If you are new to gardening one of the first things to do before you start planting is to establish what sort of soil you have. The simplest way to do this is to use a soil testing kit. Soil testing kits will measure the pH of your soil to find out if it acid or alkaline or neutral.
Home testing kits use a chemical solution that changes colour when it is mixed with a sample of soil in small test tube. You then match the colour against a chart, which will indicate the pH level. A yellow or orange colour indicates acid soil; green indicates neutral; and blue/dark green indicates alkaline soil.
Once you know what sort of soil you can choose the right plants to grow in your garden.
If your soil is acidic it means that ericaceous plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias will thrive in your soil.
If your soil is more alkaline then the ericaceous plants will struggle to grow in your garden unless you grow them in pots of ericaceous compost.
Another way to gauge the type of soil you have is to look at the plants that thrive in neighbours’ gardens. Marker plants such as pink hydrangeas indicate an alkaline soil whereas rhododendrons and azaleas suggest an acid soil.
How to Test Your Soil
However, to be more accurate carry out a simple soil test. Pick up a simple soil test kit from the garden centre. Follow the instructions or use our How to Test your Soil guide.