In the Midlands and over much of Ireland the soil type is alkaline, this means that these areas and the gardens found within these areas can grow the majority of garden trees, shrubs and vegetables that are available in garden centres. There are however a select few areas around the country that can grow acid loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias, forest flames and summer flowering heathers. These areas are areas with soils of a lower pH or acidic soils. So how do you know which soil type you have and which is the best plants for your garden? One way to find that out is to use a simple soil pH test kit. These kits are available in a number of garden centres and online shops and are an easy on fun way to test your soil.
The Soil test kits act just as a litmus paper would work in that they indicate the pH of a certain solution by turning a particular colour. To use them and to test your garden’s soil it is best to take a number of soil samples from different areas around your garden. When taking a soil sample use a hand trowel or garden scoop to collect your samples. Take a sample of soil from approx 1 or 2 inches below the soil surface. Take samples from areas where you intend on growing plants such as your vegetable plots, herbaceous border or around existing trees and shrubs. When you take a sample make a note or exactly where in the garden you took it from.
Once you have your sample you can begin you soil test; this is done by adding a sample amount of soil and water to the test chamber, next, following the instructions provided add the indicator capsule to the soil and water solution and shake well. Allow the sample to sit and after 5 minute compare the solution colour to the colour chart provided.
Continue to do this test of each of the soils samples taken. Record all the results so take you can determine the pH or acidity of each area in your garden. Once the soil test kit has given you your answers you can begin to plan out what plants would be best for your garden.
Acid loving plants are plants that prefer a lower pH, soils with a lower pH have different bacteria and different available nutrients than soils with a higher pH. Acid loving plants are generally plants with really vibrant colour and often large flowers such as rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias and forest flames. This is why many gardeners who don’t have acidic soil often create raised beds, hanging baskets and containers that are dedicated to acid loving plants.
Your soil test kits often come with a list of plants that are best suited to certain soil types and will give you advice on how to improve the acidity or alkalinity of your soils.