How many times did it happen that your plants or pot-based vegetables are starting to wither or turn yellow? If watering and fertilization are proper, the plants don’t lack sunlight, and the diseases can be excluded as well, perhaps you didn’t prepare in time. Not all plants need the same pH value of the soil.
Therefore, I’ll show you how to make acidic potting soil for acid-loving plants. In general, the principle is the same for container growing and the garden so that this article can be used for both.
Table of Contents
What Is Acidity In The First Place?
Every soil has its pH value. This number represents the acidity of the ground, meaning how much acid or base it contains. Some plants require more alkaline soil, others need a bit more balanced, while the third group (the one which we are talking about in this text) needs slightly or more acidic soil.
Taking a pH measuring kit and reading the results is almost trivial matter. Understanding those readings is somewhat wholly different. pH scale goes from 0 to 14. The middle value (7) represents neutral pH. This surrounding is neither acidic nor alkaline. From 0 to 7 is the acidic part of the range, while from 7 to 14 are soils which are alkaline.
Which Plants Or Vegetables Love Acidic Soil?
In general, I can separate acidic-loving plants into three groups, by the degree of acidity they need. These are as follows:
Slightly Acidic To Alkaline Soil – Most prominent from this group are cabbage and beets. Frist requires pH from 6.0 to 8.0 and peas, which will need pH from 6.0 to 7.5.
Slightly Acidic Soil – This is perhaps the most significant group. I can mention lettuce, broccoli, carrots, squashes, radishes and others. These little ones will need pH from 6.0 to 7.0.
Acidic Soil – Cucumbers, beans, eggplants and beans need pH which goes to the range of 5.5, tomatoes and pumpkins will need pH from 5.5 to 7.5, while potatoes will require the lowest level of pH, 5.0
Majority of these vegetables are suited for container growing, so if you have planned to give it a go, all it is left is to make acidic soil, and you are good to go!
Is Any Specialized Equipment Required?
Luckily, not much is needed for you to make acidic potting soil. A big container is the most crucial part because you will have to make mixture somewhere. For this purpose, you can use a bigger bucket or a wheelbarrow. The latter is quite convenient since moving around can be quite handy. Personally, I have used an old bathtub, since it has significant volume and is very stable.
The second most crucial part is pH measuring kit. If you haven’t used these before, I have already covered this matter in one of my previous articles. They are not hard to use, so feel free to explore and find the one which suits you the best.
Other equipment will include gloves, a bit of goodwill and some spare time. As for the material, you will need soil which will serve as the base. Organic potting soil for tomatoes can do the trick, just leave the fertilizer out of the equation. Make it fertilizer-neutral, just in case.
Eventually, you can always buy potting soil which suits your needs, but where is fun in that? Additionally, once you learn how to adjust the pH level and to make an acidic soil, you will save a lot of money in the long run. Also, not all package labels are accurate; you may buy soil with pH of 6.5, for example, and after testing it turns out to be 7.0. Therefore, the one you make yourself is far more reliable.
So, How Should I Start?
One great thing about you making your potting soil is that it doesn’t require a lot of time. Pour in ingredients the day before, mix it thoroughly, and you are good to go. The matter is different if you must include organic matter as well. This procedure requires a bit more time, so two weeks are needed.
On the other hand, applying sulfur will require more time, so make sure that you have read the labels and that you are following instructions correctly.
There are several ingredients which can be used to increase the acidity of the soil. Depending on which is available, you can make your choice. Keep in mind that not all are easy to obtain in every corner of the globe. Luckily, the Internet had made things more comfortable, so ordering a few bags of elemental sulfate from across the world is not such difficult thing to do. The bad side is that you will probably have to wait for it to be delivered.
Which Road To Take?
As I said, there are several ways to adjust the acidity of the soil. I will list each of them with their pros and cons, so you may pick the one which suits you the best. Before you begin, take that pH testing kit and measure the acidity, so that you know how much you should apply. Water in the garden should be tested as well since it influences the pH level as well.
One of the easiest and more natural ways is to include bio-waste into the process. It comes to this: take the soil and work in bio residue. Of course, not all types of bio-waste will increase the acidity; for this purpose, peat moss and ground leaves (oak, if it is possible) are far the best. Also, compost and manure are used in this process. Several inches of organic matter is more than enough to reduce pH; for container soil, however, I recommend two shovels of it at one wheelbarrow.
Thorough mixing is vital, and you will have to do it once in every few days.
The downside of this approach is that you will need a lot of organic matter to bring down pH level. What overshadows this is that the soil will be well-aerated and loose. This will increase the level of nutrients as well. This approach is great if you are planning to try growing peppers or jalapenos in a pot.
Because this is a slow process, it gives you an opportunity for accurate measuring. If you measure pH once in every few days, you will see that it slowly but steadily becomes lower and lower. Stop when you reach the needed border.
There is, however, one side which I must point out. Since peat moss is gained from swampy areas, too much using of this will cause long-term damage to the ecosystem. There are better ways to adjust pH.
If you can’t imagine morning routine without a cup of strong, black coffee, this is your lucky day. Residue from making coffee will also help you increase the acidity. And since most of the plants in pots are based in the kitchen, it is near enough not to forget about it.
Of course, since comparing to how much residue remains after preparing coffee, some collecting will perhaps be needed. First, leave the grounds to dry on a paper towel. After that, collect it in a zip-lock bag and close it. This way it will remain fresh and will preserve its properties.
The most convenient way to apply coffee grounds is to put one or two teaspoons of coffee grounds at the bottom of the pot for smaller containers. For larger ones, a couple of cups of coffee residue worked into the soil is just the right thing to do. The good side of this approach is that coffee grounds will keep the slugs away, while the bad one is that it is not convenient for the large-scale appliances, such as gardens.
Sulfur And Its Varieties
If one of these two previous ways is not convenient for you, then there is no other way to reduce pH than to apply sulfur or some variety of it. Although chemical solutions are not always ideal for applying, sometimes there is no other way.
Sulfur is most commonly used for clay-rich soils. To adjust the acidity of this type of soil, it will be needed approximately 2 pounds of elemental sulfur to reduce pH from 7.0 to 4.5. Now, the trouble is that every manufacturer produces its type of sulfur, so reading package label is vital.
Also, if you wish to lower the pH of the soil where you already planted the plants or vegetables, fertilizers which contain ammonia will bring down pH as well. Those which include calcium and potassium nitrate will increase the pH instead, so read carefully what you are buying.
The disadvantage of this approach is that it is intended primarily for large-scale usage. Gardens are the best areas for the sulfur appliance, and altering pH this way will require at least one year of treatment. Sulfur has long “working time,” so it will remain active for some time.
Do Not Use Vinegar
Some people will advise you to dilute two tsp of vinegar with a gallon of water, and spray the ground you intend to use for growing acid-loving plants. Although it seems reasonable, I’m firmly against this. First of all, vinegar will evaporate rather quickly, and the results with it as well. Next, to make an impact you will need a lot of vinegar, and this may cause misbalance of useful bacteria within the soil.
What If I Overdo It?
In case that you have exaggerated with the appliance of acidity-improving reagents, there is always a way to correct that. If the pH of the soil is too low, sprinkle some limestone on top of it. It is natural and the fastest way to reduce the acidity (or increase alkalinity, depending on the point of view), so it is great to keep pH under control.
So, there it is! Now you know how to make acidic potting soil for acid-loving plants without a problem. Making one on your own may require some tries and misses, but do not be discouraged. Try one more time.
As always, feel free to leave a comment, opinion or advice in the comment section below.