The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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June 23, 2013

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: What exactly is soil pH?


An analogy

Here’s an analogy someone told me that I think defines soil pH well. Let’s say that you and I are seated at a table piled high with nutritious food, but our jaws are wired shut. It wouldn’t matter how much food is on the table or how nutritious it is; we’ll still starve because we can’t get the food into our bodies.

Same thing with soil pH, you and I are the plants, and the food on the table is fertilizer. Soil pH is the wire in the plants’ jaws, and the lower the soil pH the tighter the wire.

Pick one

So, if you had to pick which is more important, pH or fertilizer, it could be argued that pH is more important, since with neutral pH, the plant can at least get whatever nutrients are already in the soil. Make sense? Of course, the point is not to say that one should lime but not fertilize.

Both soil pH and soil nutrient content are important and should be addressed for best plot results.

Raising the pH

So, what if the pH of the soil in which we are planting a plot is too low? The most common method for raising low soil pH is the incorporation of granular or pelletized lime into the soil many months in advance of planting to give the lime time to raise soil pH.

This time frame tends to be a problem for food plot planting. We normally plant in the spring or early summer for a fall and winter food plot making it awful hard to get out there and lime the late winter to be ready for the next spring. You just have to do the best you can and time it as close as you can.

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