I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on soil since my last post.  I’m concerned about the high pH level result that I got yesterday.  If you recall, it appeared to be very close to 8.0, which is not typical for our area.  According to what I’ve been reading, usually soil east of the Mississippi River (that’s us) tends to be acidic, while soil west of the Mississippi tends to be alkaline.

I don’t know how I got it into my head that oak trees can make soil alkaline, but according to multiple Internet sources, the leaves from oak trees should leave soil acidic.  Now, given that we have a lawn, it’s possible that the leaves have been removed to such an extent over the years that they are not getting a chance to compost and return nutrients to the soil in this particular patch of grass.

I think, however, I have a more likely explanation.  We are planning this garden for the sunniest area of the yard, a plot from the back southeast corner of the property extending west along the garage and then following the drive toward the street.  And here’s the important factor:  this is an old farmhouse, and the drive is not paved.  It’s limestone.  That’s right.  I’m betting the lime is what is making the soil alkaline.

So here’s my plan.  First off, I’m going to do a couple of additional soil tests, since for the first test, I simply walked outside down the porch steps and across the drive until I got to the nearest spot we will till and cultivate.  I dug up a bit of dirt, came in and completed the test.  Yup, that’s right.  I tested soil right off the top and about a foot away from our limestone drive.  Hence, the alkaline results.  Since the test was only $1.19, it seems reasonable to do a few more in various spots along the 60-foot length of the garden plot.

However, I have also searched out sources for pine needles which I hope to use as much on the garden this summer.  The needles also can be chopped up and mixed into the soil in the areas where we need to lower the pH.  Pine needles, of course, are quite acidic and would help pull the pH levels down to the more acceptable range of 6.0 to 7.0.  

My son Jacob and I went to pick up six large bags of  pine needles from a kind woman who lives about 2 miles from my house.  She had recently had 60 trees removed from her property, and we were able to get another seven bags of shredded pine that had been left behind.  We will be able to use that in between rows, once we have our plants in the garden in May.

We filled the entire back seat of the car with the bags of pine needles and shredded pine.  Once we got it home, we emptied the bags on the ground behind the garage, to begin the weathering process.C  Clearly we are going to need much more.  Here’s a photo:

piles of pine needles and shredded pine

piles of pine needles and shredded pine

I’ll report later on the additional pH tests.  Keep in mind that this is a learning process for me and that I am likely to make many similar errors in the course of this adventure.  Hopefully, they will all be as easily caught as this one has been.