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What does the pH level in my soil mean?

The pH level indicates how acidic or alkaline your soil is. The pH level needs to be within a particular range for the roots to efficiently absorb nutrients from the soil. While every plant is slightly different, the Goldilocks value is around 6.2: Not too acidic, not too alkaline.

PH optimal range:

Top soil based should be between 6.2 and 6.8
Potting soil mix should be between 5.6 and 6.4
City of Edmonton tap water is generally around pH 7 (neutral).

What does the EC level in my soil mean?

The EC level implies the nutrient level of your soil. Really we’re measuring the Electric Conductivity of the soil, which tells us how salty the soil is. So we could be measuring nutrients, or we could be measuring dog pee. If we see a really high number, it’s dog pee. (You can get a breakdown of the nutrients in your soil with some soil test kits. This will tell you the NPK values.)

EC optimal range:

Top soil based should be above 0.6 ms/cm but never above 2.0 ms/cm
Potting Soil should be above 0.6 ms/cm but no higher than 3.0ms/cm

These are the results we generally see when we test peoples’ soil:

  • Most results come in with the pH around 7 and the EC down around 0.2 ms/cm. This is either because their soil is starved of nutrients, or that they took a sample from the surface which is probably washed away of nutrients with snow melt.
  • A lot of clay comes in and you will know it to look at and feel, but especially once you mix the water in and it clumps to the stir stick and does not mix into a paste very well.
  • Sometimes you get the very dry soil. Usually slightly more gray in colour and very loose. It needs more organic matter in the same way clay does, only for opposite reasons. Organic matter can be peat moss, manures, composts, sea soil.

Remedies

pH too high (above 6.8):

  • We need to lower it. Peat Moss is acidic, acidifying fertilizers are available. 20-20-20 is also an acidifying fertilizer.
  • For vegetable gardens, peat moss and manures are great.
  • Flower gardens are good with peat moss and acidifying fertilizers as they should be fertilizing as they grow anyway.

pH too low (below 6):

  • Not a very common problem but immediately ask if there are evergreens around creating the acidity. Anywhere around pH of 6 is fine so not a huge problem. Common household tap water will raise that through time. Any major corrections need dolomite lime!

EC too high (above 2):

  • Dog Pee?
  • By a sidewalk and melting salts got shoveled in during the winter?
  • Cheap manures can also create this.
  • Over fertilizing ,but that is not common. Usually it’s under fertilized.
  • Basically water the pee/salt out of it to flush all nutrients down. Start fresh. You can always add fertilizer but it’s not so easy to remove it!

EC too low (below 0.6)

  • A low EC is not a difficult problem to fix, it only means that there are no available nutrients! It is very easy to add nutrients in the form of fertilizers, manures, sea soil and composts.
  • We generally recommend fertilizing every second watering for 3 weeks in the beginning to build the salt levels up in the soil.
  • Also add organic matters such as manures and composts. This will give nutrients and a much happier soil structure.

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