This guide provides you with everything you should know about the different soil pH test methods and how to adjust and check soil pH. Start by learning what is soil pH and then make the right steps toward fixing it. Your garden will thank you for the effort you put in by providing a healthy and strong harvest.
To further understand what is soil pH and the difference between acid or alkaline soil click here.
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Quick guide: Soil pH Test Methods
The pH value of your garden soil is what makes a difference with the nutrient-absorption rate of the plants. Too much alkalinity or acidity, and you may greatly hinder the plant’s growth. Without even realizing why your beautiful garden can plateau and slowly start to die off because of the lack of nutrients. However, there is a solution, and this guide is going to tell you just that.
Before making any rash decisions regarding your garden soil pH, get yourself a soil pH testing kit, test strips, or pH meter to test the top horizon of your soil. Any of these three soil pH test methods can be effective. Most plants need a garden soil pH of 6.5. We are going to explore these methods further to help you decide the best method to test soil pH in your garden.
Use the results from your testing to determine whether the soil’s pH is more acid or alkaline on the pH scale, then use either an acidifier or fast-acting lime to adjust the soil to your plants’ liking. Research your plants to find out the exact pH preferences of each one. Certain types of soil have distinct physical properties. Desert soil, for example, is made mostly of sand (90-95%) and its pH level is basic. Not ideal for nutrients and therefore not ideal for cultivation of most plants.
When you’re getting a new soil-mix from the store, pay attention to the packaging when you purchase a bag and check to make sure it does not already come with an abnormal pH level.
Continue reading this guide to obtain a better understanding of how it all works. To learn more about soil, and what is soil click here.
What Is Soil pH?
PH value is a measurement of acidity. A substance can be either acidic or alkaline, and that level of pH will directly affect the chemical reactions that occur within the substance. When we talk about soil pH, this is the acidity of the soil itself, which is affected by the soil composition and formation. This is an important factor to take into consideration when starting to grow plants.
There are three steps to using soil pH to plant your herbs, flowers, and vegetables correctly. You will need to find out the ideal pH for the plant, test the pH of your preexisting soil, and then compare the two to determine how big of changes need to happen. These changes are absolutely crucial for creating a successful harvest.
Typically, the rule of thumb is to maintain a garden soil of 6.5, and the same goes for the pH of lawn soil.
Up next, we will talk about soil pH test methods.
3 Efficient Soil pH Test Methods
There are a few different soil pH test methods to measure the soil pH. There is no exact best way to check soil pH since all produce relatively similar results. Of course, the first method we will discuss is the easiest and quickest way to get some guidance on what to do with your garden soil, but a longer, more extensive soil pH test procedure will yield more precise results.
Use one of these three soil pH test methods to measure the soil pH level of your garden.
How to Check Soil pH Without a Kit
Don’t want to spend money and would rather know how to check soil pH without a kit? You can make a DIY soil pH test right at home using vinegar and baking soda. This method does not measure soil pH, but it does give you an idea as to the condition of the soil, in the fact of whether it is acid or alkaline on the pH scale.
Follow these instructions from The Old Farmer’s Almanac:
Take out two small bowls and put 2 tablespoons of a soil sample into each. Make sure there are equal amounts.
In one bowl, add ½ cup of vinegar. If the soil sample has an alkaline pH, it will start fizzing. If nothing happens, go through with testing the second bowl in the next step.
In the second bowl of soil, add a small amount of distilled water, just until the soil is moistened. Then, add ½ cup of baking soda. Now, if it starts to fizz, that means the soil pH is more acidic. If both tests have no results, then the soil has a neutral pH.
This is a very simple test, but as long as you follow the instructions exactly, it can be very enlightening as to how alkaline or acidic the soil is and what needs to change.
How to Test Soil pH With Strips
Litmus strips are a cheap and effective way to test the pH of the soil. You can find a pack of pH testing strips on Amazon.com and have extra for testing later on. Follow these instructions from SFGate Home Guides to test your soil’s pH with strips.
Dig a small hole in the soil to about 6-8 inches deep. Use a garden trowel to scoop out a piece of the soil, making sure to get soil from every level of earth between the ground’s surface to the bottom of the hole. Put the soil in a bucket or container off to the side.
Use a stick or the trowel to stir up the soil in the bucket and then use a 1-cup measuring cup to take out a cup of soil from the bucket and place it into another clean container. Add 1 cup of distilled water.
