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Test your soil

14 November 2014

Test your soil to find out what will grow best in your garden. Whenever you take on a new garden, finding out the acidity – or pH – of your soil should be high on the priority list. Even if you've been growing on the same spot for a while, testing soil regularly keeps tabs on any gradual changes.

Soil acidity has real practical implications because it affects the nutrients different types of plants can absorb. Some plants do best in acid soil, while others prefer alkaline.

Acid soil, with a pH of 6.5 or less, is ideal for the needs of plants like rhododendrons, pieris, heathers and camellias - often referred to as 'ericaceous' plants. Alkaline soil, on the other hand, is great for growing peonies, clematis and irises. Acidic soils also harbour clubroot in brassicas, and if your soil is too alkaline potatoes and most fruit fails to thrive.

You can pick up a simple soil testing kit from your garden centre. Just mix soil with water and add the chemical, which changes colour according to the pH of your soil. Most soils are neutral, with a pH of 7: below that, your soil is acid, and above it's alkaline.

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