How to Check Soil Acidity in Your Garden

The acidity of your soil plays a role in how well your garden grows. While there are plants that are happier in more acidic soil and some that are happier in more alkaline soil, neutral soil will accommodate the widest variety of plants.

To test the acidity of the soil in your garden, here are three ways you can find out what you and your vegetables are working with.

  1. Buy a professional test kit. A store-bought kit usually involves digging a small hole about 2-4" deep, filling it with water and then inserting a test probe into the resulting mud. A reading of 7 indicates neutral soil. A reading of 8-14 indicates alkaline soil, while a reading of 6 or lower means you have acidic soil.
  2. The cabbage method. Take one finely chopped head of red cabbage. Toss it into a pot of boiling water. The water must be distilled to ensure purity and accurate results. After 10 minutes, remove the cabbage. The resulting liquid should be violet. The violet liquid should be neutral (pH of 7). Fill a clean cup with the liquid and then add two spoonfuls of dirt. If the liquid turns pink, your soil is acidic. If it turns blue or green, your soil is alkaline. And if the liquid stays purple, your soil is neutral.
  3. Vinegar and baking soda. Take two containers and place a few spoonfuls of soil in each. In one container, add vinegar; if it bubbles, it is alkaline. If nothing happens, add just enough water to the second container to turn the soil into a thicker liquid consistency, and then add in baking soda. If the second container bubbles, your soil is acidic. If neither container shows a reaction, then your soil is most likely neutral.

Once you know the pH of your soil, you will be able to decide how and if you want to amend your soil to make your garden a success.