Shake or stir the soil/water mixture until well mixed and then let the container sit until the soil separates again. Using a glass jar makes this step easier.
Now you can take out one of the strips of litmus paper and carefully dip one half of it into the water. Make sure your hands are clean and dry before dipping the paper strip.
As you can see, the litmus paper starts to change color. When you purchased the strips, they should have come with a color scale that you can use to compare the strip to find out the pH. If you do not have a scale, they are also available online.
How to Use a Soil pH Test Kit
With a soil analysis kit, you can test soil for nutrients and pH, such as nitrogen, pHospHorus, and potash of soil. It will come with test tubes for testing the soil along with the testing substance to mix with it. Follow the instructions on the testing kit since not all kits are the same, and the directions for one may not work for another.
Other pH tester kits have just the pH test or a pH meter. Some also test soil pH with drops or capsules.
Remember to get a clean clump of soil to test that does not have sticks, rocks, or other debris that could interfere with the testing solution. A pH tester works best will smooth soil because there is a better distribution of the testing area.
Best Soil pH Test Kits
How to Test PH with Test Kits
let’s look at how you would use some of these great products.
How to Use the Yoyomax Soil Test Kit
To use the meter, follow these five steps:
- Using the switch on the face of the meter, set it to “MOIST”, “LIGHT”, or “pH” depending on what you want to test.
- Insert the metal probe of the meter about 2-4 inches into the surface of the soil. If the soil is loose, insert it closer to 4 inches deep.
- Adjust the probe until the dial point swings slightly.
- Allow the meter to sit in the soil for 10 minutes, and then check the moisture, pH, or light level.
- Clean with a dry towel after each use.
How to Use the Environmental Concepts Professional Soil Test Kit
The Environmental Concepts Professional Soil Test Kit is a liquid test. It uses chemicals to identify levels in the soil rather than measuring them through a probe like you would with a meter.
How to use:
To use this test kit, you will want to mix multiple samples of the soil before adding them to the test tubes with the test solution. Extract samples from different areas of a small garden, making sure to get all depths. Mix the sample in a bucket well, and then follow the instructions in your manual exactly.
How to Use “MySoil” Soil Test Kit
The MySoil Test Kit is a mail-in kit. You will gather samples of the soil, add it to the provided mailing package, and mail it off. It is quite simple.
Follow these easy instructions:
- First, register online. Visit mysoiltesting.com and click the Register Kit button to enter information about your soil – they need this to accurately interpret and display your results later on.
- Pull soil from 5 different spots (6 inches deep), mix together, and add to the sample jar.
- Seal the sample jar inside the provided shipping envelope and mail using the United States Postal Service.
- Check for the results on the MySoil website or app in 6-8 business days.
Adjusting Soil pH
Once you complete one of these soil pH test methods, you should have a number of pH that came as a result of the testing. Remember, 6.5 pH is the goal for garden soil. Between 6.6 and 7.3 is considered neutral; below that is acid soil, and above is alkaline soil.
Look back to the needs of your specific plants and check to see that none of them have any out of the ordinary physical properties or preferences related to the pH level. Some herbs and other plants thrive better in more acidic or more alkaline soil.
You could also consider fixing any other aspects of your garden based on the plants’ needs, such as the soil temperature, humidity, and resistivity. These changes may seem small and meticulous, but they will make a significant difference with the growth of the plants.
This applies not just to small gardens, but also to other uses of soil. For the pH of lawn soil and all its needs, as well as the needs of crops in a small vegetable garden. All types of plants have their specific needs, and so all types of gardens and soil containments need as much testing and personalization as possible.
How to Lower pH in Soil
Lowering soil pH is simple. Try one of these soil acidifiers to lower pH of alkaline soil. When you know how to reduce soil alkalinity, you will never have to worry about problems with plant growth.
How to Raise pH in Soil
Instead, if you need to raise the pH and make the soil more alkaline, use one of these limestone products from Amazon to reduce soil acidity. The pulverized limestone in them raises the pH to create neutral or alkaline soil rather than acid soil.
There are many different types of kits and soil pH test methods for testing garden soil. Which one you use is up to you, but any test you choose to use to check soil pH can be effective. Some gardeners say that the best way to check soil pH is with a meter, but any of these tests can help determine what is best for your garden soil according to what your plants like, and if you follow this guide, you could be on the way to a healthy and happy garden. Follow whichever soil pH test methods you have had luck with in the past.