Understanding pH and how it affects your plants

Testing of pH levels is not only reserved for swimming pools and ponds. Many people do not realize that optimal pH levels of the soil and water affect plants and how they grow and take in nutrients.

At least 75% of all gardens in Johannesburg are watered using tap water, and though this is not a problem as plants still grow well and thrive, tap water contains small amounts of metals and chlorine, with a pH level of around 7-8, suited for human consumption.

So what are the preferred pH levels for plants and what do the numbers mean? pH is a unit of measurement of hydrogen ion concentration and stands for potential hydrogen. This measures the acidity or alkalinity of the water or soil. A pH level between 1 – 5 shows that the soil or water is more acidic, whereas a pH level between 5 – 10 shows that the soil or water is more alkaline.

The majority of plants prefer a pH of 5.5 – 7.0, balancing between acidic and leaning more to alkaline. Where some plants such as azaleas and hydrangeas prefer a more acidic pH level.

What are the benefits of pH-balanced soil and water? Plants that are fed with water that has optimal pH levels, or planted in optimal pH soil will take up nutrients and minerals a lot better and will show a significant increase in health and lushness.

Feeding plants with pH levels that are off-balance will not be detrimental to the plants but will affect nutrient uptake and how effectively the nutrients are used by the plant.

If you find plants in your garden or indoors are struggling to grow even though you have fed them with fertilizer, and you are not sure why, consider having your water or soil tested to ensure that your plants are taking up nutrients at an optimal level.

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