Author Topic: Can I use my pH meter to check soil pH?  (Read 1465 times)

Offline nateo

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Can I use my pH meter to check soil pH?
« on: May 12, 2012, 08:00:03 PM »
All of my "how do I test my soil pH" googling has just led me to links saying "just send it to your university extension office." Any idea how I'd go about testing my soil using my pH meter? I assume I'd have to add water, maybe distilled?
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Offline euge

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Re: Can I use my pH meter to check soil pH?
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2012, 08:26:22 PM »
It's 50/50 by volume I believe. I have done it. 8)

I also hopelessly contaminated my probe in the process.

I prefer to use coco coir which is fairly neutral and just dial in my nutrient pH to desired levels.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline nateo

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Re: Can I use my pH meter to check soil pH?
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2012, 08:34:01 PM »
I never check samples unless I toss them afterwards. I can't find any coco noir locally, so I'm stuck using peat moss, which I've heard is very acidic. I have plenty of caustic potash to neutralize it, but I'm not sure how much I need to use. 
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Offline euge

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Re: Can I use my pH meter to check soil pH?
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2012, 10:25:02 PM »
Peat moss is an extremely poor medium for many plants due to the acidic nature as you noted. I suggest coir again and big blocks of it are available for dirt cheap on the Internet or at a local specialty store. It just takes more watering but I have container grown tomatoes, peppers, greens and cucumbers in it. The used coir amends my raised beds. If you've bought seedling mix before it's just finely ground coir. It works so well I just can't help myself recommending it!

I've also grown things in straight perlite.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline nateo

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Re: Can I use my pH meter to check soil pH?
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2012, 08:30:31 AM »
I wanted to use the coco coir, but I couldn't find it locally (I live in the boonies). Maybe in KC or St. Louis, but that's about a 3-3.5 hour drive. I had just assumed shipping would be a lot of money for how much I needed, so I went with the peat moss.

I mentioned to the wife about returning the peat moss and ordering some coco coir, but she was not super thrilled about that. She doesn't approach hobbies the same way that I do (I tend to obsess), so she has a hard time understanding why I'm so concerned with pH and such.

Anyway, she vetoed it, so now I've got to move forward from here. I've read you need to rehydrate peat moss before you use it, and my well water is incredibly alkaline, so I'll probably mix it up, test it, and go from there.

My neighbor gave me a pamphlet written by some local guy. His grow mix is basically 1/2 compost, 1/4 moisture retainer, 1/4 compaction preventer. The peat moss is for moisture retention. The mix will mostly be cotton burr and mushroom compost, and I'll probably pick up a sack of rice hulls the next time I'm at the brew store to prevent compaction.
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Offline euge

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Re: Can I use my pH meter to check soil pH?
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2012, 09:55:41 AM »
That actually sounds like an interesting mix.  Too bad SWMBO put the brakes on growing medium. I'm in the process of converting to hugelkultur. My moisture retainer will be wood.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline nateo

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Re: Can I use my pH meter to check soil pH?
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2012, 10:43:26 AM »
Hugelkultur sounds interesting. I have plenty of twigs and junk in the woods around my house, so that might be something to look into.

I'm just getting into gardening, and I really don't know what I'm doing, so I'm just following my neighbor's instructions. His garden produce is exceptionally good, so he must be doing something right.
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Offline euge

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Re: Can I use my pH meter to check soil pH?
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2012, 10:56:37 AM »
I've learning myself. What I have figured out is water and nutrients. Which seems like a no-brainer but plants will grow in just about anything if they have proper amounts of water and nutrient. The looser and airier the mix the easier and faster the plants will grow. Heavy clay is undesirable IMO.  Plants like tomatoes will need weekly feedings and daily waterings while fruiting- especially in a hot climate.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline nateo

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Re: Can I use my pH meter to check soil pH?
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2012, 11:30:34 AM »
The pamphlet he gave me said the grow mix needs to be loose enough that you can stick your hand to the bottom without effort. I'm planning on burying a soaker hose when I get the box finished.

I was thinking about using 54" or so tomato cages upside-down for plant supports. I can't really drive them in the ground through the bottom of the box, but the tomato cages seem like they'd be pretty stable if they were inverted, and they're like $2.50 or so at the hardware store here.

I do have a bunch of junk around, so I might see if I can cobble some cages together from old stuff in the barn.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2012, 11:33:29 AM by nateo »
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Offline bo

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Re: Can I use my pH meter to check soil pH?
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2012, 12:40:10 PM »
Best tomato cages are made with 6X6 concrete reinforcing metal.