A professional gardener will always recommend testing your soil before plant anything. There are many ways to test your soil for pH level, and a professional lab is one of the ways, but we will look at DIY kits, which you can buy on the market and test your soil whenever you need.
A plant’s ability to survive-and thrive-in your garden depends on the quality and condition of the soil. It needs to have good water drainage, yet hold just the right amount of water and nutrients. It also needs ample pore spaces to hold air.
Good soil is your best guarantee for a healthy garden. Here’s how you grade your own soil:
First, find out what your soil is made of. Take a sample from the top 6 inches of your garden’s soil. Put it in a jar; fill the jar with water; and cap it, shake it, and let the mixture settle. It will settle into three distinct layers. Sand, the heaviest, will settle to the bottom; clay, the lightest, will sit on top; silt will be in the middle. If you have roughly equal amounts of each of these layers, your soil is in good shape. If there is more sand or clay, you will need to improve the soil.
The drainage in soil is determined by the soil’s texture-the size of the soil particles. Clay soil is composed of tiny granules that stick together. You can roll clay soil into a firm ball that feels smooth and sticky. Sandy soil has large sand particles you can see; it feels coarse and gritty. You can’t form a ball with sandy soil. It also doesn’t hold water or nutrients very well. Loam, the ideal garden soil, is a good mixture of sandy soil, medium-size silt particles and clay.
You can determine how well your soil drains with this simple test. Dig a hole about 4 inches deep. Fill the hole with water to saturate the soil around it. Wait for the water to drain. Take a tin can with both ends removed and push it down into the hole (see photo at right). Note the time you insert the can. Fill the can with water and see how long it takes to drain. If the water is gone in less than an hour or if it takes longer than five hours, your soil needs some organic material added to it.
How do you fix a soil problem? Adding organic matter, or humums, is usually the best solution. It makes the soil soft, crumbly and workable. Soil that is high in organic matter drains well, and warms up and dries out faster in the spring.
Peat moss is one source of organic matter that’s readily available. Apply about 1 to 2 inches of peat moss to the soil in the spring or fall and work it into the top 6 inches of your soil.
Best Soil pH testers
Before testing your soil, you need to choose the right tester. In the market, there are three types of soil ph testers.
- Electronic soil tester electronic soil tester
- Chemical colored dyes soil tester
- test strips soil tester
In all cases, you will need to mix the soil with water or with the liquid provided by the soil tester packaging.
Before we start to talk about the soil testers, let’s learn what pH is.
pH measures acidity, and it’s showing acidity level from 0 to 14. If your soil acidity level is below 7 then it’s acidic but if it’s above seven then it’s alkaline.
But there is a problem in which case you will need to remember school times – the logarithmic scale is used to measure pH. It means that a pH of 5 is x10 more acidic that a pH of six.
It means – if your pH jumps from six to seven, then it means your soil acidity level changes ten times. And if it jumps to eight, it means it changed by 100. Huge, right?
Do I need to know the pH level of my soil correctly?
If you are a casual gardener – then you are good with information if it is very acidic, slightly alkaline, very alkaline or slightly acidic. You don’t need to know more precisely because most of the plants are growing perfectly in a wide pH range. The best range of pH is 6 to 7.5
When I tested my soil, I had pH of 7.2. It means that some acid loving plants will grow quite well but the plants who don’t like acidic soil, they will need to adapt, and they will adapt, but it will take more time.
Remember, that pH change of 1, is acidity change of 10!
So, if you are ready to know your soil pH level, then pH testers I have listed will be perfect for you.
