Wednesday, February 23, 2011

pHabulous Gardens

pH is not a typo.
pH is not an error.
pH is not being used because I am trying to be ultra-hip and cool.

pH is my way of emphasizing to you, fellow growers, the single most important thing I have learned to date through my Master Gardener training. This has come up every single day of class multiple times. It doesn't matter if we are talking about pesticides, fertilizers, plant type or location. Pretty much any landscaping project you can begin should begin with an understanding of your soil's pH. And, if you want a pHabulous garden this season, which by the way is right around the corner here in Georgia, do this one very important thing NOW.

Learn your soil's pH and fertility through a Soil Test.

A Soil Test will tell you:

  1. Soil's pH
  2. What nutrients are available in your soil and at what rate
  3. Liming Rate

Why oh why is this so important? Because it will save you time and energy and it could save your plants.

Let's say you are in the garden and your tomatoes are looking nasty on the bottom, all black and un-edible. You immediately think, ROT. Ugh. Off to the big box store to buy fungicide and herbicide by the gallon. Before you know it, you are spraying it all over your 'maters and anything else in the 'mater family like peppers and eggplant (yes, that's the solanaceous family for all you smarties out there). Well, guess what? You don't have a fungus or a disease or a virus on your crop. Nope. That there is a nutrient deficiency. Specifically, a calcium deficiency. Had you known that, you could have saved yourself time and money and saved your fruits and veggies from unnecessary chemicals. Same goes for your lawn and ornamentals, by the way. And, Calcium, along with other macronutrients, is reported in your Soil Test results.

There is another reason why this is important. Let's say your Soil Test shows your soil is, in fact, deficient in a variety of macronutrients. Well, you can add all the fertilizer your finances will allow to your garden beds, but if your pH is not right, then your plants won't benefit from any of it. When your soil's pH is too high or too low, plant growth nutrients become tied up and unusable. Further, other soil elements (such as aluminum) can express toxicity and actually cause damage to your plants or worse. Ouch! Our soil in Georgia is naturally acidic. In order to correct this, you need to add lime. This is where liming rate comes into play. The test results will tell you how much lime to add. It needs some time to work though, which is why this is the time to prep those beds for late spring and summer gardens.

So, I hope I have convinced you about the many benefits of Soil Testing. However, if you are still on the fence and need more information, read this or this or this.

I'll make it even easier. Attached (below) is a copy of the form to submit along with your soil. Now, grab a bag, collect a sample (instructions here) and take it to the Horticulture Extension (4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, -OR- contact me and I'll take it for you) and you are well on your way to a pHabulous garden!

1 comment:

  1. Well, out comes my nerdy side, but I even remember being able to view a fields pH in the classic PC game Sim Farm. I may or may not still play The Sims 2. And I may or may not be putting plants on my balcony with Shawn's help this summer. :)