawn symptoms. This can be hazardous to the seeds the soil holds and the other plants in the vicinity. 

Therefore, this article will brief you on how to tell if your soil is acidic or alkaline. Following that, we have laid down the steps that will help tackle the alkaline lawn symptoms by lowering the lawn pH. 

Why is Soil pH Important?

As mentioned above, the soil needs to be duly taken care of. The soil pH level is a measure used to determine alkaline or acidic your soil is. This measure is generally weighed on a scale of 0-14. If your soil’s pH level is below 7, then the soil is deemed acidicwhereas anything above the 7 mark makes your soil Alkaline in nature.

Water and nutrients are two essential components required for plant growth. Here, the soil pH level affects how well your plants absorb these nutrients. Note that every pH level makes different nutrients available for the plants to absorb. Despite all that, you have to ensure that there is a sufficient flow of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium for every plant to grow. 

1. How To Test If The Soil Is Acidic Or Alkaline?

The pH levels are measured on a scale of 0-14. A pH level below 7 deems the soil acidic, whereas anything above 7 makes it Alkaline. Therefore, you have to ensure that the pH level stays between 6-8 for healthy plant growth. To test if your soil is acidic or alkaline in nature, you can perform the Pantry Soil pH test 

  • Mix 2 spoons of soil in ½ a cup of vinegar
  • If the mixture freezes, it means the soil is Alkaline
  • Now, mix 2 spoons of soil and moisten it using distilled water
  • Add ½ a cup of baking soda to this mixture
  • If this mixture freezes, then the soil is Acidic

Meanwhile, you can always look out for alkaline lawn symptoms. For example, if you notice little to no weeds around the plants, then it means the soil is alkaline. In contrast, a lawn suffering from drought indicates an acidic nature.

2. Is Acidic Or Alkaline Soil Better?

As we mentioned above in the article, the grass pH level needs to be maintained to ensure healthy growth. Therefore, neither acidic nor alkaline soil is better for plant growth. It is vital to ensure there is a smooth flow of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to the plants at all times for healthy growth. As a result, you need to cultivate the habit of regularly checking the grass pH level and taking the necessary steps to tackle the soil if it is deemed acidic or alkaline. 

What Are The Causes Of Low Or High Soil pH?

The soil is perhaps the most vital component for plants to grow. Having unhealthy soil will ultimately bear no fruit whatsoever. Similarly, plenty of factors contributes to the overall soil pH level being too high or too low. A soil’s pH level is primarily affected and influenced by the parent materials through which it is formed. Soils formed from basic rocks have higher pH values. 

Rainfall is another contributing factor that affects the soil pH. Every time water passes through the soil; it leaches the soil’s basic nutrients such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. In return, the water replaces these minerals with iron and aluminum. As a result, soils formed under heavy rainfall conditions tend to be more acidic in nature. Similarly, the addition or overuse of nitrogen and sulfur are also the contributing factors that lower your soil’s pH level. 

In simple words, here are the causes for high soil pH

  • Parent Material Through Which The Soil is Born
  • Region
  • Topography 
  • Climate
  • Organisms

Here are the causes for low soil pH

  • Loss of organic matter
  • Heavy Rainfall
  • Overuse of nitrogen and sulfur
  • Erosion of the surface layer
  • Removal of soil minerals during harvest 

High pH Lawn Symptoms

High pH Lawn Symptoms

If you aren’t too convinced of the results after having tested your soil, you can be on the lookout for these signs and symptoms that indicate a high pH lawn.

1. Yellowing Of Lawn: If your lawn is too alkaline, it means several essential minerals are deficient such as manganese, copper, zinc, boron, and iron. So, if you notice a yellow lawn in your yard, it means that these nutrients are missing, and your soil has a high pH level making it alkaline

2. Dead Patches: Not just the above-mentioned minerals, but a high pH lawn also lacks nitrogen and iron. This leads to low levels of grass growth or leaves dead patches within the lawn

3. Poor Stem Development: If you notice plants with brown tips or notice any dry patches along the surface of the stem, it is a sign of too much alkalinity. 

