Soil: a fusion of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids and organisms that bring about life on Earth.
Soil can be defined by its type and pH level; this is a measurement of how acid or alkaline the soil in your garden is. The type and pH level of soil will dictate its nutritional content when it comes to minerals and trace elements such as iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium, which are present in some soils more than others and are vital for healthy plant growth and root development.
Best Pick – Soil PH Tester
- 4-IN-1: You can measure the soil PH value (3.5 to 9.0,12 levels), Sunlight Intensity (9 levels), Moisture (5 levels) and Temperature(-9°C to 50°C;16°F- 122°F) of the soil.
- Large Backlit LCD Display：Easily displays various readings with the large LCD screen, and green backlight allows you read the index in dark condition.Powered by a 9V battery, not included in package. An auto power off function helps to save battery life.Also, there's low battery indication on the screen.
- Easy to use：Plug a 9V battery(not include), remove the protective cover on the probe, and turn it on, insert the probe straight up and down softly, the LCD screen will display the four index of the detected area.
- Save time and energy with high efficiency, great tool for your garden and plants planting.Know when to water, adjust pH, or change lighting for your garden, flowers, plants both indoor and outdoor.You will have a green thumb after you own it!
- Warranty:Just feel free to contact us if you have any problems with MAOZUA's products, we will try our best to help you within 24 hours. All MAOZUA's products are guaranteed to refund or replace with a completely new one if you are not satisfied with what you buy within a year!
Consequently, it’s important to know what soil pH you’re dealing with, as different plants with different nutritional needs will only thrive in certain soils. The last thing you want to do is spend a fortune on plants for your outdoor area only to watch them struggle as a consequence of being planted in the wrong type of soil! Plant an acid-loving plant in alkaline soil, or vice versa, and you’re asking for trouble! The most reliable and accurate way of finding out the pH level of your soil is to invest in a soil pH tester kit.
Only got 5 minutes
The pH level of your soil is a numerical value between 0 and 14, with less than 7.0 being acidic; 7.0 itself being neutral (neither acidic or alkaline) and above 7.0 the soil is alkaline.
In the UK, soil pH tends to be between 4.0 and 8.5 with most plants being partial to a pH of between 6.5 and 7 – this is the pH level of soil which best facilitates the absorption of the nutrients and moisture by the roots.
Types of soil ph testers
The three main types of pH soil tester kits are: electric meters, colored dyes, and pH test strips.
Soil pH testers, which obtain readings using electronic meters, are considered to be the most accurate type of pH soil testers.
A probe is inserted into the soil and the digital/LED display informs you, normally within 60 seconds, of the pH level. There are battery-powered models available, however the best electronic meter soil Ph testers won’t require batteries.
Regardless of the power supply, electronic meters do require a small degree of maintenance. Electric meter soil pH testers will require cleaning after use to avoid cross-contamination; initial calibration and ongoing recalibration; and storing the probe in a sterile solution to regulate the electrode.
How to use an electronic soil pH tester
- Collect around 2” of topsoil samples from various locations in your garden
- Mix the samples together thoroughly
- Take around 2 cupfulls of the soil and transfer into a clean container
- Add a small amount of distilled water – just enough so the soil sample is damp enough that it can be compressed into the container
- Slowly insert the probe into the soil, rotating in the process, but taking care not to come into contact with the base of the container
- Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines to determine what length of time the probe needs to remain in the soil – this is usually around a minute
Desirable features of an electric soil PH tester
- Long probe
- Easy-to-read acid/alkaline indicator
- Low resolution (the lower the resolution, the more accurate the test)
- Large, backlit LED display
- Fast response time
- No battery needed
- Suitable for indoor & outdoor use
- Auto power-off
- Integrated moisture testing function
- Integrated thermometre
- Capable of testing nutrient levels
This method of testing the pH level of soil involves the mixing of the coloured dyes with a soil solution (soil mixed with water); the colour of the solution will change and, using the colour chart supplied with the kit, you can then cross-reference your sample to obtain an idea of whether your soil sample is acidic, neutral or alkaline, and to what degree. When it comes to collecting a sample, it’s best to avoid areas that you have recently treated with compost, weed killer or fertiliser, which can affect soil pH. It’s also strongly advised to take samples from various locations around your garden and mix them together; doing this will give you an idea of the overall pH level, rather than just a small area.
PH testing strips
A more sophisticated version of litmus paper, pH test strips are used to establish the pH level of a solution. Water is added to the soil sample, mixed well, rested, filtered and then a reading is taken by dipping the test strip into the solution and comparing the colour of the test strip to the colour chart provided.
These kits usually allow you to determine not only if the soil is acidic, neutral or alkaline but to what extent. The quantity of strips supplied does vary so it’s worth comparing a few different kits to check which offers the best value for money.
Best Budget – Soil PH Tester
- 【Soil PH Tester】: 3 in 1 soil ph tester allows you with scientific methods to measure the light, moisture, and pH of the soil. Know when to water, adjust pH, or change lighting for your garden, flowers, plants both indoor and outdoor.
