Testing Soil pH the Old Fashioned Way

Posted on Sep 30 2009 - 4:30am by Mike Lieberman

There’s a lot out there on the importance of testing the pH balance of your soil in order to grow healthy vegetables. I wasn’t interested in buying some fancy pH test kit or something like that.

CleanAirGardening had a post a few weeks ago titled, “Dare you taste your soil?” It was about how they used to test the pH levels of their soil back in the day – by tasting it.

I took it as a personal challenge and test tasted my soil. No, I didn’t taste the soil of the cherry tomatoes that I urinated on.

The purpose of testing the pH of your soil is to test whether it’s acidic or basic. To put it into perspective lemons are acidic, sea salt water is basic and pure water is neutral.

From what I’ve seen a soil pH that is slightly acidic is optimal for growing.

If your soil is to acidic, you can add limestone in it to make it more basic. If it’s too basic, you can add more compost to make it more acidic.

So the results of me tasting my soil were – it wasn’t very good. Besides that it actually did taste a bit on the acidic side.

Just saved me at least $20.

How do you test your soil?


  • http://www.purejeevan.com/blog WendiDee

    ROFL You are one hard-core gardener, Mike!!! Love that you ate some more after you already determined it was acidic. LOL

    *blows kisses*

  • marydelle

    Great post. Enjoyed your video of you eating soil. You can also just add compost to adjust anything. But that could take a little time. Good test!

  • Mike Lieberman

    It was a mild summer and didn't get over 105 degrees either, so it was also raw :-)

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks Mary. Enjoyed making it. This gardening stuff doesn't need all these fancy gadgets and such.

  • gogreenbeth

    I am so glad it's not from your cherry plant….Mike you kill me!!!

  • Mike Lieberman

    There are lines that must be drawn and that's about 5 of them.

  • http://www.melaniefleur.blogspot.com/ Melanie Fleur

    I usually end up tasting soil whenever I eat salad that's not been washed very well.. 😉 The other option is the old boiling-up-red-cabbage method, which might be easier, possibly.

  • Mike Lieberman

    What's the red cabbage method?

  • http://blog.wewantraw.com/ Damon

    HAHAHAHA! Raw soil! Now that is freekin funny man! I wonder if some baking soda would react if the soil is too acidic? (like the red cabbage)
    hmmm…gonna try!

  • Mike Lieberman

    Word. Lemme know what happens.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Word. Lemme know what happens.

  • http://twitter.com/JessicaCRB Jessica Braun

    Did your soil really taste lemony?  I feel like it would just taste like dirt.  

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Taste it and find out 😉

  • Alex Chaparas

    What does it taste like when it’s alkaline?