How can PH impact my plants?
The world of hydroponics is just as chemical as it is biological. The PH of the soil you’re using can affect everything, and everything effects the PH of the soil. It’s a total balancing act.
Wrapping your head around the concept of managing the soil PH is scary, but without it your plants will suffer. You need to understand how each component of the growing cycle relates to the PH so that you can get the most out of your garden.
In this guide, we’re going to talk all about the impact of your soil PH and how to manage it.
What is pH?
Heading back to high school chemistry, the PH scale determines how acidic or alkaline something is. The highest point for acidity is 1, while the highest score for alkaline is 14. 7 is the neutral middle ground.
In less simpler terms, the PH scale relates to the concentration of hydrogen ions. Whether that’s already in the soil, or in the water and nutrients you’re feeding your plants with.
Why is it so important for plant growth?
For your plants to thrive, they need access to important macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium and iron. Without these, your plants can suffer from deficiencies and other damaging side effects.
When it comes to growing plants like tomatoes or chilis, soil needs to be within a PH of 6-7 so that the plant can access all the nutrients it needs for fruit and flower production.
While naturally occurring tomato or chili plants might thrive in a slightly more acidic soil, in a more monitored setting it’s important to keep soil at a lower PH.
Why are pH imbalances so bad for plants?
Nutrient deficiencies are most commonly caused by a PH imbalance. With such a small perfect PH window, it can be easy for the soil to become imbalanced and as such, there’s more chance of your plants showing signs of deficiency.
How your plants benefit from the perfect pH?
It’s pretty simple. The perfect PH will allow your plants to growth better, faster and stronger. You’ll have better fruit yields and you’ll be able to save yourself money without having to buy more plants when the originals inevitably die from a too high PH.
By continuously monitoring the PH you can make sure your plants are taking up all the nutrients you’re providing. The constant monitoring also means you can identify chemical imbalances earlier and as such, prevent them from getting worse and damaging the plants.
How to manage pH?
As we mentioned above, the ideal PH for your plants is 6-7. But how can you maintain this level to get the best out of your plants?
Soil grown plants
Soil is generally quite forgiving when it comes to chemical imbalances, so don’t worry about whether the reading is 6.9 or 6.1. As long as it is within the window, your plants can thrive.
The best way to maintain a good soil PH is to use organic materials. Using compost soil, or combining soil with organic matter will encourage microorganisms to take home in the soil and produce more nutrients for your plants.
Using chemical fertilizers does make providing your plants with all the right nutrients quick and easy. But that’s only when you know the right measurements to use. The original learning period is a case of trial and error, and as such you might find you’re over or under feeding your plants.
Using organic nutrients is the natural way to promote plant health and support the development of natural microbial life such as fungi within the soil or growing medium and as such, leading to a properly balanced soil with very little monitoring from you.
If you’re looking to grow plants in a soilless setting, you’ll need a slightly more acidic PH, at around 5.5-6.5. Again, fluctuation between the higher and lower points is irrelevant, and your plants can thrive at any point within the window.
However, hydroponic growing does require a little more monitoring than soil based. To allow your plants to get the right amount of calcium and magnesium for example, you’ll need to provide your plants with a PH above 6 while manganese needs lower. Fluctuation within the 5.5-6.5 window is somewhat beneficial for your hydroponic plants.
How to test pH?
Testing the PH of your water or soil is incredibly easy. All you need is a digital PH meter or a drop measurement kit. The drop measurement will display a colour to show you where your PH lies on the scale, while the digital option will require being calibrated before use.
How to adjust the pH?
If you measure a PH outside the optimal window, you can use PH up or down products to balance it out. If you need to lower the PH, you can use manure, compost, pine needles or wood shavings which will gradually reduce PH over a longer period of time. You might also want to try using diluted lemon juice or vinegar.
To raise the PH, lime or limestone can work. Additionally, ashes from wood can be used.
Understanding how your plants react with different PHs will be a learning curve, but this guide should help you monitor levels as well as how to raise or lower the PH when needed.