Organic Home Garden Series: 3 Natural Alternative Ways to Test pH Levels in Soil

By knowing the pH levels in your garden soil, you can ensure its overall quality and ability to grow plants. From there, you can assess what actions you may need to take in order to improve your gardening soil. Soil-testing kits are known as one of the most effective methods for determining your garden soil’s pH levels, but they are not the only way to test if your dirt is too acidic or alkaline. Here are 3 natural, alternative ways to check the pH levels in your home garden without having to purchase a soil-testing kit.  

  1. Red Cabbage Test

This test is actually quite effective when done correctly. First, start by finely chopping up one head of cabbage. Boil distilled water for 5 minutes, and then place the chopped cabbage in the water for about 10-15 minutes. Strain the cabbage juice, and pour it into a cup about half full. Place one tablespoon of soil sample into the cup, and wait about 30 minutes, then look at the color of the solution. If the solution is blue or green the pH will be between 8 and 14, and this means the soil sample is alkaline. The brighter green the solution, the more alkaline the soil. If the solution turns pink, this indicates the soil is acidic with a pH between 1 and 7. The brighter the pink, the more acidic your soil is. A purple or violet solution means the pH level is neutral or near 7.

  1. Vinegar and Baking Soda Test

The vinegar and baking soda test us quite simple. Place about 1 cup of your gardening soil into two separate containers. Add in about ½ cup of vinegar. If the soil sample begins to fizz, this will indicate that your soil is alkaline, and if it does not fizz, proceed to the next step. In the other container add about 1 cup of water and then a ½ cup of baking soda. If it fizzes, this will indicate that your soil is acidic. Your soil’s pH level is neutral if neither of your container samples fizz.

  1. Weed Observation Test

Weeds are commonly despised by most gardeners, but did you know they can actually help you tell if your garden soil pH levels are balanced? By observing the types of weeds growing the most in your garden, you determine whether or not your soil is alkaline, acidic, or neutral. Weeds like dandelions, English daisy, wild strawberries, corn spurry, plantain, lady thumb, pinks, and common mullein indicate acidic soil. The flowers of cornflowers and hydrangeas can also indicate your soil’s pH level. If the flowers on them are pink, you have acidic soil and if they are blue you have alkaline soil. In alkaline soil you will see weeds such as wild carrot, stinkweed, nodding thistle, clover, goosefoot, bellflower, white mustard, pennycress, and scarlet pimpernel. Soil with a healthy pH level of around 7 will have weeds such as butter pint, chickweed, chicory, fat hen, pigweed, pokeweed, Queen-Anne’s Lace, velvet leaf, and lambs-quarters.

I am always on the lookout for more sustainable ways to garden. When first learning about the pH levels of soil, I was told to purchase a soil testing kit. I quickly thought to myself—What if we didn’t have access to soil-testing kits? And, how did people test their soils when testing kits never even existed? Hence, I went out on a search for a few natural alternatives to share with you all. It’s cool to know that testing your garden’s pH levels can be as easy as dirt.

Stay tuned for more organic home gardening tips and ideas!