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Why Topsoil pH Matters and How to Control It

Most people who are setting up a garden for the first time are most concerned with how much water and nutrients their plants will get in their new environment. However, once these factors are taken care of, some gardeners still see their plants failing, which can be due to a number of issues. One common but often overlooked issue is topsoil pH, which is very important to growing healthy plants, but isn't something many gardeners consider when tending to their garden. Here are some tips on controlling the pH of your topsoil to get your healthiest crop ever. 

Why Does Soil pH Matter?

Any plant is a complex organism with many diverse needs, and since plants rely heavily on chemistry to carry out daily processes like metabolism and photosynthesis, they need a well-maintained chemical environment to survive. Now, pH refers to the availability of hydrogen atoms in the environment, which play a huge role in just about any cell's life. Adjusting the amount of hydrogen in the topsoil, and therefore the pH, is therefore essential to making sure that a plant can carry out all of its processes successfully. 

What are Signs of Bad Topsoil pH?

If your plants appear sickly in some way or are not producing much fruit, then your topsoil pH might be to blame. Discolored leaves, stunted growth, and wilting stalks are dead giveaways, especially if your plants are getting enough sunlight and are planted in dark, healthy soil. If any of these are present in your garden, you may need to adjust the pH of your garden's soil. Furthermore, doing a simple soil pH test yourself can determine if your soil needs adjustment, since a healthy soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.0, which allows for nutrients to be taken up by the plant most easily. 

How do I Adjust the Topsoil pH in my Garden?

Luckily, soil pH can be adjusted a number of ways, using products that can easily be bought or found around the house. If your soil needs to be more alkaline (basic) in order to grow shrubs or perennials like lilacs, then adding some limestone to the soil can bring the soil pH down. On the other hand, plants that prefer acidic soils, like many berries and tubers (potatoes, radishes) can be appeased by adding some sphagnum peat to the topsoil. Acidifying fertilizers will also do the trick, but these products can be expensive and tricky to use, so proceed with caution if you choose this route.

You have any questions about how to get your topsoil to the right pH level, or what topsoil might be best for your garden, consider speaking to a topsoil provider.