pH, which also stands for pHtttt

Last night, Steve had already eaten dinner by the time I got home from my yoga class, so I nuked my food and settled down at the kitchen table with my copy of Teaming With Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, which is this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Book Club selection. (Note: I’m only a couple of chapters in, so this is not my official report on the book—that will come next week.)

Steve came in as I was finishing dinner. “I’m reading about dirt,” I announced. I set the book down so the back cover, which features a picture of an earthworm writhing at the surface of the earth. “Look. An earthworm.”

Steve sat at the table. “Are you excited?” he asked.

“About the dirt?”

“About gardening,” he said.

“I am excited,” I said. “I have already learned that we can test our dirt ourselves.”

“Without sending it in to a lab?”

“Just by putting it in a jar and shaking it up.”

“Wait. Is this just to see how sandy it is?”

I squinted at him. How did he know this trick, and I didn’t? I nodded. “You shake it up and the layers settle out and then you can measure them. Sand, silt, clay and organic matter.”

“But not the pH or anything.”

“No, not the pH or anything,” I said. Of course, pH can also stand for pHtttt, which is an excellent noise that means I am going back to reading my book now, since I clearly didn’t pay close enough attention in my 10th grade Geoscience class.

In my defense, I shared a lab station that year with very a cute boy. And at that point, I could have cared less about dirt.

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11 Responses to “pH, which also stands for pHtttt”


  1. 1 Dori January 23, 2007 at 7:43 am

    Cute story. :) I think there may have been a similar conversation in my house at one time. I am not the “dirt” doctor. However I thinkthat ph can be tested with a little stick meter that can be stuck in the ground. My father in law loaned us one when we were having some issues growing in a section of our garden. I think the stick meters run about $25. I’ll inquire about it to see if I can find a picture on the net that I can show you.

  2. 2 Carol January 23, 2007 at 10:13 am

    Happy to hear you are reading the book and will be joining in again this month. I’m still reading, too. (By the way, I actually did put some of my soil in a container and let it settle out. I know that is one picture the garden blogging world can’t wait to see).

  3. 3 Chigiy January 23, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    I am very curious about the book. I will look forward to hearing how you like it. Maybe getting a summary since my books to read pile is now casting a huge shadow across my bed. As for the soil in my garden-never tested it. It’s already famous for being acidic and clay. Love your blog. I’m a new blogger

  4. 4 Sally January 23, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    I’ve been gardening for …hmmmmmmph… years and I’ve NEVER checked my ph. Maybe that’s why my tomatoes are stuggling so much. Who knows. You go girl!

  5. 5 inadvertentgardener January 23, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    Dori, ah…a stick meter…that’s probably just what we need! I bet if I just hied myself down to the friendly neighborhood garden center, I’d be able to find something like that.

    Carol, I can’t wait to see your photo!

    Chigiy, welcome to the blogging world! Glad to see you out and about. So far, I really like the book…my only issue is finding the time to read it! But it will get done…

    Sally, no cheering allowed yet…I haven’t done any soil testing at all! But maybe one of these days…and then I’ll report on that.

  6. 6 Annie in Austin January 25, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Supposedly the old-time gardeners could taste the soil and then pronounce it acid or base. Think I’d prefer the meter – how about you?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  7. 7 inadvertentgardener January 26, 2007 at 6:52 am

    Annie, I agree — I’d like to go with meter over taste. Definitely!

  8. 8 Cheryl January 28, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    I don’t do expensive, scientific stuff to my soil but I did use my old coffee grounds around the blueberry bushes and hydrangea bush. The grounds made my soil highly acidic (I drink very strong coffee!) and the hydrangea bush now has blue blooms instead of pink and the blueberry crop is outstanding!

  9. 9 inadvertentgardener January 28, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Cheryl, I had mixed feedback from folks on the coffee grounds issue last summer. Some people said yes, some people said no. Glad it’s working for you!

  10. 10 Katie January 30, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    I may need to get that book. Our soil is clay, that much I know – can’t walk on it without sinking when it’s wet and have to hoe with a jackhammer when it’s dry. I’ll try the jar trick.
    Our compost pile has helped…but we need more…

  11. 11 inadvertentgardener January 30, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    Katie, at least you have a compost pile. I have not gotten that brave yet…


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