To Garden is to be part Artist, part Scientist & part Dancer.
The Artist seeks & sees beauty (in many forms).
The Scientist questions, calculates and experiments.
And the Dancer weaves between leading and being led.
In this Dance of the Garden, we are partnered with Nature. Hearing her music. Moving with her rhythms. We cannot make the sun shine, that is her domain. Her song. Part of the universe.
And when the tides are turned, and we are reaping what we have sown, Nature responds in Abundance and with Bounty.
As we dance with Nature and choose to Garden (I love how that word is a noun and a verb), we realise that our great medium is the earth itself: soil. If gardening were a painting, the soil would not only be the canvas (noun) but our preparation of it too (verb).
The soil is alive.
It is not one thing. It is billions upon billions of things; living and decomposing and re-creating itself perpetually. There is no dead soil. Only depleted soil. Just as we can easily deplete soil, we can, by working with Nature, replenish it again. Even the “deadest” soil, is capable of being rejuvenated: there is something in it that can be resuscitated.
There is something intelligent in soil that urges it to seek out the perfect balance in order to sustain life. One of these balances is the pH Balance.
*puts on scientists’ coat*
Q: What is pH?
On my trusty google search, I found different definitions for the same thing (cuz, you know, the internet, right). Take a Look:
Answer number 1: The “p” stands for potential and the “H” stands for Hydrogen. Okay, so that makes it as clear as mud. What is potential Hydrogen? A scientific explanation would state that pH refers to the plant’s ability to attract hydrogen ions. A less scientific explanation says pH is the acid/alkaline balance.
Answer number 2: The term “pH” was first described by Danish biochemist Søren Peter Lauritz Sørensen in 1909. pH is an abbreviation for “power of hydrogen” where “p” is short for the German word for power, potenz and H is the element symbol for hydrogen.The H is capitalized because it is standard to capitalize element symbols. The abbreviation also works in French, with pouvoir hydrogen translating as “the power of hydrogen”.
Okay so Power/Potential, I think we get the drift here.
From Rodale’s Organic Life:
pH is simply a measure of how acid or alkaline a substance is, and soil acidity or alkalinity (soil pH) is important because it influences how easily plants can take up nutrients from the soil. Many gardening books and catalogs list the preferred pH for specific plants. The good news for gardeners is that, with a few exceptions, most plants will tolerate a fairly wide range of soil pH.
Nutrient uptake and pH: Plant roots absorb mineral nutrients such as nitrogen and iron when they are dissolved in water. If the soil solution (the mixture of water and nutrients in the soil) is too acid or alkaline, some nutrients won’t dissolve easily, so they won’t be available for uptake by roots.
Most nutrients that plants need can dissolve easily when the pH of the soil solution ranges from 6.0 to 7.5. Below pH 6.0, some nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are less available. When pH exceeds 7.5, iron, manganese, and phosphorus are less available. Most garden plants grow well in slightly acid to neutral soil (pH 6.0–7.0).
Regional differences: Many environmental factors, including amount of rainfall, vegetation type, and temperature, can affect soil pH. In general, areas with heavy rainfall and forest cover have moderately acid soils. Soils in regions with light rainfall and prairie cover to be near neutral. Droughty areas end to have alkaline soils. However, the pH of cultivated and developed soils often differs from that of native soil, because during construction of homes and other buildings, topsoil is frequently removed and may be replaced by a different type of soil. So your garden soil pH could be different from that of a friend’s garden across town.
We like that there are ways to test your soil pH at home without much fuss (and we will explore this in separate posts) but we also like that even though pH is important for nutrient uptake, most organic gardens will have a healthy pH balance and not everyone needs to rush out and test their pH – truth be told, in all our years of growing food, we never have.
Now that we are creating a new, much bigger garden on bare, sandy soil, we are curious to find out more and dig a bit deeper.
It can be very tempting and very easy to try and amend pH levels in the soil but at the same time, it is a very precise thing and the impact of mistakes can take a long time to rectify themselves.
If you, like us, are growing for the home and sharing the surplus, we wouldn’t worry too much about pH levels unless it is an obvious problem; in other words, don’t fix what ain’t broken.
Composting is a wonderful way to care for the soil and a healthy compost should help with keeping things balanced and thriving.
Ok, time to dance …
Till Next Time,
Shireen & Kathy
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