The first time I used a soil pH meter, I simply stick it to the ground and waited for the results. The problem with this technique is that you may not get an accurate result.
If you want to know how to test and measure the soil pH meters in the garden to get a more accurate pH result, I have some easy steps to share.
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How to Test the Soil pH With a Digital pH Meter
Simple steps include:
- Take a soil sample. You can get at least one scoop of soil from your garden or pot.
- Make sure that the soil sample you have is pure. It shouldn’t have any rocks, pebbles, sand, leaves, or debris. It is also best to get the portion of your sample from where the root is. This is to ensure that the result you will get is the most accurate.
- Place the soil sample in an open container and add water. The amount of water should be the same as the amount of soil. So if you get a scoop of soil, you should only pour a scoop of water on it.
- Stir the soil for 5-10 seconds, and then let it sit for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, stir the soil for another 5 seconds, and then get your soil PH meter.
- Place the meter stick on the soil and wait for the screen to show how much PH your soil has.
Note: Always make sure that you clean the stick of your meter before and after use so that you won’t get confusing results.
Another way of testing the Soil PH with a Meter
Another easy way to measure your soil’s pH without using a container is by digging. The way I do it, I just dig a small hole in my pot or land area and fill it up with water.
When it comes to the amount of water, 16–20 ounces will do. While pouring water into the hole, I start to mix and wait until the soil’s consistency becomes muddy and mushy.
I use a pH Meter with a needle or stick on it for this way of measuring.
After 4 minutes of mixing the muddy soil, I stick the soil pH tester about 5 cm deep to make sure that the tester gets enough samples. It should only take a minute for the meter to completely measure the soil’s pH level.
Other Types of pH Testers you can use
Soil pH test strips: if you are on a budget, this is perfect. It’s basically litmus paper on a strip that you can just dip in the soil mixed with water for about 30 seconds.
The color you get on the strip is comparable to the chart it comes with. It reflects the PH level of your soil. The problem with test strips is that the color it shows may be hard to read or interpret.
Chemical Dye Soil pH Meter: This is basically a pH test kit. You just have to get your sample and put it in the container and solution that it comes with.
The color of the sample inside the container will change after shaking it, and that will help you determine the pH level based on the chart that’s part of the kit.
When to Test Soil PH?
You can test the pH level of your soil at any time. I, of course, measure before I plant something new in my garden or pot.
Other than measuring the soil’s pH level before planting, I also measure it if there is a sudden change in the weather.
Rain can affect the acidity level of the soil. So you bet I measure the soil pH level in my garden the day after it has been raining.
If it hasn’t been raining, it doesn’t mean that you should not test your soil’s pH. I test mine every 3-5 months. I also plant a few vegetables like spinach, so that’s why I want to be sure that my soil’s acidity level isn’t going crazy.
Knowing Your Soil’s pH Level
Now the meter you have may display the pH level of your soil in two ways. It could be from 0 to 14 or 0 to 100.
Levels 0–14 are the most common displays on soil pH meters. A pH level of 7 means that your soil is in a neutral state.
If your soil’s pH measure is below 7, it says that your soil has higher acidity. If it goes above 7, it means it has higher alkalinity.
If your soil scored a pH level of 0-5, it most likely has more aluminum, iron, and manganese. Those elements could be detrimental when it comes to some plants’ growth. It’s still best to keep your soil pH level neutral for most plants.
Understanding the right pH Level
Please don’t think that your soil pH has to be maintained with a score of 7. What you really have to consider is what kind of plant you have or plan to nourish.
Also, your soil pH measurement can be controlled. If you want your soil to have a lower acidity level, you may use the juice of citrus fruits on it, like lime, orange, or lemon.
I know it sounds like it should increase acidity because these fruits have acid, but trust me! It does the opposite. It actually increases alkalinity!
Here are a few alkaline-loving plants:
- Honey Locust
- Austrian Pane
- Green Ash
If you want soil with lower alkalinity, you can easily get any brand of sulfur soil from your favorite gardening shop, like Arizona’s Best.
A few plants that prefer acidic soil are:
- Japanese Pieris
- Wood Anemone
- Bleeding Heart
How Accurate Are Soil pH Testers?
First of all, there are all sorts of soil pH meters available out there. There are test strips, dyes, kits, and old-school and digitized meters that you can use.
I prefer a digitized electronic meter because it’s very easy to read and it displays the most accurate measurement among all types of soil pH meters.
It’s not a requirement to get a digital soil pH meter to get the most accurate result. What’s important here is the type of meter you have and the method you choose to test your sample.
Generally speaking, it’s simple and very easy to get a sample and test its pH no matter what type of meter you use.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She continued her gardening education by working on organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to share gardening tips and tactics. She’s happy to talk about succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs – or just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden.