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I had an experienced indoor gardener over my house last night to look at my setup and to investigate the cause of the problems I've been having, especially to figure out why so many of my basil leaves are gnarled and curled up, some even looking like they've been eaten. Even though I do have a fungus gnat problem, he says gnats wouldn't cause the basil to look like that.
In addition to the gnat problem he did see a minor problem with white flies and soil mites which he recommends treating with Neem oil. But he thinks that the reason the basil looks so deformed (the gnarled leaves are also starting on my arugula seedlings) may be from water that is too alkaline. That causes the plant to be unable to take up the nutrients that I am providing in the water and it gets weakened, susceptible to pests and and the leaves deformed.
He said the first order of business should be to test the pH in the water. I know there are various meters and kits, so I phoned my local gardening supply store and they say the one they recommend is from Blue Lab Corporation and costs $110! He says the lesser ones, for $45, are not good quality and typically only last 3 months.
How have other folks had the pH of their water tested? I was not planning to spend $110. Thanks for any advice.