At planting time, organic gardeners might think about pH, the acid/alkalinity balance in the soil. Some plants prefer an acid soil, while others do not. Planting your acid-lovers together will help them grow, because you can use acid soil amendments. For example, you could plant lilies, roses, and alyssum in the same bed, because they all prefer acid soil.
If you grow plants that thrive in your neighborhood, your soil probably will be just fine.
But if you are trying something new to your neighborhood, you might want to think about pH.
Never add something to change the pH of your soil before testing the pH of your soil.
To find the pH of soil:
In my experience, pH testing results at home are inconclusive, hard to read.
Therefore I avoid trying to change my soil pH, except to sprinkle wood ashes
under my big oak, and to use acid-lover fertilizer on my roses and blackberries.
Get pH test strips (litmus paper) from a pharmacy or organic garden store. Test strips for pH are hard to find these days.
Perhaps best to order online: Search: Paper-Litmus-Strips-Tester.
Test your water.
Dilute some soil in your water; test the result and compare it to the pH of your water.
- OR buy a pH test gadget in a garden store or garden department of a hardware
store and follow the package directions.
- OR find an agency, such as an Agricultural Extension near you, and let them do the testing.
The point of this chart is to plant pH preferences together.
Compost tends to be neutral and will tend to correct an imbalance in your soil. Neutral is 7.0. In general, most plants prefer neutral or slightly lower: pH 6.0 to 7.0. Do not over-correct.
To make soil more acid (lower pH) mulch with leaves, pine needles or coffee grounds (which you can get for free from most espresso places) or buy organic fertilizer labeled "for acid-loving plants."
To make your soil more alkaline (higher pH) add wood ashes or lime (not too much!) to the soil or to your compost.
See organic gardening books and websites for other options. Look for what is easily available in your neighborhood.
Do you really have to worry about all this? No, not really. Most gardeners don't. But if you are worrying about it,
you can open this chart on your phone while you are out in the garden planting.