There’s a saying that if it turns pink, it’s acidic, and this is something that you may have learned to be helpful over the years. Measuring bases (alkali) and acids with the litmus paper is something many students learn in school. It can be easy to compare the little litmus strips on a color chart and figure out their pH levels.
However, the measurements are too crude, especially when it comes to local gardeners. If you’re thinking of adding a pond of tropical fishes into your garden, the soil specimens with the wrong litmus results are going to kill your pet. This is why people get a digital PH meter for more accuracy. You may be wondering what these devices are and how they work in the first place? Here are things that you need to know.
About the Acidity
Many people know about acid or alkali through chemical burns. Too much of them can “burn” the skin, but it’s not the heat that causes this. Instead, this is caused by chemicals that result in skin rash, swelling, redness, and painful sensations when these chemicals come in contact with the skin.
What even confuses many people is that some of these acidic things like lemons and limes are okay to eat. Citrus fruits are known to contain citric acid, but they don’t have any adverse effects on the body. However, drinking sulfuric acid is considered extremely dangerous.
Alkalis and acids are usually chemicals that form ions when they are diluted into the water. Ions are atoms with too few or too many electrons in them. The acid dissolved into the water will form positively charged hydrogen ions, and more potent acids are forming more ions than the weaker ones. On the other hand, the alkali forms negatively charged hydroxide ions, and the stronger ones can cause burning to your skin.
A pH is a substance that indicates how many hydrogen ions are formed in a specific volume of water. Now, many people may have a different definition of what a pH stands for. Some define it as the “potential of hydrogen,” and others know it as the “power of hydrogen.” More about this definition on this site here.
How the Meter Works
If you choose to go with litmus paper, you don’t have to get a meter. The idea is that the paper will turn a different hue depending on the solution that you’re dipping into. When it turns into a specific color, you can just compare it to the chart and read off the alkalinity or acidity without the need to worry about the number of hydrogen ions present. However, when you’re going to measure the overall concentration of the hydrogen ions, then there’s a device for it.
An acid or a water solution will show that it has a lot of hydrogen ions that are positively charged compared to an alkali. It can have the potential to produce electricity in specific situations. You can compare these with batteries that have greater amounts of voltage.
pH meters will take advantage of this and will measure the ions as a voltmeter will do. This will calculate the electrical potential, or the voltage produced by the solution, compare this with the voltage of the known solution, and use the difference to see the difference in their pH levels.
How Do They Work?
Generally, these meters have two components. One is a digital meter put on a numeric display, and the others are the moving coils with pointers that will move on the scale. There are also the two probes you put into the device that will be inserted into the water or soil you’re testing.
How to Properly Use the pH Meter?
If you’re a gardener, know that there are different types of meters available out there. You can go with kits, dyes, test strips, old-school devices, and digitized meters. Some brands can even measure the soil’s temperature, sunlight intensity, and moisture.
Some gardeners may prefer the electronic digital ones because they display the more accurate numbers, and they are easy to read. However, it’s not really a requirement to get one and what’s important is you know what type of test is going to be ideal for your soil sample, and you know the methods you’re going to do.
How to Use It
- Take a soil Sample – Make sure to get at least one big scoop from your pot or garden
- Make sure that this is pure without any leaves, pebbles, rocks, or debris in them. It’s way better if you could get one portion where the root is and ensure that the results will be accurate.
- Place everything into open containers. Add some water, and this should be the same amount as the soil.
- Stir everything for about 4 to 10 seconds and let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes max.
- After waiting for 15 minutes, you need to stir the soil for another 5 seconds, which is when you get the soil pH meter.
- Place the stick and wait for the numbers to show up on the screen.
Another Way of Testing
Another easier way for you to test the acidity levels without scooping is through digging. Just dig a small hole in the land area, fill this up with water, and wait. About 20 ounces will do and while you pour this into the hole, start mixing until you see a mushy and muddy consistency. Use devices with a stick or needle on them as a way to measure easily. More about measuring the pH levels here: https://www.thespruce.com/do-it-yourself-soil-ph-test-4125833.
After about 5 minutes, stick the meter about 5 centimeters deep and ensure that you have enough samples. The entire process should only take about a minute or two, and you’ll be able to see the results right away. Some manufacturers provide detailed instructions on using their devices on the boxes or their websites, so be sure to check them out.