Soil pH for Flowers
|Flower||Preferred pH Range|
|Ageratum||6.0 – 7.5|
|Alyssum||6.0 – 7.5|
|Aster||5.5 – 7.5|
|Carnation||6.0 – 7.5|
|Chrysanthemum||6.0 – 7.0|
|Columbine||6.0 – 7.0|
|Coreopsis||5.0 – 6.0|
|Cosmos||5.0 – 8.0|
|Crocus||6.0 – 8.0|
|Daffodil||6.0 – 6.5|
|Dahlia||6.0 – 7.5|
|Daylily||6.0 – 8.0|
|Delphinium||6.0 – 7.5|
|Dianthus||6.0 – 7.5|
|Forget-Me-Not||6.0 – 7.0|
|Gladiola||6.0 – 7.0|
|Hyacinth||6.5 – 7.5|
|Iris||5.0 – 6.5|
|Marigold||5.5 – 7.0|
|Nasturtium||5.5 – 7.5|
|Petunia||6.0 – 7.5|
|Roses||6.0 – 7.0|
|Tulip||6.0 – 7.0|
|Zinnia||5.5 – 7.5|
Soil pH for Herbs
|Herbs||Preferred pH Range|
|Basil||5.5 – 6.5|
|Chives||6.0 – 7.0|
|Fennel||5.0 – 6.0|
|Garlic||5.5 – 7.5|
|Ginger||6.0 – 8.0|
|Marjomar||6.0 – 8.0|
|Mint||7.0 – 8.0|
|Parsley||5.0 – 7.0|
|Peppermint||6.0 – 7.5|
|Rosemary||5.0 – 6.0|
|Sage||5.5 – 6.5|
|Spearmint||5.5 – 7.5|
|Thyme||5.5 – 7.0|
Soil pH for Vegetables
|Vegetable||Preferred pH Range|
|Beans||6.0 – 7.5|
|Broccoli||6.0 – 7.0|
|Brussels Sprouts||6.0 – 7.5|
|Cabbage||6.0 – 7.5|
|Carrot||5.5 – 7.0|
|Corn||5.5 – 7.0|
|Cucumber||5.5 – 7.5|
|Lettuce||6.0 – 7.0|
|Mushroom||6.5 – 7.5|
|Onion||6.0 – 7.0|
|Peas||6.0 – 7.5|
|Potato||4.5 – 6.0|
|Pumpkin||5.5 – 7.5|
|Radish||6.0 – 7.0|
|Rhubarb||5.5 – 7.0|
|Spinach||6.0 – 7.5|
|Tomato||5.5 – 7.5|
|Turnip||5.5 – 7.0|
|Watermelon||5.5 – 6.5|
The Best soil testers
Cheap and very good soil tester. Sometimes shows wrong values, but that’s because the soil is not consistent. To people who keep saying that this tester does not work – try to put in the lemon. It works 🙂
The best thing about this soil tester is that it works as good as more expensive ones, it’s simple, and you can test it everywhere and many times. And you don’t even need batteries!
With this pH tester you can test:
- oil moisture
- pH level
- light level
This soil tester has 2×1 inch display which has a light so you can test in the dark places also. The tester is rugged and feels like high-quality. When you insert this soil tester in the ground it immediately shows temperature, sun intensity and how wet is the soil. But if you press a rear button it shows you pH level.
This tester is powered by 9V battery which is included in your purchase. All you need to do is to remove protective battery cover
I think that I don’t need to tell you that sun intensity and how wet the soil is – testing is useless. It shows only in 5 big levels and your soil always will be dry. But pH level it shows very correctly. And don’t push it too hard in to the soil, because it’s not that durable.
I bought this soil tester because the previeos landowner was using a lot of fertilizers and chemicals and I wanted to test how bad is it. I do not trust electrical soil testers because chemical reaction can’t be false. This tester comes with ten capsules, so it means you will be able to make 10 tests, but you can order more.
I prefer to buy a couple of these testers that one electrical.
I had older version of this tester, and it lasted ten years. 10 years and hundreds of testings. Incredible. So, without any second thoughts, I bought this one. It’s as perfect as the older one and works like a charm. It measures pH values from 3.5 to 8 and soil moisture from 0% to 100%
I would buy this tester if you want to have a lifetime tester and who is always ready to test and is durable. It is better to have one of this, thank buying a new cheap tester each year. And this one does not need anything except pushing in the ground.
Remember – clean the receptor before using it, every time!
I hope that you will be able to choose the right soil tester and are more informed about pH level. If you will test many times and want a device which is always working and is always ready to test, then choose 4. Kelway Soil pH and Moisture Meter but if you want to test one time or you are on a budget, then choose 3. Luster Leaf 1612 Rapitest pH Soil Tester.