Before thinking about planting or setting up an orchard, an essential requirement is to know the characteristics of the soil (content in clay, silt, sand, etc.), organic matter and pH. Go for it.
Well, first of all, let’s get up to date with the content and information that we already have here about the pH. If it is your first time around here and you are interested in this topic, we refresh the memory with the following articles:
However, we lack one thing, analyze the soil. We know what shortcomings we will have depending on the values that come out, what we can plant and how to change it if we have to do it.
For this, we will not resort to laborious methods with samples, thinners, or electronic devices, nor will we indicate the best home laboratories. Today, our motto will be DIY (” Do It Yourself“).
Of course, the results we can expect from such a homemade procedure will not give us decimals, nor will we know very precisely the pH value at which our soil moves. However, we will not need it unless it goes beyond typical values. For that matter, we will say that the normal is between 6 and 7.5, although it will depend on the use we want to give it. For example, the blueberry needs a value of 5 to grow optimally.
Materials needed to measure pH in a homemade way.
- PH strips (can be found in hypermarkets, hardware stores, Amazon, etc.).
- Distilled water.
- Shovel or hoe and container
The pH strips are usually sold to measure the pH of the pools, although they are equally valid for measuring the soil if you know how to do it. They have colors that correspond to a number, which goes from 1 to 14. When we introduce them to the solution we want to measure, it will take shade. Then it is a matter of comparing with the table that comes in the box. Very simple.
For example, these from Amazon are worth little more than € 2 and they give us 80 measurements.
The distilled water has a reason, has pH 7, neutral. If we add water from the tap or another source, we are distorting the measurement. We could be mixing the soil pH, for example, 6 with tap water, pH eight and we would give a result around the neutral, but it is not. You can even lower the soil pH.
The most important task, the soil sample
When taking a sample of soil is not worth making a 1 or 2 small sample. If a small piece of land has, for whatever reason, a significant variation of the pH concerning the rest of the area, we are already making a huge mistake that we will pay with effort and money.
There are three ways to get soil samples: zig-zag, grid, or diagonal. We prefer the network.
Imagine that you want to know the pH of your garden, which has 20 square meters. You can divide it into 20 equal parts, at a rate of 1 square meter each, or even 2 square meters, if you do not want to work as much.
If you are going to grow vegetables or vegetables, that is to say, herbaceous ones, the ideal thing is that the samples take them to a depth of between 10 and 45 cm. If you are going to take, for example, ten samples, take one to 10 cm, another to 20 cm, another to 30 cm, another to 40 cm and so, randomly.
If you are going to cultivate fruit trees, when you go deeper into the roots of the trees, you have to go further, obtaining samples at the height of between 40 and 80 cm.
Once the samples are taken, we mix them homogeneously (the same amount of each subsample) and introduce it into a container. Next, we add distilled water to the mixture. In some protocols of action, recommend mixing equal parts of the earth and distilled water (1: 1). That is, if you add 100 g of substrate, add 100 g of distilled water. Everything depends on how the mixture is pasty and if it is necessary to add more so that it can be measured with the pH strip.
We remove the mixture of soil and distilled water to form a paste and let it rest for a few hours. 1 or 2 hours will be enough. Then introduce the strip trying to immerse it in the remaining distilled water and observe the color it takes.
In this example, we see how the pH strip, once submerged, has a pH that is between 9 and 10. More pulling for ten than for 9. Logically we do not believe that it is a soil mixture (poor horticulturist). Still, with this, we would already know an average pH value in which we move — a straightforward technique to perform and very useful.
Knowing this value, we can see what plants to use in the garden, what shortcomings are likely to appear (or not) and how to proceed to balance the value if we have very alkaline or very acid soil.
What to do if the values are too high or too low?
What we would do would be to do another sampling, this time taking more samples and randomly changing the procedure. That is, doing it diagonally or zig-zag. If a similar result reappears, surely we are not wrong. Just in case we could request a rigorous laboratory analysis, although that will depend on the farmer’s budget and if it is worth it.