- 【Easy to use】: No battery needed. Slide the switch to a correct position before use. simply insert the probe into the measured land (with a depth of at least 8-10 cm) to obtain accurate and precise data. The Soil Meter's Pointer will does not rotate, if your plants are very dry. So your plants need to water right now!
- 【Moisture 】Press the button on the pen to the MOIST. Values 1-3 indicate that watering is required, 4-7 indicates that the humidity is moderate, 8-10 indicates that it is too wet, and the watering time can be adjusted according to the variety of the plant.
- 【LIGHT】Move the button to LIGHT, the measurement range is 0-2000. The larger the value, the stronger the Light intensity, according to the needs of the plant to adjust the shade .
- 【PH】Press the key to the PH, the corresponding table is 8-3.5, the value of 7 is neutral, the smaller the value is, the more acid the soil， pH can be adjusted according to the plant species.
PH soil tester kits – key features
The accuracy of a soil pH tester is the most important feature to pay attention to. The best soil pH tester kits will measure pH at a resolution as low as 0.001 pH units, whilst other less-proficient soil tester kits may only offer around +/- 2 pH units.
The lower the resolution, the more accurate the result.
Ease of use
The best soil pH tester kits which use an electric meter waste no time in getting you the information you need – simply insert the probe into the soil sample and in a few seconds, the pH level should be visible on the display.
The coloured dye technique can be a little messy and there is some waiting around involved as the colour develops.
PH testing strips do obtain fairly accurate measurements however you will need to allow about 30 mins to an hour for the soil and water to form a solution.
Regardless of the type of soil pH tester kit you go for, you should be supplied with clear instructions and guidelines to support you in getting accurate, reliable readings in as short a time as possible.
Multi-purpose soil PH tester kits
Multi-purpose soil pH tester kits are capable of measuring not only soil pH, but also moisture, light, temperature, nutrient levels and soil conductivity levels.
When shopping around for the best soil pH tester kit, you’ll need to be clear on what you intend on using your soil tester for: although manufacturers market certain types of soil tester as being multi-purpose, the truth of the matter is, in order to get the most accurate and reliable readings, you’ll want a soil tester that’s been designed with one specific variable in mind, and any additional measuring instruments are a bonus!
Some soil test kits are designed to focus on pH levels; others establish soil conductivity (the ability of a material to conduct electric current through it) or others to determine the levels of moisture and/or nutrients.
Be clear on why you’re investing in a soil tester kit and go for one that’s been designed and manufactured primarily for that purpose.
When to test soil PH
- Prior to designing or planting a new garden layout
- Before sowing a vegetable garden/plot
- Before planting fruit
- If slow growth is observed
- If the leaves appear to be yellowing
Testing the pH level of your soil can, generally speaking, be done as and when you please however if you’re testing the soil post-treatment (i.e. you added lime, acidifying fertiliser or acidic matter), it’s advised to wait a minimum of 12 weeks before taking a pH reading to ensure accurate, reliable results are recorded.
How to test soil PH
Honestly… it’s not difficult – you don’t need a degree in chemistry to check the pH level of your soil; just access to a home testing kit and a bit of common sense and you’ll get the job done.
DIY soil PH tester kits are widely available online and are relatively inexpensive and easy to use, with the best soil pH tester kits giving reliable and accurate results.
Read the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully before attempting to use your soil tester kit. You need to follow the instructions carefully in order to obtain a reliable reading.
Interpreting the results of a soil PH test
|pH level||Result indicated||What this means||Action|
|3.0 – 5.0||Strongly acidic||Acid, sandy soils are often deficient in trace elements Vital nutrients become more soluble in strongly acidic soil and are easily washed away Most phosphates (needed for plant growth and healthy roots) are not released in soil with a pH below 5.1 Below pH 4.7, organic matter will not rot, therefore far fewer nutrients are produced.||There is the option to add lime to the soil to raise the pH|
|5.1 – 6.0||Acidic||Suitable for acid-loving (ericaceous) plants and shrubs Also known as lime-hating plants Ericaceous plant types include: azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and heathers||None for ericaceous plants Add lime if other non-ericaceous plants are being grown in the area|
|6.1 – 7.0||Moderately acidic||A pH of 6.5 is the most-desirable for gardens Suitable for growing a broad range of plants (exc. intolerant ericaceous types) At this moderately acidic/neutral level, the nutritional content of the soil will be at its highest High levels of bacterial and earthworm activity||No action is usually required to be taken on soil between 6.1 and 7.0|
|7.1 – 8.0||Alkaline||The plant’s ability to photosynthesise is restricted Iron and manganese (a mineral bi-product of iron) levels are low, leading to discolouration Likelihood of some common plant diseases is reduced in soil of this level||There is the option to add sulphur or iron sulphate to try and reduce the pH level of the soil|
Classifying soil pH tester results
When it comes to classifying soil, this can be done either by type or by pH level:
There six main soil types are:
The pH level is used to determine how acidic or alkaline the soil is:
|pH reading||Acid or alkaline||Soil type||Suitable plant choices|
|Less than 7||Acid (ericaceous)||Peaty||Rhododendrons|
|Greater than 7||Alkaline||Chalky||Saxifrages|
Alkaline or chalky soils are suited to a range of plants and shrubs including: alpine pinks, delphiniums, baby’s breath, lilies, carnations, ferns, lilacs, mock orange, weigelas and spiraea.
Acidic or peaty soils harbour a range of fruit-bearing, colourful plants including: beans, blueberries, magnolias, Japanese anemone, rhododendrons, summer heather, pieris, camellia, acers, azaleas, berberis and begonias.
Changing the pH level of the soil
You’ve invested in the best soil pH tester kits money can buy; you’ve taken the readings and with baited breath waited for the results to develop. Once ready, you compare it to the colour conversion chart and… it’s not what you were hoping for. So, what can you do about it?
You can attempt to change the pH level of the soil in your garden but honestly, it’s a longshot. It can prove costly and any positive results tend to be short-lived. The most popular method is to add lime to increase soil pH (make it more alkaline) and acidifying materials to decrease soil pH.
If you’re 100% adamant you want to look out of your kitchen window to the sight of borders filled with azaleas and flower beds bursting with rhododendrons, but you have chalky, alkaline soil, you’ll need to explore other options – using composted pots or raised beds are likely to be the only way you’ll be able to grow the acid-loving (ericaceous) plants you’re hoping for.
How important is soil?
There’s so much more to soil than the muddy earth that fills your borders and flower beds.
Soil has four important functions on our planet: a medium for plant growth; to harbour water storage, supply and purification; to modify the Earth’s atmosphere; and as a habitat for organisms. A pretty impressive job description!
Think of soil as the ‘skin’ of the earth; formed by a fusion of minerals, organic materials, organisms, water and air. Although at first glance soil might not seem particularly interesting, look a little harder – scientists have found that the Earth’s soil is one of our largest reservoirs of biodiversity, containing almost one-third of all life on Earth.
Best of the Rest
- Accurate and durable plastic thermometer for use in propagators and all indoor sowing
- Centigrade and fahrenheit calibration
- Designed for easy usage
- This 4 in 1 meter makes testing the soil very easy! You can measure the soil PH value (3.5 to 9.0,12 levels), Sunlight Intensity (9 levels), Moisture (5 levels) and Temperature(-9°C to 50°C;16°F- 122°F) in seconds, so your plants can grow healthy and strong.
- Every gardener needs one of these. Just plug and read. To get more accurate result, please insert the probe deep into soil reaching the bottom of plant root.
- Easily displays various readings with the large LCD screen, and green backlight allows you read the index in dark condition.Powered by a 9V battery( not included). An auto power off function helps to save battery life
- Find out what your garden or lawn needs with a little help from our soil test kit! 1, Let you know when to water. You will never over/under water your plants again with this tester. 2, Help you to control Ph level in soil, acidic or alkaline is suitable for your plants. 3, Help you to determine if plant getting adequate light.
- Ideal and necessary tool for gardeners, outdoor & indoor plants, gardens & grass lawn. This item is a perfect tool to test the soil conditions of fruits, flowers, vegetables, shrubs, etc.
- 3 In 1 Tester - Soil pH/Acidity Level, Moisture Content, and Light Amount to describe the soil accurately and efficiently. You can know plant when to water, and if it has sufficient sunlight, also you can test the ph level in the soil that you can adjustment the ph to a appropriate level by using this 3 in 1 moisture meter.
- Easy to Use - This 3-in-1 moisture meter with light & PH test function, no battery requiredand, you can use it indoor or outdoor, easily put in the soil to automatically measure the soil. Insert probe into soil around 2-4 inches, then toggle switch to tester what you want to measure.
- Indoor/Outdoor Design - Lightweight and Portable Suitable for gardeners, farmers, or for anyone who loves planting fresh Plants/Flowers/Fruits/Vegetables. Can operate it in your lawn, garden, potted plants, and more.
- Accuracy Reading - PH Range: 3.5-8ph (3.5-6.5 Acid, 7-8 Alkaline).Moisture Range: 1-10 (1-3 Dry, 4-7 Nor, 8-10 Wet), Relative Light: 0-2000lux (0-200 Low, 200-500 Low+, 500-1000 Nor, 1000-2000 High)
- Using meter resources of when to water plants, without over/under watering. Checking the correct amount of lighting & measure acidic or alkaline soil conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Generally speaking, the larger the sample, the more accurate the result: larger samples are more representative of the average pH of the soil as a whole, whereas small samples only represent a small proportion. Small samples are likely to result in inaccurate readings, which inevitably vary when the test is repeated. Using a larger sample should result inaccurate readings, providing you’ve invested in a good quality soil pH tester kit and followed the manufacturer’s guidelines.
In moderately acidic conditions you can grow plants, but in very acidic soil (pH level 3.0 – 5.0) you will struggle; most plant nutrients e.g. calcium, potassium and magnesium become more soluble in such acidic conditions and are easily washed away before they can be absorbed by the roots.