4. Poor Soil Compaction: An alkaline soil tends to exhibit a low infiltration capacity and sports a poor structure altogether. Meanwhile, the soil becomes hard and compact over time, making it difficult for nutrients to enter the grass.

How To Lower lawn PH?

How To Lower lawn PH

Neither an alkaline nor an acidic lawn is good for the growth of plants. Hence, if you have a high pH level, you can implement the given steps to lower it.

1. Agricultural Sulphur

Sulphur is a vital component if you start noticing high pH lawn symptoms. In such a case, you can use agricultural sulphur, which is cheap and non-toxic and is one of the proven ways to help reduce soil alkalinity. You can easily get agricultural sulphur at any home improvement store in your vicinity. Therefore, if you start noticing high pH lawn symptoms such as yellowing of the grass, dead patches, or poor stem condition, simply add some sulfur all around the soil to help it restore the pH balance.

2. Subsoiling

Subsoiling generally includes adding nutrients to the soil to help improve its structure. With subsoiling, you can break up hard and compacted soil, in turn making it easier for the nutrients to enter the soil. This way, essential nutrients can enter the soil and lead to healthy growth amongst the grass and plants. 

Low pH Lawn Symptoms

Low pH Lawn Symptoms

If you think the soil is too acidic, be on the lookout for the following symptoms.

1. Yellowing Of The Grass: Having acidic soil ultimately makes the grass lose its natural green shade. This could result from excess nitrogen and sulfur presence within the soil. Although this is a temporary condition, it can permanently damage your lawn if not addressed immediately. 

2. Slow Growth: One of the easiest ways to notice a dip in the pH level is when you start noticing slow or stunted growth. This is the same as noticed during an alkaline deficiency. When the soil becomes too acidic in nature, it will cause the slow growth of plants despite adding fertilizer.

3. Too many weeds in the lawn: Just a high pH level stunts the weed growth; a low pH level accelerates it; having a low pH level makes your soil inefficient to combat the weed growth, leading to faster weed growth. In this case, you will need to use a good weed and grass killer to make your lawn look better.

4. Soil Doesn’t Drain Quickly: A normal soil tends to lose water while simultaneously retaining a healthy amount of moisture. However, soils with a low pH level find it difficult to drain the water and hence remains wet for longer durations. This can be hazardous during the rainy season as your soil will contain a very high amount of copper and zinc that can tamper with the grass’s growth and appearance.

How To Increase The Lawn pH?

How To Increase The Lawn pH

To increase the lawn pH, you can take the help of the fixes mentioned below to address the problem.

1. Use Agricultural Limestone

Lime treatment is primarily recommended to cure acidic soil. For this, you can opt for agricultural limestone, which can be availed at any agricultural store in your vicinity. Lime helps increase the soil’s pH level by replacing hydrogen ions and providing your soil with the necessary calcium and magnesium required for proper functioning. Additionally, adding lime increases the availability of nitrogen, which is one of the most vital nutrients for plant growth. 

2. Organic Matter

When you harvest the plants, it removes organic matter and other essential minerals from the soil, thus leading to a low soil pH. To tackle this, you can mend your soil each season with compost rich in organic matter. This way, you can increase the pH level and make the soil fit again for bearing plants. 

3. Organic Fertilizer

One of the proven ways to increase your grass pH level is through the use of organic fertilizers. But ensure that you fertilize your plants separately. If you have added limestone and spread compost all over the soil, then we suggest you choose a different time to spread organic fertilizer to increase the soil’s pH level. 

Conclusion

The pH level measures whether your soil is acidic or alkaline in nature. To test whether the soil’s acidic or alkaline, you can implement the two simple tests we have mentioned above in the article. Neither acidic nor alkaline soil is good for the plants. Therefore, if you start noticing high pH symptoms or low pH symptoms, we suggest you use this troubleshooting guide to restore the pH levels. 

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