vegetable garden

Q: My soil test results say my soil pH is 7.0. What does that mean?

Q:   I just got my soil test results back from the University of Florida and I don’t exactly know what the numbers are suppose to tell me.  The report says the target pH should be 6.0-6.5.  It says my soil pH is 7.0.  What does that mean?

A:  I am glad you called me as this gave me an opportunity to clarify the test results.  One advantage to going through the University of Florida Soils Laboratory is the County Extension office receives a copy of the results.  The target pH means this is the range in which the plant material (vegetables) prefers to grow.  Your soil pH was at 7.0, which means it is slightly higher or more alkaline than the vegetables prefer.

As you read farther down the page you will see a lime recommendation.  Lime is often added to vegetable gardens to raise the pH level or “sweeten” the soil.  Often, people add lime annually without a soil test and soon they notice their vegetable production is low or poor quality.  That is why it is recommended to have your vegetable garden soil tested once every 2-3 years.

In the case of your garden soil, it is suggested no lime be added.  That is the reason you see a zero by lime.  Soil pH is important because most plants have a certain range in which they are able to absorb nutrients from the soil as long as water is present.  If the soil pH is too high (alkaline) or too low (acidic) then the plant may not be able to absorb specific elements such as iron or manganese.  This nutrient deficiency often shows up in the plant in the form of yellow leaves.  Yellow leaves occur frequently on acid loving plants such as azaleas, camellias, or gardenias when the soil pH is high.  We recommend using pine straw or pine bark around the roots of these acid loving plants as this helps lower the pH over time.  For vegetable gardens, it is best to use composted material along with cow manure and sand to help keep pH levels at optimal ranges.