Row by Row Episode 25: Growing a Healthy Garden with the Correct Soil pH

Correct Soil pH in the Garden

On this week’s episode, the guys talk about soil chemistry and the importance of having the correct soil pH. They define pH as the concentration of free hydrogen ions and explain how the pH scale works. Most vegetable annuals prefer a soil pH that is just slightly acidic, usually around 6.5.  They talk about factors that can lower soil pH, which include rainfall, the addition of fertilizer, and certain cover crops. Greg talks about the importance of performing periodic soil tests to keep an eye on the soil chemistry. While soil pH can be easily raised with the addition of lime, it is extremely impossible to lower pH if you get it too high. There are two different formulations — pelletized and agricultural grade. The best option is to get the pelletized lime because you are able to apply it using a fertilizer spreader. That’s why it’s important to do your own soil test so that the correct amounts of any pH adjusting material are added. If you add elements to the soil that you do not need you will have repercussions that are not easily fixable. Finally, they discuss the importance of macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium and sulfur. If pH is incorrect, then the availability of these nutrients will be affected. Greg says when you have deficiencies in your plants most of the time the first thing you need to check for accuracy of pH in the soil.

Show and Tell Segment

On the show and tell segment this week, Travis talks about his recent sweet potato harvest and brings an extremely large sweet potato to show the audience. He mentions several techniques he tried this year that seemed to work well on his sweet potatoes. They also talk about the Rattlesnake pole beans growing in Travis’ garden. These have been a very prolific crop thus far and are very appealing to the eye because of their purple color. Greg is in the process of cleaning his garden up and getting ready to plant all his cover crops. Brassicas, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and collards are all in full swing in the garden. The tool of the week is the Hoss Tools, garden fork. A great heavy-duty tool for breaking ground and digging potatoes. The guys also mentioned how great it was to see so many people stop by the Hoss Sustainable Living Center at the SunBelt Expo last week.

Viewer Questions Segment

On the question and answer segment, the guys answer a question about composting and whether it should be applied to the entire garden or just where the plants are going to be. Travis mentions that compost can serve two purposes — to improve the workability of the soil and also to provide nutrients. He also mentions that most composts are carbon-based, while they use mostly manure-based compost which has much more nitrogen. The carbon-based composts may be applied to the entire garden area as a way to amend or improve the soil structure, while the manure-based composts are typically only applied along the row due to the high nitrogen content. They guys say it’s all about what you have available around your area.

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