in the Garden
How Accurate Are Soil pH Testers?
How to Test the Soil pH With a Digital pH Meter
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 in 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 5cm 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 budge, this is perfect. It’s basically litmus paper on a strip that you can just dip on the soil mixed with water for about 30 seconds.
The color you get on the strip is comparable on 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 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.
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 0-14 or 0-100.
Levels 0-14 is the most common display on soil PH meters. The 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 acid. If it goes above 7, it means it has higher alkaline.
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 a soil with lower alkalinity, you can easily get any brand of soil sulfur from your favorite gardening shop like Arizona’s Best.
A few plants that prefer acidic soil are:
- Japanese Pieris
- Wood Anemone
- Bleeding Heart
When Is It Best To Test The Soil PH?
You can test the PH level of your soil anytime. 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, so that’s why I want to be sure that my soil’s acidity level isn’t going crazy.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.