The best soil test kit
Knowing, understanding, and controlling your soil's pH are all crucial to having a successful garden. The tool to help you with all three is a soil test kit. The best soil test kit provides you with a wider range of data than just the soil's pH, so you have an even better chance for success.
Our top pick, Atree 3-in-1 Soil Meter, for instance, can test for pH, moisture, and the intensity of sunlight in a given location. If you'd like more information on this kit or you'd like to learn about the most important factors to consider when shopping for a soil test kit, keep reading.
Considerations when choosing soil test kits
Types of soil test kits
Probe: With a probe test, you insert a metal probe into the soil to obtain instant results. These tests can reveal pH level, moisture level, and the intensity of the sunlight. They're the easiest to perform but are typically the least precise of the three.
Slurry: Slurry soil test kits are a little more involved, as they require you to take a soil sample, mix it with distilled water, and add a reagent or dip a test strip into the slurry to obtain results. These kits typically test for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash. They require more work than probe soil test kits, but they're also a little more precise.
Mail-in: The most precise type of soil test kit requires you to collect a sample and mail it to a lab for testing. These types of test kits produce the largest, most detailed results, but it can take a week or more to get the results.
Type of data
Different soil test kits collect different types of data. You can test for everything from the temperature of the soil to the amount and type of nutrients that are in the soil. Be sure the kit you're considering can provide the type of data that you need.
Some probe models are WiFi-enabled, so you have the advantage of using an app to monitor your soil. The best models can even send alerts to let you know when your plants need additional care.
Number of tests
Probe tests are limitless -- you can check the soil as many times as you desire -- and many even allow for constant monitoring. On the opposite end of the spectrum, mail-in kits are most likely limited to one test. In the middle are slurry test kits; these typically allow you to perform several tests, but some may only have the materials to perform a few tests.
The good news about soil test kits is that the price is rather consistent. No matter which type you want, the majority of kits are available for between $10 and $20. This makes it possible to search for the kit you prefer, as cost shouldn't be a factor.
Q. What does a pH test measure?
A. A pH test measures how acidic your soil is. In general, a reading of 6.5 is where you want to be. The lower the number, the more acidic your soil.
Q. How do I adjust the pH level of my soil?
A. There are many ways to raise or lower the pH of your soil. Lime, for instance, raises the level, making the soil less acidic, while aluminum sulfate lowers the level, making the soil more acidic. One advantage to purchasing a quality mail-in soil test kit is that you receive specific instructions on how to adjust your soil's pH.
Soil test kits we recommend
Best of the best: Atree's 3-in-1 Soil Meter
Our take: A 3-in-1 soil test kit that can be used for either indoor or outdoor gardens.
What we like: This soil test kit has a convenient switch that allows you to measure either the soil's moisture, its pH, or the intensity of the sunlight to help you better understand your garden. The unit requires no batteries or electricity to operate.
What we dislike: Reading may be difficult in certain situations, as the unit must remain in the soil to register.
Best bang for your buck: Whitetail Institute's Laboratory Soil Test Kit
Our take: A highly accurate mail-in soil test kit.
What we like: This soil test kit not only provides the user with a detailed scientific analysis of the soil, but it also includes specific recommendations that can help you save money on additives. It's easy to use and reasonably priced.
What we dislike: Although unavoidable because of the process, it takes at least one week to get results.
Choice 3: Luster Leaf's Rapitest Soil Test Kit
Our take: An affordable soil testing kit that can produce a broader range of results than other similarly priced items.
What we like: This kit allows you to test soil for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash. It offers quick results and comes with enough capsules for 40 tests (10 each). The kit includes an extensive list of soil pH preferences for a wide variety of plants.
What we dislike: Because of the size of the capsules and the small opening on the tester, some users may have a little trouble performing the test.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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