Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Plants need sunlight and water for optimal growth, but they also need the right soil. If your soil is deficient or has the wrong balance of nutrients, your plants will simply not thrive.
A soil test kit can show you how much phosphorus, nitrogen and potash, or potassium, your soil contains. It will also tell you your soil’s pH level, which should typically be slightly acidic and range from 6.0 to 6.8 so that your plants can absorb nutrients properly. The best soil test kit is user-friendly, easy to read and accurate.
Key Features of Soil Testing Kits
When shopping for your testing kit, you will want to read product descriptions carefully to ensure you are getting the very best soil test kit for your needs.
Some key features include:
1. A variety of tests included
Some test kits only test pH while others include nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium as well. Kits that include multiple tests tend to be costlier, but they also provide you with a clearer picture of your soil’s needs for better nutrient management.
2. Ease of use
Kits can include strips, reagents, test tubes or digital meters. A complicated test will not necessarily give you more accurate results, and it might even be less accurate if it is so complex that it is difficult to perform.
3. Clear instructions
Not all tests are intuitive. Look for a test with a clearly written user’s guide, color charts and amendment suggestions to make your testing experience easier and more efficient.
Soil Test Kit Reviews: Top Soil Test Kits on the Market in 2017
1. Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Soil Test Kit
The Luster Leaf Rapitest soil test kit is an affordable, easy-to-use system. It features a simple capsule system for testing pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels in the soil. It also comes with a handy chart on the ideal levels of various nutrients for more than 100 plant types and recommendations for more than 400 types of plants.
With the Luster Leaf Rapitest kit, you can expect fast, accurate color comparison chart results. You can test for each of the four nutrients 10 times for a total of 40 tests.
- Uncomplicated instructions
- Easy to use
- Suggested amendments not compatible with organic gardening
- Cannot order refills online
2. Environmental Concepts 1662 Professional Soil Test Kit with 40 tests
The Environmental Concepts soil test kit offers a low-cost alternative to professional testing. This kit comes complete with instructions and recommendations for amendments. It includes the equipment and reagents necessary to perform 10 tests for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium for a total of 40 tests.
These tests offer fast, accurate results that can be used for home gardening or classroom use and come in a sturdy carrying case.
- Accurate results
- Detailed amendment solutions provided
- Affordably priced
- Bit complicated to use
- Properly pulverized sample essential to accuracy
3. Whitetail Institute Laboratory Soil-Test Kit
The Whitetail Institute Laboratory soil test kit is a professional test kit that allows you to test all desired soil conditions. You can learn more about your plot’s pH level and necessary amendments for agricultural plantings. Your results should be available by email or mail in about a week, and a professional consultation is included.
Everything you need to test your soil is included in this kit, and you can add just the right amount of lime or fertilizer without any waste.
- Results easy to understand
- Thorough reports provided
- Clear and simple amendment recommendations
- Can take several days to receive results
- Single-use kit
Best Soil Test Meter: The Big Boy of the Market
MoonCity 3-in-1 Soil Moisture, Light and pH / acidity Meter Plant Tester for Indoors/Outdoors
A soil testing meter like the MoonCity 3-in-1 meter offers fast, accurate results and helps you grow healthier plants. This meter can be used alone or in conjunction with soil test kits to provide you more than just information about the nutrients in the soil, including detailed soil moisture and light measurements. There is no need for electricity or batteries: You can simply plug the meter into the soil to find out if your plants are getting the light and moisture they need.
The MoonCity 3-in-1 meter is compact, portable and designed for both indoor and outdoor use. It will tell you when to water and ensure your plants are getting the right light for their needs.
- No power or batteries needed
- Can test pH, moisture and sunlight
- Easy to use
- Can be used indoors and outdoors
- Can be time-consuming
- pH tends to read high
Using Your New Soil Testing Kit
When you are ready to test your soil, you will need to gather a few supplies, including:
- Your kit
- Clean gloves
- A garden trowel
- A clean jar or plastic bag for collecting samples
- Distilled water
Performing the Test
- While wearing your gloves, use your trowel to dig about 4 inches into a dry patch of soil. Collect a soil sample from the bottom of the hole.
- Being careful not to touch the soil with your bare hands, which could contaminate your sample, use your hands to remove plant material, stones and other debris until only soil remains.
- Put the precise amount of water and soil into each test tube. Use the color scale to read the results.
Check the amendment suggestions that are included in your kit to address any deficiencies or abnormalities.
If you are testing multiple sites, label each jar or bag so that you know exactly where each sample originated. Once testing is complete, you might want to check the texture of your soil as well. Squeeze a handful of soil in your gloved palm. Soil that easily falls apart is likely to be sandy while soil that holds its shape and does not break may have a high clay content.
Conclusion: Soil Testing Kits the Key to a Vibrant Garden
Home soil testing kits can give you a more complete picture on how your garden is growing whether you choose common silverbell flowers or something a little more exotic. Take samples from various spots throughout your garden, and test regularly so that you can address any deficiencies right away. Healthy soil leads to healthier plants.