Weeds, PH, And Other Soil Indicators

by Polly

What about Weeds and pH test?

Hold on to your hoe!   In your quest to get rid of your garden weeds, you may be erasing some valuable hints about your soil.   And, one of the best-kept secrets in gardening is the inexpensive soil test that is available all over the country for $5 and $10.

Let’s talk about weeds and pH test in detail. 168783057_78fe2f6ce0_mjpg In defense of weeds, they are excellent indicators of soil conditions.

You can use the information about your garden weeds in two ways:

A)  To plant things that will thrive in the same conditions as those weeds; or

B)  To amend your soil and change the conditions that made that spot so hospitable to begin with.

Here are some general “weed reading” guide lines for you to follow:

1)  Look for large populations of the same weed rather than just a few individual plants. One weed means nothing.  A large group of one kind is a useful clue.

Look for more than one variety of weed before you draw any conclusions.

Example: Dandelion and common mullein both indicate acid soils.   However common mullein also indicates soil with poor fertility. Mullein alone may mean several things. But, if you see both dandelions and mullein in your garden, you can be fairly confident that your soil is acidic.

2) Consider the health of potential “indicator plants” (see list below).   If the weeds in question are robust, they’re good indicators.

For instance:  A healthy stand of clover may indicate soil that lacks nitrogen.

3) Weeds that keep coming back year after year are great indicators of soil conditions.

Try this:  Instead of being frustrated by weeds, learn to recognize your weeds, dig them out, and replace them with nicer plants that like the same soil conditions.

4)  Weeds for Acid Soil: Dandelions, 1425752284_ed26a31eb0_mjpgcommon mullein, wild strawberries. Instead of them, you can grow azaleas, blueberries, hydrangeas, rhododendrons, endive, potatoes, shallots.

5)  Weeds for Compacted/Crusty Soil: Chicory, wild mustard, bindweed. You can grow bok choi, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard instead of these ones.

6)  Weeds for Low Fertility Soil: daisy, wild carrot, wild radish.  Thyme, beans, beets, carrots, peas, radishes will thrive in this kind of soil.

7)  Weeds for High Fertility Soil: red clover, chickweed, lamb’s quarters.  You can replace them with broccoli, corn, lettuce, melons, peppers, tomatoes, squash.

Now about pH test.  A soil’s pH is simply a measure of its acidity or alkalinity.   A pH reading of 7.0 is neutral; numbers higher than 7.0 show that your soil is alkaline.   Numbers lower than 7.0 means your soil is acidic.

The ideal pH for most plants to grow good is in the range from 6.2 to 7.0.  This is the range where nutrients are most available for uptake by the roots of your plants.

If your soil is very acidic, your soil test report will tell you to add lime to raise the pH.   But another portion of the test results should determine what kind of lime you choose. If your soil’s magnesium level is okay, the lab will tell you to add calcitic lime.

But if your soil needs magnesium, you’ll probably end up adding dolomitic lime (magnesium lime) to correct both problems.

If your soil is too alkaline, the test results may tell you to add sulfur to lower its pH.

Stay away from the very finely ground sulfur that is sold to be mixed with water and sprayed onto plants as a fungicide.   It’s so finely ground that it can be a health hazard if you don’t wear protective equipment when you use it.

Want to know more?

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Yours truly for a great garden with outstanding veggies and flowers.

Polly-organic gardener

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia April 13, 2009 at 10:35 pm

I have a lot of onion grass. What does this mean?

Polly April 14, 2009 at 9:08 am

Onion grass usually grows in soils which are relatively poor in minerals. I’d suggest to have soil analysis done at your local Dept. of Agriculture Extension Office

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