We have a serious issue with the acidity of our soil. All the pine trees we have do not help this fact one bit. We did not even know we had a problem until after the growing season when we purchased a soil tester from Lowe’s (I think Lowe’s should sponsor our blog as we seem to mention it a lot).
While last year’s crop wasn’t a failure, I believed it should have been better. So I set out researching to identify ways to make it more abundant. During my research, I came across soil pH. This had never crossed my mind. While reading as much information I could find on the internet about soil pH, I read an article that said dandelions liked acidic soil. We have a lot of dandelions. Also, pine needles are acidic, and we have an abundance of pine trees. This lead me to wonder if that had been part of the problem.
Upon testing the soil in the garden, I found our pH to be around 5.0. Way too low for most of our crops. Now, with a problem I set out on a solution
Most everything I read said use lime to raise your pH. Everywhere I looked it said lime. Than I came across a little tidbit of very useful information. Wood ash also increases pH, and adds vital nutrients to the soil most fertilizers don’t. Since we had a large brush pile from all the fallen limbs, tree trimming, and bush removal for the year, we just set it on fire right on top of the garden. There is a post, Fire! Fire! Fire!, about that on our blog.
After the bonfire and the spreading of the ash around the garden, I tilled the ash in and retested the soil. It had raised the pH from 5.0-5.5 up to 5.5-6.0. I tested several spots on the garden so that is why there is a range of numbers. That still left another half a point to go in places. Our goal was to get the pH to 6.0-6.5. Every vegetable we intended to grow was happy in this range. According to the chart on the bag of lime and the approximate size of our garden, we needed 1.5 bags of lime to get that last little bump to the pH. We figured it was better to be slightly under than slightly over, and we are cheap, so one bag of lime for the garden.
We bought plain old powdered garden lime. The pelletized lime was just a touch more expensive and we are on a budget (read: cheap). Next year we will spring the extra 40 cents a bag for pelletized lime. At first the lime spread easily from our spreader. After a short period of time it would cake up leaving a hole where the lime had gone out of the spreader. A quick shake and everything would be working again. The farther down the level of lime in the spreader would go, the worst the caking got, and the harder it had to be shaken.
And then there was the dust cloud I was creating. Regular garden lime is very fine, so the dust cloud was expected. To be honest, the cloud wasn’t that bad but my shoes may disagree.
All in all, it would have been well worth the extra 40 cents to go with the pelletized lime. I think it would have made spreading much easier and I wouldn’t have spent five minutes trying to get the dust off of my pants and shoes.
The pH of the soil tests right at 6.0 to just a touch over in places. Let’s hope that helps make a big improvement to our 2013 harvest. The next step for the garden this winter is add as much compost as we can get our hands on, then we are ready to plant.