Acidification is a process that lowers soil pH.
Soil can be alkaline, acidic, or neutral. The pH scale ranges from 0 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline), with (neutral) 7 in the middle. Soil pH dictates the availability of many nutrients to your plants’ roots.
Your soil can be packed full of important minerals, but the wrong pH can make it impossible for plants to reach that bounty. According to my 2015 soil test, my soil had a pH of 7.7 and very little iron. Plants need iron to absorb many other essential nutrients. By lowering the pH, or acidifying, my soil, I can make the iron more readily available. By 2019, the soil pH had a pH of 6.2, which makes many more nutrients available. If you live in an area with alkaline soil and want to grow acid-loving plants, you will need to acidify your soil.
Which edible plants prefer acidic soil?
If all of your plants prefer your soil’s current pH, you are in luck. It’s really the easiest way to go. Most garden and landscape plants prefer a pH range of 6.2 to 7.3. Acid-loving plants include:
Moderately acid-loving plants that prefer a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 include apples, basil, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumber, dill, eggplant, garlic, melon, peppers, pumpkin, rhubarb, winter squash, tomato, and turnips.
Factors of acidification
There are three factors that determine the amount of acid needed to lower soil pH. Some of this stuff gets deep in the world of chemistry, but I think I have sorted it out well enough. [If you understand these things better than I have explained, please educate us all in the Comments section!]
How to acidify soil
While using the above information will give you more accurate data, you can gently acidify your soil by applying elemental sulfur (S) in stages. As the sulfur oxidizes, it turns into sulfuric acid, acidifying the soil. Changing soil pH takes several months to accomplish and it tends to require regular monitoring and adjustments. Since soil pH is a function of geology and climate, it will be an ongoing process. Just be sure to read and follow the package directions.
Fertilizers and acidification
Nitrogen has a powerful impact on soil pH. The form of nitrogen you use makes a difference. To lower the pH of your soil, use ammonium-based fertilizers, rather than nitrate-based fertilizers. Your blueberry plants will thank you.
What's the pH of your tap water?
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!