Natural Soil Test
by Pat Veretto
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It's easy to test soil acidity without the pricey kits sold for that. Although a homemade test won't be as specific, you don't really need that specific information for a normal garden. If plants were that picky, nothing would ever grow anyway! A good, general idea of whether your soil needs amendment and how much and what kind is all it takes.
To find that out is simple enough. You'll need a couple of glass jars, a tablespoon, some vinegar and some baking soda. Here's how to do it:
Scoop up a couple of tablespoonfuls of soil from the surface of your garden, then dig two or three inches deep and scoop another couple of tablespoonfuls. Mix this soil thoroughly with one tablespoon of water, and then put two tablespoons of this wet soil in the first glass jar.
In a separate container, mix a tablespoon of baking soda with two tablespoons of water. Pour this mixture into the soil and watch closely. If the soil bubbles freely or fizzes, it's acidic. If there is extreme fizzing, it could cause a problem with growing some plants.
If it didn't bubble at all, you might have alkaline soil. Put the remaining soil in the other empty jar and pour a tablespoon of either white or apple cider vinegar into it. If it fizzes, that means the soil is more alkaline than acidic and could cause problems for your garden.
If your soil is acidic, add clean wood ash to balance it. If it's alkaline, a simple spray of a tablespoon of vinegar in a quart of water over bare ground before planting will help.
There are many other soil amendments, both natural and not, but use them sparingly. Just because a little is good doesn't mean a lot is better. It's better to err on the frugal side when adding to the soil and most plants will be happy unless there are extreme problems with the soil.
Organic matter in the form of compost will help any soil, from very poor to almost perfect. Check with your local agriculture extension agent for advice particular to your area or type of soil.
Pat Veretto is a work-at-home grandmother who has homesteaded, homeschooled and happily lived frugally most of her life. She currently freelances.
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