Saturday, September 27, 2008

Living up to its potential

The drenching rains are back, though more welcome this time; things were getting pretty dry around here.  At least it's not raw, and I can postpone harvesting the rest of the basil for a few more days.  So I will pull something out from my rainy day topics.  Earlier this month, on the day of the barbecue, Allan was playing with one of his new toys he discovered during a housecleaning: a pH meter.  He stuck the needle in various plots in the MSG to measure pH levels in the soil.  

Until that day, I had never given pH levels much attention.  Science not being one of my favorite subjects, I did not know that pH meant "potential for hydrogen," and that it was the measure of a soil's acidity or alkalinity.   Nor did I know that it was measured on a scale of 0-14, and that a pH reading above 7.0 was considered alkaline and below 7.0 was acidic.  Not to mention that the pH scale is logarithmic, meaning that a pH of 6 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 7.  

Now, if you are still awake, let me get to my point.  The pH level of the soil in most parts of my plot was around 6.8.  This is within the optimal range for growing vegetables, at least what I've been growing.  Interestingly, the reading in the compost pile was 5.5, which is more acidic, yet still within the range.  Being the lazy gardener that I am, it's nice to know that I don't need to make adjustments!  Why should pH matter?  Because when a level is not in the optimal range, it adversely affects the way plants can use the nutrients in the soil.  A more thorough explanation of pH and how it impacts the soil can be found here.

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