Most gardening enthusiasts know what their plants need to thrive. But how can you tell if your garden has everything it needs? Test the soil, of course!
An easy-to-use and quick soil test kit is all that’s needed to learn about your soil’s chemical properties and nutrient deficiencies. But how do you choose the right kit?
Well, that’s where we come in!
In this article, we provide you with everything you need to know about the importance of testing your soil as well as a review of 4 best soil test kits you can buy online.
What is a Soil pH Test Kit?
A healthy lawn, flower bed, or pot plant needs the right environment for vibrant growth, including high-quality nutrients and good soil. By using a soil test kit, you can measure the condition of your soil as well as the pH level, to decide which fertilizers or soil amendments are required to create the optimum growth conditions.
While soil test kits vary in appearance, most of them work in a similar manner using test tubes, chemical reaction sensors, distilled water, or plug-ins with a small soil sample.
This is the most important nutrient that all plants need to convert sunlight into energy. Nitrogen supports the plant’s amino acids, and without it, a plant can’t make the proteins and even its DNA to grow.
This nutrient plays an essential role in energy storage and cell growth. Without it, a plant won’t mature properly.
To help control the movement of nutrients, carbohydrates, and water in plant tissues, potassium, or Potash is needed to regulate photosynthesis.
Soil pH levels
Soil pH is a measurement taken to read the level of acidity or alkalinity within the soil, whether that’s potting soil or the soil in your backyard, understanding its pH level can prove critical to successfully growing plants or vegetables.
The majority of plants tolerate soil pH levels somewhere between 6.0 and 7.0 to grow well, but this is not necessarily their optimum condition. Therefore, by taking a reading of the pH of your soil, you can decide if you need to amend it with a balancing compound such as Lime to increase alkalinity or sulfur to increase acidity.
As with all things in life, there are outliers, and plants are no different. Some species sit at the far end of the pH scale and to grow these plants you may need to amend your soil. For example, popular plants such as Ivy enjoy a range between 6.5-8.0 which is very alkaline soil. Whereas Azalea thrives in acidic soil with a pH of 4.5-5.5. So clearly understanding soil pH can be critical to success, in that it allows you to create the best conditions for the plants you are looking to grow.
This applies to trees, houseplants, vegetables, grasses, and ornamental plants, if you understand their current condition, then you can amend it to create their perfect condition and have amazing, and happy plants. Below is a shortlist to illustrate the pH range of some popular plant varieties so you can see the importance of soil amendment to get to their perfect pH level.
|Blueberry, high bush||4.5-5.5|
Types Of Soil Testers
There are 3 main types of soil testers you can choose from as listed below:
Analog soil test kits
This type of tester uses up to 3 metal probes to analyze the soil. By placing the metal probes into a growing medium, the natural electrical charges in the soil or grow medium is picked up by the probes and registered by way of a measurement, such as pH level, how much sunlight the soil is receiving, or soil moisture.
Digital Soil test kits
These testers are a little more tricky to get the hang of than the analog type. They use an electrical charge to test the soil composition and require batteries to operate the device. Before and after using these testers, be sure to thoroughly clean the probes with soap and water.
Chemical Soil test kits
These types of testers require you to place a small amount of soil in a special container and add water. You then add a dye capsule or droplet and shake it, the water will change color to match indicate its composition.
Multi-Functional Soil Testers
You will find multi-functional soil testers on the market, and indeed we have included a few on our short list of the best soils testers available for home use. But you need to appreciate it is difficult to be all things to all people. A 3-in-1 tester will usually have great moisture readings, good pH readings but often poor light readings.
However, in truth, you have to question the merits of a light meter. Reading light accurately required a high tech piece of kit and only something reserved for the serious enthusiast or professional indoor grower.
8 Best Soil Test Kits Reviews
We have searched high and low to find the best Soil Testing Kits available for the general consumers’ use. Our main concerns are with the quality of the tester, it’s accuracy, overall performance, and ease of use. This list has been judged on products for everyday home use. This is not an extensive list of professional products.
As well as our tests and the opinions of our experts’, we have also considered customer reviews across online platforms and growers forums to provide a broader sample of customer satisfaction with these specific soil test kits we have on review.
