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Lancaster8

Testing ph of soil

48 posts in this topic

Like most people, I strive to improve everything, and I have recently started mixing my own soil.  I have a long-established wormery and I had a lot of old matured worm compost available.  I sieved it, and it looked good enough to eat! ;) I used this as a basis for mixing up my own soil. To this, I added various other ingredients that should all be complimentary to the main component. 

 

I thought I was doing good.  I re-potted half a dozen plants into my new mix thinking I was going to have good results. Instead, I was getting very bad indications on leaves - and then plants started to keel over. 

 

My mix was 72% worm compost, 7% blood & bonemeal, 7% very fine block paving joint sand, 7% wood ash, 7% perlite.   The mix was light and airy and I felt confident the plants would love it.

 

Now I had an emergency - and they were immediately re-potted into a basic Levingtons compost to stop them dying.  This seems to have saved the day, but it is very disappointing when you try to do good and it all goes tits-up! 

 

I mixed up some of the Levingtons in a glass jar with distilled water in an attempt to check the ph and it was very good at 6.2. I then cleaned my jar out and did the same with an unused sample of my own soil mix and I was horrified to see a ph of 8.0.  No wonder my plants were keeling over! :wallbash:

 

The wood ash is very alkaline, but it was only around 7% of the mix. The worm compost itself also comes out at a higher ph than would be expected.  I haven't tested this on its own, but I know the worm tea has a very alkaline ph.  

 

So, ultimately, I cannot use my own soil mix, and will have to use it on the garden, whilst reverting back to bagged stuff like Levingtons, Jack's Magic or one of the cannabis brands.  I have no idea how the commercial companies make sure their products are not too alkaline. 

 

Anyway, I have learned something from this fiasco - in as much that I now know how to test soil by making a mix in a jar.  However, I would also like to keep an eye on the ph in other plants that are in flower or waiting to be switched into flowering mode. 

 

I have looked at lots of so-called probes with digital readings, but the problem with such devices is that often they are really "Mickey Mouse" and don't work properly.  Has anyone ever found a decent ph testing soil probe that actually works reliably? 

 

Thx in advance! :skin_up:

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pH being off probably isn't your issue but rather it is too hot for your plants. Someone more in the know will pop in, but I'm pretty sure you've got to let it 'cook' for a while and innocluate, if you've not gone ott on the ingredients. 

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I think you need to 're evaluate your mix. 

Ratios and ingredients. 

I add 1.5-2 cups of blood fish and bone to 180 litres of base mix.

I certainly don't think that equates to 7% 

 

I don't add wood ash. I don't recommend it personally and if used be careful with it. Certainly not adding anything like 7% 

 

If your basically just using worm compost as a base then you have little room left for too many extra ferts as this is mucho rich to start

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If u jabe an ec meter to hand theneasure water going in amd comimg out. If the soild is above 1.2 then its way to.hot for anything below 4 inches tall in simple terms.

 

I have had a total nigjtmare recently with hot soil. I foolishly brought a basic soil mix from lidl as it said used for seedlings etc. After seeimg mauled growth and nutrient burn I suspected the soil so i filled a 0.5 litre pot. Water went in at 0.5 ec. It came out at 1.7ec through about 3 inches of soil. Cost me dearly. 

 

Soinds to me u are getting similar symptoms so might be worth a little experiment to see how the aoil measures up.

 

GV.

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I had an EC meter in the house, but I had never used it. I have now taken a lot of readings to find out who the culprits are!  The reading for my home-made soil mix was 1.78 with the worst contributors to that being the wood ash at 1.43 and the fish, blood & bone at 1.48. I still can't see what has pushed it up from 1.48 to 1.78 when everything is mixed together as the worm tea is only .639.  The worm compost that was used was not fresh from the wormery, and had been taken out a couple of years ago and was very well rotted. Now I have learned how to use an EC meter, but still have to learn how to make sense of the readings. I also have a nettle tank which has been in place for years, and the nettle tea that is often used for watering is .858 and fish tank water is .525.

 

Any further comments appreciated.  Thx.

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30 minutes ago, Lancaster8 said:

but still have to learn how to make sense of the readings.

 

can't believe its even being suggested tbh... 

 

 

E.C stands for electrical conductivity, so youre only reading the bits that can conduct electric. What about all of the organic stuff that isn't broken down or conducive to electric? You do not use an E.C meter in "organics" like this, it doesn't give you a full picture its pointless. 

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when i made up soils id measure in pinches of potash an pinches of lime ,a handful of worm castings a pinch of rock salt ,a pinch of d,e and a pinch of powdered kelp ..that was it add that to compost and feed the whole lot with diluted seaweed .keep it as simple as possible that way you can always add in later whats missing unless your guerrlla growing of course .

