Best Reviewed Soil Testing Kits in 2021

Sunday, April 18, 2021
You are the boss of your vegetable garden. You're in charge of weeding and watering.

You decide what to plant in the soil and how to cultivate it.

Your soil might have other ideas, however. A soil that has a poor pH level or is deficient in the right nutrient content (NPK) is not the ideal growing environment and your treasured plants and vegetables will not grow to their optimum size or taste.

To solve this problem, using a soil testing kit will help analyze the nutrient content of your soil, showing you any deficiencies.

This gives you the necessary knowledge allow you to make decisions around adjustments to the soil by using additional fertilizer or other nutrient formulas.

This guide will help you choose the best soil tester for your needs

As you will appreciate, you simply shouldn't go down to the local garden store and grab any bag of fertilizer and dump it onto your soil, you probably won't have the results you desire.

Knowing however that your soil is low in nitrogen or phosphorus as the result of using a quality soil tester means you can add the correct mineral so your carrots will grow straight, long, and nicely orange, putting you back in charge of your garden!

best -soil -test- kit -for- npk - ph levels

Listen, Tool Guy, I'm just here for your recommendation on the best soil testing kit, save me the marketing speech ok and show me the money.

Understood, dear reader:

Here is it, a very popular test kit on Amazon:

What data do Soil Testing Kits provide?

You can test for the level of light exposure that your plants receive using a light probe, or you can use a probe that tests the moisture content of your soil and those two points of investigation can be handy but we're gonna focus on two really important parts of plant growth:

Your soil's alkalinity, that being measured in terms of the pH level.

What the nutrient composition of your soil is - generally speaking, the test is for the terrific trio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium -which are collectively known in the home gardening and farming industries simply as NPK.

Testing kits are also great for grass lawns, not just vegetable gardens!

The five steps to use a soil testing kit

Pre-step: Read the instructions that come with your soil testing kit.

While most kits and their use are stock standard affairs (a chemical test is a chemical test right) however measurements and volumes can vary, so it never hurts to read the manual!

Step 1: Get Your Soil Sample

It should seem obvious but you need to gather your soil samples from the preferred sections of your garden patch.

Keen testers have been known to divide their garden into equal segments and pick a sample from each.

One of the crazy things about nitrogen is that it can ‘clump’ in pockets so you can have some nitrogen-rich areas and poor areas in another spot, go figure!

Take a clean gardening trowel, and collect the sample(s). Place it into a clean containment vessel.

Try to remove any mulch or debris from the top of a small area of your soil, and then dig down about 2-6 inches. give or take, and then dig out your sample

In order to do all four tests (pH and the N.P.K.), you’ll need about one coffee cup of soil for the NPK testing and a less than one teaspoon amount for the pH test.

Step 2: Preparation of ‘Soil & Water’ solution

Remove any worms you find and replace them into the garden out of direct sunlight...

To get the right reading your soil-water mixture solution should be a ratio of one part soil to five parts water. Your testing kit maker will tell you that it's best that you use distilled water to prepare the mixture but you can get away with any decently maintained urban water system.

Now, shake your solution vigorously and place your bottles somewhere where they will not be disturbed. You now have to allow the mixture to settle undisturbed for about 24 hours.

Yeah, we get it, that’s annoying!

You still can carry on with the testing.

Step 3: Checking the pH levels of the dirt

To check the pH of the soil, you need to fill the (usually) green-capped tube with soil, and then pour the powder from the green capsules.

Now, (distilled) water and shake vigorously.

When you allow the mixture to settle, it will slowly change color. When you think the color change has settled you now may compare with the provided pH level chart (provided with the testing kit) to determine the alkalinity of your earth.

Now you have the knowledge of what pH level is, you can now investigate what options exist to correct the alkalinity of your soil (if that’s what the result was!)

Step 4: Check Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorous Levels

Most of the ‘home use’ soil testing kits come with a super handy color chart that allows you to test and determine the level of the NPK elements by matching colors. So, here is how to how to go about it:

Using a dropper, draw water from your soil-water mixture and fill your tube.

Add the testing powder to the capsule, and shake well.

Allow the mixture to stand for about ten minutes and note the color development.

Then, compare the color with the chart included. The chart is very easy to follow because it categorizes the levels of potassium, nitrogen, or phosphorous into three; high, medium, and low.

If the NPK are each tested separately, then you’ll need to repeat this testing process for each element.

Step 5: write down the results and use them for soil management decisions

Now that you have your testing data, you can make judgments on how to adjust your soil.

Chances are though, now you’ve discovered your soil is deficient in NPK, you’re just gonna head down to Amazon and buy a big bag of stock standard fertilizer and dump it on your garden. 

Just don’t add too much alright? 

An overabundance of NPK can cause issues such as root damage.

Why is NPK so important to plant growth?

Nitrogen is heavily used by plants as the primary nutrient to spur leaf and stem growth.

Phosphorous has been scientifically demonstrated to encourage fruit and flower growth, and is essential to 'green thumbs' growing tomatoes!

Potassium is the foundational element for developing routes. Without enough potassium, root systems can become stunted which obviously prevents the plant’s future growth. However, farmers and the agriculture industry know too well that too much potassium can cause misshapen roots.

Have you ever seen a wonky carrot in your garden? A lack of potassium could well be the cause of the deformities (the truth is lots of things can cause carrots and parsnips to not grow straight!)

How To Test Soil pH with a digital pH tester

Back in the day, before scientific methods were available to test the soil, farms and other toilers of the soil, would literally taste the earth to try and determine the soil's composition - you had to get a taste for it... which meant eating dirt often.

Go figure.

In the modern digital error, digital meter readers with probes can be used to measure the pH level of soil, It's amazing how crucial correct pH levels affect our lives - even beer needs to be brewed at the correct pH level!

Calibrating ph testers can be a tricky thing, so we're gonna assume you're all over that ;)

When your soil's pH is too high or too low for a plant, either the plant can't access nutrients already in the soil or the nutrients effectively become toxic to the plant.

Kind of like Goldilocks, the pH needs to be just right.

A digital soil pH meter takes the guesswork tells you which soil amendments are needed.

If your soil is too low in pH, a really good way to raise the pH is to add lime. Lime is actually, calcium carbonate, (CaCO3).

Basically, the method is to take your sample, add water, and then use the calibrated probe to test for the pH. 

Gotta make sure those red cabbages grow well right?

Here's a handy video that shows how to test:

What is micronutrient testing?

We appreciate that the correct NPK ratio for your soil is crucially important but there are many other elements / minerals that are important for plant growth. These are commonly referred to as 'micronutrients'

Let's be clear, most home soil testing kits don’t test for nutrients other than the NPK. However, your fruit and vegetable plants also require other micronutrients to maintain health. These include calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and many more.

Specialised kits can test for these micronutrients. We venture however that if you are a 'home hobbyist' looking to improve the performance of your garden, you should focus on remedying any deficient NPK levels.

Can I use pH test strips with soil?

pH Test strips are great fun. They remind me of litmus testing we did all those years ago in high school. 

Just like you can test your Kombucha's pH level with strips, you can test your soil's pH with them.

Standard or “Universal” pH test strips do not necessarily provide the most accurate results when used to test the earth. Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Strips are specially designed and calibrated to ensure accurate soil pH readings.

They will never be as accurate as a digital meter but if you're an "I just want to be in the ballpark" kind of green thumb gardener, then there's nothing wrong with using a strip.

Here's a guide to using them, it's a pretty straightforward process:

how to use pH strips to test soil hello
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