The Houseplant Resource Centre’s 3-in1 soil test kit is one of the easiest kits to use on our list. This analog design means no batteries are required, just push the probes into the soil, wait 10 seconds, and take the reading. There is a switch on the front of the meter allowing you to select any one of the three testing functions:
- Soil Moisture Test
- Soil pH Test
- Light level test
As with most 3-in-1soil testers, the inclusion of a light meter okay but not essential. The pH tester was accurate in our test. For basic indoor plant care, the moisture tester and pH tester are great guides as to when you need to act to provide your plant with the best possible conditions. So for this purpose, we like this product.
How to use: Move the switch on the front of the probe to select the function you wish to perform. Clean probes with a damp cloth before use to ensure of accurate readings. Inset probes 2-3 inches into the soil between the base of the plants stem and the edge of the pot or container, leave for 10 seconds, then take reading.
Customer Reviews: Customers across retail platforms and forums gave this product a solid 4.4/5.
- Analog design so no batteries required
- 3-in-1 soil tester
- Good product for the price
- Nothing of note
Luster Leaf Rapitest Soil Tester is a traditional chemical test process and we like it, back to basics. This economical soil test kit for testing soil pH, Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potash (K) is simple and reliable.
The kit contains 4 pH test capsules and 2 each of N-P-K. I have always enjoyed this type of test kit and the children usually like to get involved as its a little bit reminiscent of the chemistry experiment’s they do at school. So if you don’t need ultra-accurate results, and if you don’t need to perform lots of repetitive tests, then this type of kit is always very cost effective and fun.
How to use: Take a sample of soil preferably from around 3″ deep. Mix it with water and shake. Transfer some of the solution to the soil comparator as a benchmark. Mix in the capsule and shake again. Match the solutions color to the color chart to get your reading.
Customer Reviews: Customers who used this product gave it an overall score of 4/5, with a general appreciation of the accuracy. Some user found the test difficult to read due to the solution color looking muddy from the soil.
- Cost effective is you only need one or two tests
- Fun to use and get the children involved
- Only contains 4 pH and 2 N-P-K test
This soil tester from XLUX solely focuses on testing soil moisture. Simply insert the probe into the soil to get a moisture reading immediately. It really couldn’t be any easier.
Compared to some of the other products in our review, the XLUX soil tester is simple in that it only has one function, but its useability and build quality are very good. A large clear meter greater on a scale of 1-10, makes it perfect for people who require a large easy to read dial.
The XLUX sensor meter is that it comes with an 18-month warranty, to back up its build quality. No batteries required when using this analog hygrometer for indoor plants. Perfect for succulents, orchids, and any other house plant where soil moisture needs monitoring.
How to use: Analog tester, simply push into soil and take read. No batteries required
Customers Reviews: Across all major retail platforms and forums this soil hygrometer score really well for customer satisfaction based on its simplicity and reliability. Over 10,000 users score this product 4.4/5.
- Large 1-10 scale easy to read dial
- Good build quality and 18-month warranty
- No batteries required
- Limited to soil moisture testing
The Gouevn Soil Moisture Meter Soil is a single probe test kit designed for checking soil moisture levels. Very similar to the XLUX moisture meter, it displays a nice large meter reading on a scale of 1-10, with a range of 4-7 indicating an average moisture reading.
This kit includes a watering guide for over 200 plants printed onto the back of the packaging which some customer may find useful. I would say the build quality in our opinion is not as good as the XLUX or the when comparing the two moisture testers, however Gouven us one of the best selling products of this type. So, both have won over a large audience when it comes to keeping your plants soil in tip-top condition.
All of the probe based product must have the probes cleaned regularly and ideally rubbed down with an abrasive such as a very light sane paper, wire wool or wire brush for best results.
How to use: Clean the probe and place it 2-4″ into the soil. Leave it for 10 seconds and take a reading.
Customer Reviews: Lots of great feedback about this product from thousands of customers giving it an overall score of 4.4/5.
