BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

17 September 2014
Accessibility help
how to be a gardener - The complete online guide

BBC Homepage
Part One
Part Two

Are you signed in?
Go here for more information

Contact Us

homeModule 1Module 2Module 3Module 4Module 5Module 6Module 7Module 8
1 - Analysing your soil
Print page

Doing a pH test
As a rule of thumb, if you have soft water, you have acid soil; if you have hard water, (there is always a scum around the bath!) the local soil is alkaline.

To be sure, you need a soil test kit, (availiable from 'all good garden centres') some deionised water and a soil sample.

  • Dig several ‘soil cores’ from various beds
  • Discard the top 3cm (1in) of soil
  • Mix together
  • Dry on a radiator
  • And follow the instructions - the kit contains all you need.
Kits are very cheap, so do a couple of tests just to be sure.

So, now you've tested your soil pH - can you tell us whether it is acidic (ericaceous) or alkaline (loamy)?

Altering soil pH
On a large scale, don’t bother. It’s expensive and the results are only temporary. If you want acres of rhododendrons and you live on chalk, move house!

Liming is common practice with vegetable growing to raise the pH from say 5.5 to 6.5, but it is never worth trying to make alkaline soil more acid. On a small scale, create raised beds and fill them with a different soil, or grow in pots using appropriate compost. Lime can be applied if your pH test indicates that it is needed - but don't overdo it!
1. Know your plot

Assessing your plot
Analysing your soil
 Soil types
 Soil ph
Drawing a survey
Test your knowledge
Go further

Plant lists Plant lists
Plants for different soil types:

Find thousands more plants in the BBC Gardening database.
Video Video
Soil, what's it all about?
Test your knowledge of planting in different lighting conditions. Or find out how to test your soil.
Requires Flash 5

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy