Most plants develop well in soils that are slightly acid to
neutral (6.0 to 7.0) provided the proper nutrients are in the
soil. These nutrients are available to plants in this range of pH.
Generally, soils in moist climates are acid and those in dry
climates are alkaline. A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid
soil and one with a pH higher is alkaline. A soil analysis will
reveal the pH of the soil so that a decision can be made on
whether to alter the pH or not. The County Extension agent can
supply information on soil tests that can be performed for each
(Samples of soil should not be sent to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture.) Acid soils can be limed to bring the pH to
the favorable range. Lime, ground limestone, marl, or ground
oyster-shells on garden soils serves a threefold purpose: (1) To
supply calcium and other plant nutrients; (2) to reduce soil
acidity; (3) to improve the physical character of certain heavy
As a rule, asparagus, celery, beets, spinach, and carrots are
benefited by moderate applications of lime, especially on soils
that are naturally deficient in calcium. Dolomitic limestone
should be used on soils deficient in magnesium. Most garden
vegetables do best on soils that are slightly acid and may be
injured by the application of lime in excess of their
requirements. For this reason lime should be applied only when
tests show it to be necessary. In no case should the material be
applied in large quantities than the test indicates.
Most garden soils that are in a high state of fertility do not
require the addition of lime Alkaline soils may be treated with an
acid producing material. Organic matter, sulfur, and some sulfur
containing materials can be used.
When using organic matter in the form of manure, care must be
taken that the manure itself is not alkaline. Some manures are
alkaline and contain high amounts of soluble salts which are
detrimental to plants, especially when applied in alkaline soils.
With good drainage, plenty of organic matter in the soil, and
the moderate use of commercial fertilizers, the growth
requirements of nearly all vegetables may be fully met.
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