Taking into consideration everything that is necessary for healthy soil, the pH balance might be the one that sounds the most complicated. And while the word acidity doesn’t sound like something you would want to increase in your garden, a healthy bamboo plant grows best in slightly acidic soils (around level 6). For anyone who doesn’t remember their high school biology class days, acidity is measured on a pH scale of 1-14. Basically, the pH is a measure of the amount of lime (calcium) contained in the soil. Soils in moist climates tend to be more acidic while soils in dry climates are more alkaline (or basic). The acidic side is represented by 0-7 and the alkaline measurement ranges from 7-14.
(If you’re not sure of the pH level of your soil, use this handy pH garden calculator.)
So why is it important to know your soil’s pH? Well, it’s partly because the pH of the soil will determine what nutrients thrive for plant’s needs. Soil solution carries within it such nutrients as Nitrogen (N), Potassium (K), and Phosphorus (P) that all plants need in specific amounts to thrive. If the pH of the soil solution is increased above 5.5, Nitrogen (in the form of nitrate) is more available to the plants. However, phosphorus is made available mainly when the soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.0. And in general, if the soil solution is too acidic, most plants cannot utilize these nutrients and are more likely to take up toxic metals which can lead to toxicity (poisoning).
pH levels of soil also play a role in what pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals are needed to fight off bugs and diseases but thankfully the bamboo plant grows quite well without the use of any harsh chemicals!
Knowing that bamboo grows best in slightly acidic soils is one step towards a healthy garden. But what if the soil is too basic or too acidic? Generally speaking, it is easier to make soils more alkaline (basic) than it is to make them more acidic. Simply use hydrated lime in the garden. Because different types of soils react differently to the application of lime, use the following guide to increase the pH by 1.0:
- Add 4 oz of hydrated lime per square yard in sandy soils
- Add 8 oz. of hydrated lime per square yard in loamy soils (the soil best for bamboo plants!)
- Add 12 oz. of hydrated lime per square yard in clay soils
- Add 25 oz. of hydrated lime per square yard in peaty soils
Note that this might be a gradual process and annual testing and adjusting of pH in the soil might be needed.
If the pH soil needs to be more acidic, try using sulfur in the following amounts to reduce the pH by 1.0:
- Mix in 1.2 oz. of ground rock sulfur per square yard for sandy soil
- Mix in 3.6 oz. of ground rock sulfur per square yard for all other soils
Make sure that the sulfur is thoroughly mixed into the soil before planting. Additionally sawdust, composted leaves, wood chips, cottonseed meal, leaf mold and peat moss will help lower soil pH.
Hopefully this will make dealing with the pH of garden soil less daunting! For working in the garden, remember to take advantage of bamboo clothes with their incredible wicking ability. And for more tips on growing a beautiful bamboo garden, visit Green Earth News section on the Bamboo Garden. For those of you not utilizing bamboo in your garden, you may run into pesky problems. If so, search for an affordable home pest control company in your area.