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1 hour ago, Golden Syrup said:

 

can't believe its even being suggested tbh... 

 

 

E.C stands for electrical conductivity, so youre only reading the bits that can conduct electric. What about all of the organic stuff that isn't broken down or conducive to electric? You do not use an E.C meter in "organics" like this, it doesn't give you a full picture its pointless. 

 

100% disagree. Although the meter does read the way you say i personally think its still one of few ways to get an idea of what is going on with young roots. 

 

The meter does indeed read the condutivity of a solution but to say all organic material used for home made compost will not add any conductivity to a solution is imo incorrect.

 

If it didn't why was the reading so much higher?

 

I think in what u are saying the point has been missed. The goal is to read the run off to see if the the soil adds ec or ppm to the water passing through it amdnin turn may be too hot for younger plants. How those elements got into the solution your reading is irrelevant. And more to the point if what you say is correct and the meter is incapeable of reading organic material in the run off then I would personally be even more concerned. Because this would indicate the soil could well be even hotter.

 

I do understand that organic ingredients in home made compost work vastly different to standard industrial or commercial nutrients placed in pre fertilised soils. But in the end are they not achieving rhe same goal? Extra elements delivered to the root zone? And other than an ec meter how else does one guage how hot the soil is. How do organic soil producers measure the strength of their soil?

 

But just in case i am totally wrong i have just tested mixing oldtimers in water and growers ark in water. Both added considerable electro conductivity to my water. And for the record the nutrients branded as organic were outstandingly higher when mixed as per label instructions than the basic chemical based nutrients.

 

A crude experiement i know, but one i feel proves to me persoanlly there is much more science than just accepting organic materials do not add conductivity to a solution.

 

 

GV.

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7 minutes ago, GreenVision said:

A crude experiement i know, but one i feel proves to me persoanlly there is much more science than just accepting organic materials do not add conductivity to a solution.

 

I never said it didn't give a reading I said it didn't give a true reading therefore pointless - what if something is not broken down but conducts electricity? It might read higher than whats actually available to the plant. It works both ways. 

 

But if you're happy keep doing it. 

 

 

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9 minutes ago, Golden Syrup said:

 

I never said it didn't give a reading I said it didn't give a true reading therefore pointless - what if something is not broken down but conducts electricity? It might read higher than whats actually available to the plant. It works both ways. 

 

But if you're happy keep doing it. 

 

 

 

No doubt its not exact, what ever is. Taking into consideration all the variables however i feel it was a bit ott to say what i suggested is pointless. 

 

And i persoanlly think the reading, for the purposes we use it for, is close enough. 

 

I suppose to say it bluntly, if your run off adds a whole 1.0 or even more to your waters ec reading then i personally believe it would give a grower enough of an idication as to what could be going on.

 

Not for a second would i or have i ever suggested its a method for testing accurately the level of nutrients / elements being added to the roots.

 

So again syrup, imo a little bit heavy handed suggesting it was a pointless suggestion or be it advice. 

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Posted (edited)

56 minutes ago, GreenVision said:

How do organic soil producers measure the strength of their soil?

You test it in a lab for all component elements and the quantities at which they are found in the soil.

 

N  3.5%

P 5%

K 3%

Ca 0.1% .......Etc etc 

 

If you make your own soil it is easy to see if it is too hot or not. Look at your plants.

 

It's the research first that puts you in a position to assess what you are putting in the soil and how much of each thing your adding and what it will do.

 

It's a balancing act that requires knowledge to get right.

 

The mix we have above is a long way off what I would consider a balanced soil imo. Sorry op 

 

Edited by blackpoolbouncer
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This 5 pennarth any good ? :oldtoker:

 

Soil: understanding pH and testing soil

When designing and planting your garden, you need to know whether the soil is acid or alkaline, as different plants thrive in different soils. The soil pH is a number that describes how acid or alkaline your soil is. A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. An acid soil has a pH value below 7.0 and above 7.0 the soil is alkaline.

 

When to test soil pH

It is especially worth checking soil pH before designing or planting a new garden, making vegetable plots, planting fruit, when growth is disappointing, or where yellowing of foliage occurs. 

Lime is added to increase soil pH (make it more alkaline) and acidifying materials are added to decrease soil pH.

Testing can be done at any time, but if carried out within three months of adding lime, fertiliser or organic matter, the test may give misleading results.

 

How to test soil pH

Home testing: You can test your soil pH yourself using a DIY kit widely available at garden centres. These kits are relatively cheap and easy to use and give a good indication of soil pH.

Always follow the sampling directions given by the test kit or laboratory to get a representative sample for the area in question.

Laboratory tests also detect free calcium carbonate (chalk or limestone). This may not be measured by DIY kits. A quick home test to check for free calcium carbonate is to add vinegar to a soil sample. If ‘fizzing’ is seen, free calcium carbonate is present.

 

Interpreting the results of a soil pH test

A pH test measures soil acidity or alkalinity. A pH 7.0 is considered neutral. An acid soil has a pH value below 7.0. Above pH 7.0 the soil is alkaline.

 

pH 3.0 - 5.0

    •    Very acid soil

    •    Most plant nutrients, particularly calcium, potassium, magnesium and copper, become more soluble under very acid conditions and are easily washed away

    •    Most phosphates are locked up and unavailable to plants below pH 5.1, although some acid tolerant plants can utilise aluminium phosphate

    •    Acid sandy soils are often deficient in trace elements

    •    Bacteria cannot rot organic matter below pH 4.7 resulting in fewer nutrients being available to plants

    •    Action: Add lime to raise the pH to above 5.0. The addition of lime can help break up acid clay soils

 

 pH 5.1 - 6.0

    •    Acid soil

    •    Ideal for ericaceous (lime-hating) plants such as rhododendrons, camellias and heathers

    •    Action: Add lime if other plants are grown

 

pH 6.1 - 7.0

    •    Moderately acid soil

    •    A pH 6.5 is the best general purpose pH for gardens, allowing a wide range of plants to grow, except lime-hating plants

    •    The availability of major nutrients is at its highest and bacterial and earthworm activity is optimum at this pH

    •    Action: It is not usually necessary to add anything to improve soil pH at this level

 

pH 7.1 - 8.0

    •    Alkaline soil

    •    Phosphorus availability decreases

    •    Iron and manganese become less available leading to lime-induced chlorosis

    •    But an advantage of this pH level is that clubroot disease of cabbage family crops (brassicas) is reduced

    •    Action: Sulphur, iron sulphate and other acidifying agents can sometimes be added to reduce pH. Clay soils often require very large amounts of acidifying material and soils with free chalk or lime are not usually treatable

 

Bom Shiva 

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2 hours ago, GreenVision said:

 

 

So again syrup, imo a little bit heavy handed suggesting it was a pointless suggestion or be it advice. 

 

We'll have to agree to disagree as I don't think it's over the top or heavy handed. 

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23 minutes ago, Golden Syrup said:

 

We'll have to agree to disagree as I don't think it's over the top or heavy handed. 

 

Fair enoigh mate.

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@blackpoolbouncer Tbh matey i dont and never have made my own soil so I couldn't really add much insight there.

 

We're all aware soils can be hot tho, the very reason we have light mix and all mix for example. And given the op likely doesnt have a lab to hand i thought id try to add a little helping hand with some experience in hot soils. Its not a perfect method by far but it has worked every time for me. 

 

Just a little example. I got 0.8 from canna professional literally yesterday. A bat mix and gold label give me 1.6 and upwards maybe a year or more ago, especially the gold label. And both scorched my younger plants and caused undesirable or slow growth. In fact i did a topic on the gold label and what it did to my plants at the time. 2016 i think.

 

I do try to stay on topic and add possible solutions from real experience. Maybe it helps maybe it dont. But i do think that soil runoff can clue a grower in, or at least point one in the right direction in this instance.

 

The water passed through both organic and non organic soils is changed when measuring ec or ppm i cant help but maintain that is a fact.  No doubt the reading is inaccurate but i feel its a good enough reading to call hot or not with soil. I know fertilizers are slow release so we cant judge it with any kind of certainty. But if the water going in is 0.6 and coming out a 1.5 for example i think the method would allow a conservative assumption the roots lower down the pots are getting a 1.5 ec water solution give or take. And for 2 week old plants I'd say that is warm of the scale when talking about cannabis feedin, evem in soil.

 

So my suggestion to the op was simple. Take an ec reading of a runoff and if u see an OTT reading you may want to start looking into your soil being a bit hot.

 

But all fair argument aside thank you kindly for the wisdom. Genuinely a fan of science and my question regarding how organic soils were produced was also genuine. I had before now pondered if the soils were made on a "Recipe" basis, as in knowing before hand what each component brings to the table in terms of macro and micro and simply adding the correct quantities.

 

Now i know. :smartass:

 

If i wasn't trying to put my soil days behind me I'd love to have give it a bash. But i just never had the time.

 

GV.

 

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