This questionaire is not fool-proof. So many types of soil situations can exist such as whether you live on a flat plain or on a steep hillslope; whether you have clay soil or sandy soil; whether you live in a new estate or an old cattle property. This questionaire is a guide which can be used by most residents in this tropical region to determine the likelihood of your soil being healthy - or being a potential threat to your local frogs and yourself. But many of the factors influencing soil pH will exist anywhere so please go through the questionaire even if you live in Canada or Columbia, Turkey or Trinidad, New Zealand or New York!
Grab your pen and paper and write down the number of points which apply to your answers to each question in the two tables below. Add up your points at the end to find out whether you need to take any steps to restore your soil to good health. If a factor/situation listed does not apply to your property, then you get zero points for that item.
Cantella or Pennywort - another common occupant of poor soils, this is actually edible
For those living on sandy soil outside flood areas and fast draining soils such as rocky hillslopes, human diseases might not be such a problem but drought tolerant fungi can be affecting your frogs. See the special section for sandy soils in the recommendations page.
Soil health can be affected by many things but is largely a matter of two main processes:
|sandy, fast draining soil that gets flooded during heavy wet seasons||1 point|
|red volcanic clay soil||2 points|
|yellow or grey coloured clay soils||4 points|
|property is on a steep hillslope with exposed areas||2 points|
|property is in a new housing estate that was forested before||1 point|
|property is in a new housing estate which was recently cane field||1 point|
|poor drainage during rainy season and some flooding||3 points|
|vegetables don't grow well or die shortly after planting||4 points|
|fruit trees don't produce any fruit or very few fruit||3 points|
|lawn is made up largely of buffalo couch, nut grass, and/or sedge grass and weeds like sensitive weed (mimosa), singapore daisy||3 points|
|if the ratio of lawn to garden beds is very high (say, 75%+ is lawn to less than 25% garden beds)||3 points|
|recent soil disturbance has been done such as excavating a pool, ripping out large vegetation, total relandscaping||2 points|
|herbicides are used once a month or in only a small spot||1 point|
|herbicides are used more than once a month or over a wide area||2 points|
|herbicides are used weekly and over a wide area||3 points|
|parts of the property have exposed soil areas with no plant growth at all||1 point|
|give yourself a point for each tree on your property and each tree on an adjoining property that is on your fenceline that has an aggressive root system - this includes Bleeding Heart (Omalanthus), figs (Ficus), citrus, Pink Euodia (Meliocope), Umbrella tree (Schefflera), Paperbark (Melaleuca)||___ points|
|a dog or cat is kept on the property or aviaries/chickens are present - 1 point for each cat or dog; 1 point for each aviary||___ points|
|a greywater or Biocycle system drains onto the property||1 point|
|soil is like cement during dry weather and like a mud wrestling pit during rainy season||4 points|
|mango trees are present - 2 points for each mango tree on the property||___ points|
|you have not used any fertilizers on the yard itself in more than a year (this doesn't include pot plants)||3 points|
|the fertilizer you normally use is dynamic lifter||1 point|
|anyone in your household or a visiting tradesperson has actually gotten an infected cut while working or playing in the yard and especially while gardening||3 points|
|if you have a thick, meticulous lawn which is fertilized with high nitrogen fertilizer at least four times per year||2 points|
|if you use mulch which not properly decomposed (smells musty, awful) in the garden||3 points|
Now for factors which are actually helpful to your soil -
If these items apply to your property, you can actually subtract the number of points
indicated from your total so far:
|subtract one point for each tree on your property in the legume family (this includes Cassias, poincianas, wattles (Acacia), saraca, brownea, raintrees and species with pea-flowers||-___ points|
|subtract half a point for each indvidual legume food plant you are growing in the garden (this includes beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts)||___ points|
|subtract one point if the only fertilizers you use are organic such as manures, seosol, Charlie Carp||-1 point|
|subtract one point for each time in the past year you have used organic fertilizers over a large part of the property||-___ points|
|subtract one point for each occasion in the last year you have treated more than half your property area with dolomite, gypsum or lime||-___ points|
|subtract one point if you are on a hillslope property that has been reinforced and leveled by terraces to stop soil loss||-1 point|
|subtract two points if your usual method of weed control is to hand pull by the roots||-2 points|
|subtract 2 points if you use tea tree or peanut shell mulches or well composted recycled mulches on your garden beds||-2 points|
Add up your total score and check below
If you have less than 13 points, your soil should be in good condtion. If your veggie and herb garden is doing well, your other garden plants look well and you don't have a lot of weeds, then no special attention is needed. Keep up nutrient levels with an organic fertilizer, especially at the end of the rainy season and about a month before the rainy season starts. Well done!
If you have between 14 and 28 points, your soil could be better and you could enjoy your yard more if the plants were looking better, there were less weeds and you could get some nutritious veggies and fruit. Go to the recommendations page and consider some of these actions to make your yard better. A little help will go a long way!
If you have 29 points or more, your soil is screaming out for help and it would be very wise for your family, your backyard wildlife and your garden plants if you can follow as many of the recommendations as you can for correcting your soil's pH/condition. It's not that difficult and, in most situations, not expensive - and it can actually save you a lot of money in the long run!
You can also get some pH testing done on several spots on your property if you want to have some numerical feedback that your soil is too acid. There are testing services for this (in your yellow pages) or your garden nursery can sell you a simple kit to do this yourself at home. If you use the home kit, pick out several spots on the property to check as soil ph under a tree might not be the same as the middle of the lawn which might not be the same as the top or the bottom of a slope. Use a variety of places in the yard to test.
As you went through the list of bad factors and good factors, some situations would have jumped out at you as common causes of soil becoming acid/sour and disease-promoting. For example: