When gardening, most people don’t have the right earth in their backyards. You know the plants aren’t going to do well, so you purchase better soil. Still, it can have high pH levels.
The bad thing is the food’s pH also raises, so the plant can’t absorb all the nutrients it needs. However, you can’t lower the pH too much because that can cause the plants to leach nutrients from the soil too quickly, making the soil toxic.
Therefore, it’s essential to lower pH in the soil, and you can do it with vinegar.
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Optimal Soil pH Levels for Plants
The optimal soil pH level for most plants is between 6.0 and 7.0, with 6.5 being the ‘happy medium’. This is the number for most home gardens because most plants thrive in a slightly acidic or almost neutral range.
However, you should be aware that some plants like more acidic soil, and some do best in slightly alkaline or neutral soil. For example, azaleas and blueberries like it to be acidic. Asparagus and ferns prefer alkaline or neutral.
It’s always a good idea to read the label or research the plants you hope to grow. That way, you can make corrections as necessary so that they flourish.
How Does Vinegar Lower Soil pH
Vinegar is likely found in every cabinet of every home. It can add flavor to your food, help with cleaning the house, and is useful for gardeners. The potent liquid might smell bad, but it can naturally adjust your soil’s pH levels without needing chemicals.
How does it work, though? Vinegar is a liquid and diluted form of acetic acid. Therefore, when you add it to your soil, it naturally increases the acidity in the soil and lowers the pH level.
Some types of vinegar also include vitamins and minerals. This depends on how it’s processed and what it’s made from.
Typically, your average white vinegar’s pH, which has been commercially manufactured and sold in stores, is 2.4. Therefore, it’s highly acidic.
Still, it might not be organic. Therefore, if you have an organic garden, make sure you find organic vinegar for the best results.
Using Vinegar to Lower pH in Soil – Step by Step
If you want to use vinegar to lower your soil’s pH, you need to do it the right way. Here are the steps:
1. Take a soil test to find out the pH level of your soil. The values can vary based on your garden and the zone you live in. However, this gives you a rough estimate of how much vinegar you need.
2. Choose the vinegar you want to use. Household vinegar (distilled or plain white vinegar) includes about 5 percent acetic acid, so it’s safe for most areas. On the other hand, horticultural vinegar has higher concentrations, so be careful about how much you utilize.
3. Plain vinegar has a pH level of between 2.4 and 2.7. Adding water is not going to alter the acidity, and water also has a pH, which varies. Most tap and well water is alkaline, so test your water’s pH to determine its hardness first.
4. Once you know the pH of the soil, vinegar, and water, you can add the vinegar to the water. Do not add water to your vinegar. Ideally, you want between 2 and 9 tablespoons of vinegar for 1 gallon of water.
5. When the vinegar has been added, test the water again with a pH tester. Continue adding vinegar until you get your preferred value, and then stop adding more vinegar. It can be helpful to write down how much vinegar you had to add.
6. Put the diluted vinegar mixture into the soil. Use a watering can or hose. It’s also possible to set up or use an irrigation system.
7. Keep in mind that your garden’s size is going to make a difference. If you regularly use 2 or 3 gallons of water for the entire thing, make sure you mix enough vinegar and water to change the pH level of the soil enough.
8. Consider using the vinegar and water mixture once a week to keep the pH levels up. Test the soil’s pH frequently (every other day or so). Adding vinegar is just a temporary fix, so you have to repeat the process as often as necessary.
Other Natural Ways to Lower Soil pH
Vinegar is one of the best ways to lower soil pH because it’s widely available and relatively inexpensive. However, you may want to use other natural methods instead of or in conjunction with the vinegar.
It’s possible to lower the pH of your soil by adding more organic matter when you first plant the garden. Decomposed compost lowers the soil pH of your garden with time.
If you continue using the compost each season, the soil in that area becomes more acidic gradually and gives your plants the most benefits.
However, you can’t use this method until the next planting season. You’re interested in finding natural ways to lower your soil’s pH right now. Another option is to use compost tea when you water them.
This adds more acidity to the soil organically and feeds your plants with nutrients. Dump decomposed compost into some water. Usually, you want 1 to 2 cups per gallon. Stir it all together periodically for 48 hours.
Then, strain the compost from the liquid. Use a sprayer or foliar feeder to water your garden. You can also use an irrigation system or a regular watering can.
Once that’s done, you can take the solids and work them into the soil. This adds even more nutrients and acidity to the garden.
If you happen to live somewhere that vinegar is unavailable or more expensive, consider elemental garden sulfur. It’s organic and safe while making the soil more acidic.
Sulfur is essential for plants and can help prevent disease. However, make sure that you follow the directions when using this product. While it’s beneficial to your plants and lowers pH levels significantly, it can be harmful if you overdo it.
You should also consider using organic mulch in the garden bed. Apply it when you plant everything so that the materials break down with time. If you choose a mulch with more acidity, it’s going to leach into the soil.
It’s a good idea to use oak leaves or pine needles in your mulch. They have more acidity and gives the garden that acidic boost it requires. Plus, there are so many other benefits of using organic mulches, too.
Do you drink coffee in the morning? Don’t throw away the coffee grounds. Sprinkle them in the garden or put them in your compost pile. When the coffee grounds break down, they can make the soil more acidic, too!
Gardeners know that the right pH balance is essential for their soil. This ensures that plants flourish and produce more fruit or flowers.
If your soil isn’t acidic enough for those plants you want to grow, it’s time to lower the pH levels. You can do that easily with vinegar, but it isn’t a permanent fix. It’s important to test pH levels in the soil, vinegar, and water each time you add it to the garden.
There are also other ways to naturally add more acidity to the soil. We’ve talked about each method so that you can decide what’s best for your garden and needs.