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What is Acidic Soil?

By Jessica Reed
Updated May 16, 2024
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Acidic soil is any soil with a pH balance below 7. Soils that are below 7 are acidic while those with a pH balance above 7 are considered to be alkaline. Knowing the pH balance of the soil is important because certain plants and crops grow best in a certain type of soil. The pH balance may also give clues to certain properties of the soil, such as the amount of nutrients found in it. Typically, crops prefer either neutral or slightly acidic soils, though there are always exceptions to this rule.

Gardeners and farmers will benefit from understanding the properties of acidic versus alkaline soils and what each plant or crop likes best. There are other factors affected by the soil type. Not only will certain plants thrive in it, but different diseases can survive in the soil depending on the pH balance.

Decomposing items in nature are typically the cause of acidic soil. Dead leaves from plants and trees will fall to the ground and break down over time, raising the acidity of the soil in the area. The soil can be changed over time from acidic to alkaline through the breaking down of other natural elements, such as limestone. The soil changes based on the activity of the area and what the soil itself formed from. Soil formed from basic rock types will usually be alkaline, while soil formed from acidic parent rocks will normally form acidic soil.

Other factors in nature effect whether the soil is acidic or not. Areas with higher rainfall have more acidic soil than those that don't. As the rain soaks into the ground, it dissolves nutritious elements in the soil and acidic elements move in to take their place.

If a gardener or farmer is trying to increase the pH balance in the soil, it is usually because the soil doesn't have enough nutrients in it and not necessarily because the pH balance itself is a problem. While the plants may not be affected by the acidity of the soil, the soil itself may be lacking in key nutrients the plants need to live. Limestone is a common choice when trying to lower the acidity of the soil. Acidic soil can be neutralized by adding agricultural lime, quicklime, or calcium sulfate.

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Discussion Comments
By anon170285 — On Apr 26, 2011

My crops look malnourished and less productive. A friend told me to get soil sample from farm have it analyzed which is not really expensive and found out that soil is very acidic, 4.5 PH, the reason that any amount of fertilizer will not suffice. But after applying Miracle soil conditioner, i have higher yields.

By FirstViolin — On Jan 17, 2011

Can you give me some good tips to reverse acidic soil that has become unbalanced because of soil degradation? I recently came into possession of some land and I wanted to use it for gardening, but when I got to see it in person, the soil was completely degraded, and the soil sample came up very acidic as well.

I know the basic strategies about how to make soil less acidic, but I can't very well do basic strategies like spreading limestone or calcium over such a large area -- it just wouldn't be cost efficient.

Is there a way that I can combat the soil degradation and the acidity at once without having to resort to something extremely expensive and labor intensive?

Thanks for the information.

By StreamFinder — On Jan 15, 2011

How do I know if I have acid soil? Last year I tried to start a flower bed, and I did everything that the book said I should do, but my flower bed just withered and died.

Soon after that I read an article on soil acidity, and was wondering if that could be the cause. I just used lawn soil in my flower bed; nothing fancy, so it very well could be that the soil was just too unbalanced.

But how can I tell that? Is there some really cheap and easy to tell this, like some kind of home test I can use? I would really like to avoid having to take this to some kind of lab or something just to figure out what kind of soil I have!

So can anybody give me any suggestions on how to figure out how acidic my soil is, or how to treat acidic soil?

Thanks all.

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