What’s Soil pH and Why Do I Care?

Soil pH is a measure of acidity. It is important because it affects the availability of nutrients for your plants. Soil pH is supposed to be in a certain range, like a speed limit on a road. Go too far over or under, and the cops or the plants will let you know. The cops will give you a ticket, and the plants will give you a warning by growing poorly. Proper soil pH is important to your livestock too.  If your soil is too acidic, trace minerals become less available for plant intake, so your animals don’t get all the benefits from grazing them that they might have. What are we measuring when we look at pH? What we're getting is a scale of the concentration of hydrogen ions present. That’s the H. The p of pH lets us know the scale is logarithmic, or that instead of counting 1, 2, 3, it would be like counting 1, 10, 100. The center of the scale, 7,  is neutral and is based on the number of ions present in pure water.  Each step to the left of the 7 shows an increase of 10 times in the number of hydrogen ions present.  ("But wait!" you say. "Why does the number get smaller if the number of hydrogen ions is increasing?"  We could tell you, but then you'd want to kill us. So let's just go with it.) If you'd like to do your own soil taste test rather than send it to a lab, here's a scale to give you something to compare your soil's taste to when you're judging it's pH.  Thanks to the Encyclopedia of Earth

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One thought on “What’s Soil pH and Why Do I Care?

  1. -I am very interested in this . We have a smallholding in central scotland and I am currently keeping a couple of shetland cattle , osb pigs and a ‘working’ pony along with chickens. I am trying to understand the complex issues of soil conditions and animal health-are scottish breeds adapted to thrive on acidic soils given natural pasture and forage? Or is that rushing evolution to expect such swift adaptation and do I have to provide mineral supplements. Our old pony has developed arthritis despite a forage diet and am wondering if he is defficient in certain minerals-these symptoms will become apparent in older stock which is irrelevent to most farmers but for smallholders with house cows an important consideration. Thanks for information.

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