If you have acidic soil, trying to build a thriving garden and beautiful landscape can be difficult. The trick to getting your soil into ideal condition for healthy plants is knowing how to raise the pH in your soil fast.
Before you start mucking about, I’ll cover why you should raise pH, how safe it is, which supplies you should consider, and steps to raise your soil pH level.
Why Raise pH?
Soil with low pH means it’s acidic. This type of soil has a hard time supporting healthy plant development.
Low pH can happen regionally due to natural elements in the soil or rainy weather conditions that leach away the magnesium, sodium, calcium, and potassium that keep pH levels in balance.
Low soil pH can also occur in a small area, like your yard, by growing certain crops or over-fertilizing with a high-nitrogen product.
Ph under 5.5 will cause fewer fruits or vegetables to form on plants due to the lack of available micronutrients the plant can draw up from the soil.
Some plants grow well in more acidic soil, like:
But, the vast majority of plants grow best when soil pH is between 6.2 and 6.8, which is slightly acidic to neutral.
Understanding your soil pH is crucial for good gardening practices, so you should test your garden yearly.
Soil pH over 7.5 is alkaline, which creates different plant-growing issues from the lack of iron, zinc, and copper.
Your gardening goal is to keep soil pH around 6.5 to 7 at all times unless the plant needs a specific pH level.
Is It Safe To Raise Soil pH Fast?
Yes, you can safely raise soil pH quickly without harming plants. Some methods can show higher pH in only 24 hours.
You should aim to raise the pH level before the growing season, so plant roots can develop a robust system and absorb all the nutrients the plant needs to thrive.
You will need to ensure that your additives are applied evenly and never directly on growing plants.
Another crucial aspect of quickly raising soil pH is not to overdo product applications that can turn the soil alkaline, which is why having a soil pH test meter is critical.
If you see plants failing due to low pH, you can use an “emergency” application of product to raise pH quickly. Details of products to use to raise soil pH fast are in the section below.
You’ll still need to test the dirt as you have no idea how much material you need to use and how the product will change the actual soil pH level long-term.
Be aware that dry products will take longer to break down and adjust soil pH.
What You Need To Raise Soil pH
The supplies you need to raise soil pH include a testing meter or strips and any of the following amendments:
- Potassium carbonate
- Wood ash
- Baking soda
Lime is top of the list in terms of soil amendments to raise pH fast. Within the lime category are different products to choose from, which include:
- Dolomitic lime (which also adds magnesium)
- Oyster shell lime (organic and adds calcium)
- Agricultural lime (adds calcium oxide and magnesium)
- Hydrated lime (pulverized and fast-acting)
- Ground lime (coarse and takes months to work)
A complete soil test for all chemical components will help you choose which pH-raising product will be best for your garden.
Lastly, you’ll need a way to spread and till the product deep in the soil. Topdressing a product over the soil surface only adjusts pH two or three centimeters deep, which won’t help plant roots.
How To Raise Soil pH
Follow these steps to raise soil pH:
Step 1. Test Your Soil pH
Take a soil sample and perform a test to learn the pH level and other nutrients so you can choose the correct type and amount of amendment material.
There are pH meters and testing kits you can find at home improvement or garden centers. You should send your soil sample off to your local county or college extension office for the best results.
You can locate a local soil testing center with a quick online search, such as the University of Florida Extension which I use for accurate soil readings.
Step 2. Determine The Type And Amount Of PH Amendment You Require
Lab-tested soil results will indicate how much lime or ash you need to apply based on the other levels of minerals in your garden soil.
Typically, labs will recommend pounds per 100 or 1,000 square feet or pounds per acre, so you’ll need to know the area of coverage in your garden.
- A pound of lime measures out to one cup. A pound of wood ash is three cups.
- For baking soda, use one tablespoon of baking soda per one gallon of water over a two-square-foot area.
- For wood ash, never exceed two pounds per 100 square feet of soil per yearly application.
- For crushed eggshells, you can add one or two pounds per square foot.
- For oyster shell lime, the recommendation is 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
For home testing, you’ll need to adjust your amendment to the label recommendations on the product you purchase and how deep you will till the product into your soil.
Most lab suggestions and pH gardening product labels assume you’ll be tilling the material 6-7 inches deep, but read all the information carefully to ensure you’re applying the right amount.
Step 3. Add The PH Amendment To The Soil
The optimal time to amend garden soil is before the ground freezes in winter or two or three months before you plant if you live in a more temperate region.
If you don’t have time to wait, you can certainly raise soil pH quickly by using a pulverized version of amendment material like fine lime or baking soda that you dissolve in warm water before application.
Look at the texture of dry products. The coarser the material, such as pellets, the longer it takes to break down and adjust the soil’s pH.
You can dissolve powdery or granule amendments in warm water, then pour the mixture over your garden to raise soil pH in only a day or two. This type of application is ideal when plants are already in the ground, as it won’t disturb or damage roots.
For dry application, use a broadcast spreader or your hand to toss the material across the bare soil.
Splitting your amendment material in half and applying one portion going up and down your garden, then the other half going crossways, will spread the content evenly.
Always protect your mouth, nose, eyes, and bare skin from any lime or ash, as it can be irritating. Wait for a calm day and wear long sleeves, gloves, a dust mask, and eye protection for safety during application.
Step 4. Till The PH Amendment Into The Soil
Once you spread the amendment, incorporate the material to the depth you require using a power tiller, spade, or rake.
If your garden is bare, a rototiller is the fastest, least stressful, and most effective way to incorporate the material into your soil. Hand tilling will take longer and not distribute the material as evenly.
Till in the material using a crisscross pattern over your garden soil and use a ruler to check the depth in spots to ensure you’re getting the material deep enough.
Step 4. Water the PH Amendment into the Soil
You can allow nature to break down and alter your soil’s pH, or you can help it along by watering the area.
Don’t drench the soil, as this could push the material deeper into the ground out of reach of your plant’s roots.
TIP: Some water, especially from a well, may have a low buffering capacity or low bicarbonate level that can decrease the pH of your soil.
If you use a drip irrigation system instead of rainwater for your garden and your soil pH is consistently low, the water could be the culprit.
Step 5. Monitor The pH Level
Check the pH level after a day or two with liquid or pulverized lime applications and weekly for granular or pellet ash or lime products.
If, after one week, you don’t see enough pH increase using a fast-acting material, go ahead and add another application. Repeat as necessary.
It may take several months when using a coarser material to get a stable pH reading. Checking levels weekly will enable you to apply more material if you don’t see the number increasing steadily or if it begins to decrease.
Gardening season is upon us, and getting your soil pH correct will enable you to grow the healthiest plants possible.
Using the tips in this guide on how to raise pH in soil fast will help you fix poor soil conditions. When you know the tricks to achieving proper soil pH, you can show off your gardening skills with colorful flowers and productive vegetable plants!