- Easy to use and easy to read
- No batteries required
- One of the biggest selling moisture reader online
- Limited to soil moisture testing
With this 3-in-1 soil test kit, you get to measure the light, acidity, and moisture levels of your soil. The easy-to-read, compact device from Healthy Wiser works both indoors and outdoors. And since no batteries are required to use this analog tester, you save money and time. Simply dip the metal rods into the moist soil sample to get the readings.
The soil test meter claims to help green-thumbed fans prevent overwatering, pest attacks, and root damage. We found the soil meter easy to use and accurate for moisture and light readings, but not as accurate for pH/acidity compared to others in our test.
How to use: Clean the probes thoroughly before testing. Place both probes into the soils between 2-4″ deep. Wait 10 seconds and take the reading from the meter.
Customer Reviews: A very popular soil tester, however some people found the pH reading to be inaccurate on occassions.
- Scientifically accurate readings for moisture and light
- Moisture, Light, and Soil pH meter all in one
- Not the most accurate pH tester reading
This innovative soil test kit from Luster Leaf is perhaps one of the most comprehensive testers you can find on the market. With an attached color chart, which many other kits lack, you will get 4 color-coded containers that represent nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and pH levels separately.
In addition to the 4 containers, you will also get 40 capsules and a dropper to test your soil, with a handy guide on fertilization and an information pack for different plants’ desired pH levels.
And if you were worried about losing your color chart, the good news is; it’s right on the test unit!
When the results are benchmarked against a professional soil probe, the test results were surprisingly accurate considering the price of this type of test.
How to use: simply take a small sample of the soil and put it into the tube. Add some distilled water and the appropriate capsule. Shake it and let it sit until the color has fully changed.
Customer Reviews: Despite the kits accuracy this product achieved an overall score of 4.2/5. One issues that does arise with this type of water based kit is ready the color when the water is mixed with soil as this will make a muddy, cloudy liquid.
- Neat containers make it easy to stay organized
- Accurate results compared to lab analysis
- Easy to follow instructions
- Product is limited to 40 soil tests
This is another convenient 3-in-1 testing kit for analyzing soil pH, moisture, and light levels. All you need to do is to adjust the needle detector to the content you are testing before inserting the prongs into 2-4 inches of soil. The reading will appear on the upper panel of the soil tester after 10 minutes.
Just like many other testing kits that use a needle to display the amount, the Sonkir tester doesn’t require batteries to operate. Note: as you’ll be inserting the needles directly into the soil, be sure to clean them after use. With a probe-based pH reader, it is advisable to rub the probe tips with an abrasive material to ensure they are clean.
Customer Reviews: The majority of users were pleased with the consistent accuracy of this tester. A few negative comments based around the light meter function, but overall scores 4.1/5.
- Moisture, Light, and Soil pH meter all in one
- No batteries required
- Lightweight and portable
- A little flimsy in construction
Luster Leaf Rapitest Electronic Soil Tester is a digital battery operated device design to check nitrogen, potassium and phosphate levels or your soil, as well as reading the pH level. The product also includes a handy guide of the pH requirements of 450 common plants.
With N-P-K and pH playing a critical role in the performance of our gardens this 2-in-1 test kit will appeal to many people, as it appealed to us. However we were surprised to see it came with small test tubes and capsules. We were expecting a soil probe to provide our results, not to perform a soil test in a conventional way, then use a digital machine to read the color indicators for us.
However, we have included in on our list given that we have reviewed it and we feel it may be beneficial for anyone who has problem seeing color or differentiating between colors, as the digital reader does this part for you.
How to use: You mix your soils sample with the capsule and insert the test tube into the top of the meter reading and get a result.
Customer Reviews: Mixed reviews given the digital monitor is not really adding a great deal of value to the conventional test process, it scores 3.9/5.
- It will be useful for people who struggle with color differentiation
- It is a digital reading, not a digital tester
What are the Benefits of Soil Test Kits?
Only a soil test kit can help you understand your soil’s needs by measuring how much salt is in the soil, diagnosing soil pH levels, and analyzing the organic materials present.
As a green-fingered fan, you should never wait for signs of poor vegetative growth before testing your soil. Just like a routine health check, soil testing should be done often to identify what your soil deficiencies may be and which nutrients are replenished through the growing season. Only then will you know which fertilizers you should use.
