How To Use Soil pH Tester

A soil pH tester determines the soil acidity or alkalinity of a garden. The tester will establish whether the soil is acidic (below pH 7), neutral (pH 7) or alkaline (above pH7).

There are many ways of testing the soil pH. The most accurate measure is scooping various little samples of soil from the same portion of land, packing them differently and taking the samples to a laboratory for pH testing. The samples should be well marked to know from which part of the garden, they were taken.

 You can also determine the pH yourself using either pH indicator test strips, or electronic pH meters. But if you don’t have any of those, you can use baking soda and vinegar.

What is the pH of My Soil? – How to Determine

You need a spade and room temperature distilled water and your soil pH tester. Distilled water is recommended because it has a neutral pH and therefore it will not tamper with the results by either adding to the acidity or alkalinity of the soil.

 Dig a small hole in your garden. About 10cms deep using the spade. Then pour the distilled water in the hole to make a muddy soil solution. If you are using an electronic pH tester, wipe it with tissue paper before inserting it into the mud. Give it about two minutes before reading the results on the meter.

Take Different Measurements

Take about six different measurements of pH in the same garden. When you are done, add up all the pH levels and then get the average by dividing by six. But if the results differ greatly, then you won’t do averages. The results will be an indication of the soil pH of different parts of your garden.

 Use the same procedure if you are using pH indicator test strips. Just dip the strips in the muddy holes to determine the pH. After about 30 seconds, clean the pH strip paper with distilled water and now check the color to determine the pH level of your garden.

Using Baking Soda & Vinegar

If you are using baking soda and vinegar, take a soil sample and divide it in two. Put the two portions in two different containers. In the first container, add vinegar. If the mixture fizzes, it means the soil is alkaline with a pH above 7.

If it doesn’t fizz, then make a muddy solution out of the other soil sample by adding distilled water to it and mixing it up. Then add baking soda to the muddy solution. If it fizzes, then the soil is acidic with a pH below 7. If there is no reaction, then the soil is neutral with a pH of 7.

The pH scale range is from zero (0) to fourteen (14). While pH Seven (7) is neutral, any solution with a pH exceeding seven is alkaline, and any pH figure below seven indicates an acidic solution.

 That should give you a rough idea of the pH of your garden.

What to Keep In Mind When Testing

Soil pH is affected by many factors including the kind of plants currently growing on it, fertilizers used, soil type, the pH of the irrigation water, climate and weather among other factors.

Soil pH is tested so that you can have a more accurate way of making various gardening decisions.

Soil pH determines whether plants will get nutrients from the soil or not. By having the pH level of your garden, you will be able to tell which plants can thrive in your garden and how to improve the condition of your soil to enable plants to grow well.

 You will be in a better position to decide on soil pH adjusters, fertilizers and supplements to best suit your garden.

Can pH Be Measured In Dry Soil?

pH can only be used as a measure for liquids and solutions. There is no method of determining the pH of powders, solid or semi-solid particles in their form. They first have to be formed into a solution before the pH is taken.

 Dry soil can be categorized as being a powder. It first has to be made into a muddy solution using room temperature distilled water, before the pH can be taken.

The Accuracy of Soil pH Testers

pH testers only provide an approximation. Using a professional may produce more accurate results or taking a sample of the soil to a laboratory to have it tested professionally.

But basically, you don’t need very accurate pH levels if the information will be used to decide what plants can grow in your garden.

An indication of how acidic or alkaline is a good enough measure to help you make planting decisions.  This is because most plants do not require a very particular pH to thrive but grow in a wide pH range. 

But if your intentions are so that you can change the soil pH, then it is recommended that you have the pH professionally tested.

It is also important to get professional assistance in how to go about changing the pH status of your garden.

 Worth noting that, changing the pH of a soil is quite some job and takes time and resources. After determining the pH, of your soil, it is much easier to check which plants are best suited for that pH and grow those plants.

How Do Soil pH Testers Work?

You can either do the testing of the pH of your garden yourself, or you can get a professional to do it. It mainly depends on why you want to know the pH of your garden.

pH is a determinant of the acidity or alkalinity of solutions. Measuring the pH of a solution involves determining its hydrogen ion concentration. An acidic solution has high concentrations of hydrogen ions and therefore a low pH. While an alkaline solution has a low concentration of hydrogen ions and a high pH.

 Soil pH testers only provide a range of the likely pH of the soil but not accurately. They will help to indicate whether the soil is either very alkaline, slightly alkaline, neutral, slightly acidic and very acidic.

Using pH Testers in Your Garden

It depends on how big the garden is. The pH may not be uniform over the entire garden area. The only way to know this is by dividing the land into portions and testing the soil pH for each portion of land and recording it down. Then mark which part of your garden is alkaline, acidic or neutral.

Final Thoughts

It’s always important to be aware of the pH conditions prevailing in your garden. That way, you can have an easier time knowing which plants to introduce to it and which ones to do away with. It’s our hope that the information shared above will make it easier for you to do that.

Author Bio

Rosita is a passionate gardener who often writes blogs on gardening topics and trimmers in general.

How To Use Soil pH Tester
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Tina Martino

My passion is gardening. Along with my husband and children, each year we grow a garden large enough to provide our family of five with over half of our needed produce. Besides vegetables and a small berry patch, I also focus my attention on beautifying our home with strategically placed flowers, herbs, and flowering plants. Gardening is more than just a hobby; it is a way of life.