If you have acidic soil, defined as soil with a pH under 7.0, you might wonder which vegetables and fruit you can grow. Blueberries come to mind, of course, but unless you have very acidic soil, you can grow most vegetables and fruits. Read on to learn the soil pH requirements of common fruits and vegetables.
Most vegetables grow best in a neutral or near-neutral soil pH, although they’ll tolerate slightly acidic soil. A few vegetables, though, actually prefer acidic soil. If you’ve got soil with a low pH, you’ll definitely want to plant these crops, which include:
Radishes. These fast-growing root crops thrive in soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. Plant them in early spring or fall and give them full sun, consistent water, and well-draining soil. Harvest them when they’re young, because larger radishes become woody and hot.
Sweet Potatoes. These flavorful tubers are loaded with vitamin A. They grow best in soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. Sweet potatoes need a long growing season and are difficult to grow in the north. If you live in a mild climate, though, you should have success.
Parsley. Parsley is a fast-growing annual herb that tolerates soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5. You can buy nursery transplants, but it grows quickly from seed. Plant it after the last frost in full sun and cover it with a light dusting of soil. Keep the soil consistently moist. In frost-free areas, you can grow parsley almost year-round.
Peppers. Peppers, including bell peppers and chili peppers, prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Related to tomatoes, they have similar growing requirements, including full sun, consistent moisture, and rich, well-draining soil. Plant them after the last frost.
Potatoes. Potatoes adapt to more alkaline soils – after all, they’re one of the main crops grown in southern Idaho, which is known for its alkaline soil – but they prefer a soil pH between 4.8 and 5.5. Plant them in early spring from certified disease-free seed potatoes.
Rhubarb. Rhubarb is generally used as a fruit in jams and pies, but it is technically a vegetable. This perennial vegetable grows best in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Plant it in full sun at the edge of the garden where it can grow for many years.
The list of acid-loving vegetables might be short, but many vegetables tolerate an acidic soil. They won’t thrive in very acidic soil, but most gardeners can successfully grow them.
Beans. Beans are a warm-season crop so wait to plant them until after the last frost. They grow best in full sun in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Bush beans need no trellising and produce a heavy crop in a few weeks, making them ideal for canning. Pole beans need a trellis. They produce pods over a longer period of time. Over the course of the entire season, they produce three times more yields than bush beans, according to Cornell University. If you have room, plant both. Plant bush beans for canning and pole beans for fresh eating.
Broccoli. Like most brassicas, broccoli grows best in cool, but sunny, weather. It prefers a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Plant broccoli in mid-spring or late summer for a fall harvest. If you have trouble with flea beetles or other pests, cover the soil with floating row covers after planting.
Cabbage. Another member of the brassica family, cabbage also tolerates a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Cabbage needs a longer growing season than broccoli, but it also prefers slightly cool temperatures.
Carrots. Fast-growing carrots need light, well-draining soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Amend heavy soils with compost or grow them in raised beds. You might also want to select short varieties if you have heavy or rocky soil.
Cucumbers. Cucumbers grow best in full sun and light, rich soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Plant them in hills of three plants with the hills spaced 2 feet apart or in rows spaced 18 inches apart. If space is limited, trellis cucumbers.
Onions. Onions tolerate soil pH as low as 5.5, making them a suitable crop for moderately acidic soil. Plant them in spring from sets for fastest growth. They need consistent water and full sun.
Squash. Another member of the cucurbit family, squash also prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Summer squash mature in about 50 to 60 days. Winter squash need a long, warm growing season of 80 to 100 days.
Sweet corn. Sweet corn also tolerates a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0. More important than soil pH is soil fertility, since sweet corn is notoriously greedy. Add lots of manure before planting and provide additional fertilizer during the season. Sweet corn also needs full sun and moist soil.
Tomatoes. Technically a fruit, tomatoes are subtropical plants that demand warm, sunny conditions. They need fertile, well-draining soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Tomatoes are prone to disease problems, especially in mild, humid climates. Select disease-resistant varieties and space them so air circulates freely.
Turnips. Turnips aren’t grown as often as they should be. These humble vegetables are valued for their roots, as well as their greens, which can be used like chard or kale. Plant them in rich, light soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. You can lightly harvest the greens throughout the growing season and pull up the roots when they reach the size of a golf ball.
The most well-known acid-loving fruit is blueberries, which grow best in soil with a pH between 4 and 5, but there are many other fruits that prefer acidic soil. Try the following:
Blueberries. Blueberry plants make beautiful landscape shrubs, in addition to their culinary value. Plant them in an area that gets full sun, in moist, well-draining soil. Fertilize them with an acidic fertilizer.
Cranberries. These tart relatives of blueberries need moist conditions to thrive. They prefer a soil pH between 4.2 and 5.
Currants. Currants produce small, tart fruits that are ideal for pies, preserves and wines. They need cool temperatures, full sun, and a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5. They also need consistent moisture.
Elderberries. Elderberries were once so common that early settlers considered them ditch weeds. The plants thrive in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Select American varieties rather than European varieties for best fruit production, and plant them in full sun.
Gooseberries. When you think of gooseberries, you probably think of very tart, green fruit and thorny plants. Newer varieties are sweeter and come in colors ranging from white to pink. Some varieties are thornless. Gooseberries need cool temperatures and a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
Fruits That Tolerate Acidic Soil
Many fruits tolerate a wide range of soil pH, including moderately acidic soils. Try the following:
Apples. Apples don’t grow well in hot, humid climates, but they’re an ideal crop for areas with cold winters and mild summers. They tolerate a soil pH between 5.5 to 6.5.
Grapes. Grapes need five years or more to start producing fruit, but a healthy vine can outlive you. Plant grapes in full sun, in light, well-draining soil with a pH between 5.5 to 6.5. Trellis them and prune them every year to keep them healthy.
Raspberries. Raspberries are highly perishable and expensive to buy at the grocery store, but they’re easy to grow at home. They need consistent moisture, reasonably cool temperatures, full sun, and a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0.
Strawberries. Commercial, conventionally-grown strawberries are among the most pesticide polluted crops, according to the Environmental Working Group – a good reason to grow them at home. They also tolerate a wide range of soil pH – 5.5 to 6.5. Plan to replace your strawberry plants every three years.