Healthy soil needs three main components: potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen for ideal plant growth. It should be moist and soft so the roots can travel easier. If it’s too dry, it needs watering more consistently. If there are not enough nutrients, add the essential components by way of fertilizers. Rather than guessing what your soil needs, a test kit will save you time and money by giving you accurate readings.
How to Use a Soil Tester?
Most chemical soil testers are straightforward as long as you follow the instructions. If you’re using a capsule or powder test, all that’s required is to add the amount and mix well.
Once you’ve prepared the mix, make sure it goes thoroughly into the soil sample and allow it to sit for a few minutes. The soil should change color quite quickly thereafter so you’ll know immediately what nutrients you need to add.
If you want to test the moisture level of your soil, it’s best not to leave the sample out of the ground as it will dry out and not give you accurate results. So the sooner you test the soil moisture, the better.
If you’re testing the soil using a liquid tester, simply add the liquid to the test sample by mixing or shaking it into the soil. Leave the sample to sit for 10 minutes. The soil/water mixture should change colors expressing its chemical make-up.
Macronutrient testing determines the main nutrients that your soil is lacking. Most fertilizers have a string of numbers (N-P-K) that tell you what the ratios of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen are. However, what these fertilizers can’t tell you is whether your soil has too much of these nutrients to start with.
It is, therefore, important to perform macronutrient testing of your soil, to establish if it needs an adjustment of nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorus.
What most people tend to forget is the micronutrient needs of their soil. The vast majority of commercial soil testers only analyze the basic nutrients, moisture, and acidity, but there are other nutrients that your plants also need to grow. Some of these micronutrients include iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. Deficiencies can lead to a plant not being able to use micro-nutrients effectively. Very similar to humans eating multi-vitamins.
Soil pH Meter
Testing the acidity and alkalinity of your soil is another important part of your soil analysis. Most plants prefer soil pH of between 6.0 and 7.0 as their ideal range. Depending on what type of plant you’re growing, you will need to adjust the pH level of your soil based on the reading of the test kit.
pH Testing Step by Step Guide
You can test your soil’s pH levels at any time to determine how effectively your soil can hold nutrients. Just follow these simple steps to test your soil’s pH levels:
Step 1. If you working in the garden use a hand shovel, dig 3 to 4 inches below the lawn surface to obtain a soil sample. Or simply take a sample from your pot plant.
Step 2. Remove any debris from the soil.
Step 3. Add 1 cup of water to the soil until it turns into mud.
Step 4. Now transfer some of the solution to the color comparator provided by the test kit.
Step 5. Add the powder and shake it. The result only takes a few minutes!
When Should You Test Your Soil?
The best time to test your soil depends on the plants you are growing. Different plants have different growing seasons, but to give you an idea, it’s best to test your soil before planting in the spring. A soil test before seeding in spring will inform you of what you need to add to your soil for a healthier growing season.
It is also recommended to test your soil again in the fall. Since the winter season takes its toll on the plants and the soil, testing helps prepare accordingly. Only a soil test will tell you what the nutrients you need to add to the soil before the cold weather sets in.
In addition to spring and fall, you should also test your soil whenever your plants go through environmental changes, such as heavy rains, cold snaps, and heat waves as all these factors can play a huge role in the soil’s health. To ensure consistent environments, test the moisture levels during this time.
As a rule of thumb, soil samples should be taken around 2 or 3 months before planting to ensure you have plenty of time to apply the right nutrients and adjust your soil’s pH level. While soil tests can be done at any time of the year, spring and fall are the ideal seasons. Just make sure you do the testing at the same time each year or every 2 years. Soils changes, so you need to keep in touch with its flow.
Conclusion Best Soil Test Kits
A great way of starting a new garden or keeping an old one in a healthy condition is by using a soil tester. Only the best soil test kits can help you understand the nutrients your soil needs and in what quantity.
By taking regular samples at the right intervals, you’ll be able to improve crop maturity and increase its tolerance to pests and disease. Get the best out of your plants, flowers, and vegetables by choosing the best soil test kit, and adjust your soil to meet your crop’s needs.
Whether you prefer a digital meter or a more conventional chemical test kit there are plenty of good option for you to choose from on this list.