What Is a Soil PH Meter? How Accurate Are They? And which type is the best suited for your required usage? These are all questions that will probably cross your mind the first time you come across these handy gadgets.
An essential tool for any serious gardener, using a soil ph tester before every growing season and interpreting the results correctly could mean the difference between a bumper crop, and a total fail.
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What Is a Soil PH Meter?
A soil pH meter is a handy little gadget that will let you know just how acidic your soil actually is.
In fact, knowing your soil acidity levels when looking at making adjustments to its pH is vital. This is because an increase of 1 on a soil pH meter translates to 10 times the acidity of the soil in chemistry terms and will directly affect your planting and growing capabilities in your garden.
How Accurate are Soil PH Meters?
Well it really depends on the type of PH meter you are using, let’s take a look at the three main types of soul PH meters.
Electronic Soil PH Meter
Best suited for: Gardening novices, landscapers, and those needing quick accuracy.
An electronic soil pH meter is a useful piece of kit which will provide a fairly accurate reading of your soil pH level.
The unit consists of an LED/analog screen front enclosed within a durable and waterproof case. Attached to the case via is the metallic probe. This looks a bit like a metal chopstick, and this is what is inserted directly into the soil to give you a fast and accurate reading.
- No fuss or constructing of parts.
- Quick & accurate reading.
- Reusable and lasts for many years.
- No mess or confusing elements.
- Is the most expensive of the 3 types.
- Relies on power to operate.
- The screen can be hard to read.
- Accuracy can be thrown off if the soil is not wet.
A great example of an electric soil pH meter is the Covery 3 in 1 Soil pH tester.
This meter provides not only the soil pH level but also the moisture level and the light intensity and absorption levels.
In fact, if you are looking for an accurate soil pH meter that is easy to use, then the electronic one will prove to be ideal.
Chemical Dye Soil PH Meter
Best suited for: Planting enthusiast, part-time gardeners, & hobbyists.
A chemical dye soil pH tester/meter provides a fairly quick and accurate soil pH reading.
The chemical dye tester comes with 3 components. In a test kit, you will have a bottle of soil testing solution, a vial of barium sulfate testing powder, and an empty container to add the soil into for testing.
Once you have added your soil to the vial, the solution and barium sulfate are added and a color change reaction will occur. This is then compared against a provided chart and will indicate how acid or alkaline your soil is.
- Cheap and easy.
- Contains enough solution for 15 individual tests
- Requires little knowledge to use
- Mixing contents can be inconvenient
- Color change may be difficult to compare
- Only lasts for 15 uses
A good example of a chemical dye soil pH tester kit as the Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Soil Test Kit.
The kit is very affordable and has everything you need inside. This kit is perfect for those who are on a budget and want to perform several tests around the garden before planting up. Accuracy can be a bit off, especially in areas contaminated with pesticides or certain garden plant foods.
- Quick, at home results for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphrous and Potash
- Innovative and inexpensive soil test kit features an easy-to-use capsule system and patented color comparators
- Contains all components needed for 40 tests. 10 for each of pH, N, P and K
- Simple, detailed instructions included. Great for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.
- Soil pH preference list for over 450 plants included
Strip Test Soil PH Meter
Best suited for: Regular testers, those on a budget, & soil improvement.
The final type of soil pH tester is the strip test.
The strip test is very much like the litmus paper we all used in school during science lessons. The pH test strips are simply dipped in a solution of water and soil taken from your garden and then take from 3-30 seconds to change color. The color is then compared against a provided chart and the soil acidity can be obtained.
- The easiest of the 3 to use
- No knowledge required
- Provides trips for years in one package
- Color reading can be difficult
- Needs to be kept dry when storing
- Cross-contamination possible if damp
- False results possible if fertilizer is in the soil
If you are looking for something that is simple to use and won’t break the bank, then pH test strips will be the best bet for you.
A good choice is the Garden Tutor pH Test Strips.
- Calibrated specifically for soil pH testing
- Fast, accurate results
- Optimize soil pH to plants specific needs
- Enough test strips for 100 soil pH tests
- Includes detailed 16 page full color pH testing handbook with lime and sulfur application charts
So Which Soil PH Meter Should You Buy?
The accuracy of soil pH meters and testing kits varies, but not by much. The choice you make will come down to how much you want to spend, how often you intend to test, and how easy you want it to be. While an electronic meter will provide the best accuracy, which registers to the nearest decimal point, they may be an expensive purchase and more than a general gardener would require.
If you are looking for a rough guide to the acidity of your garden soil purely for planting purposes, then the Dye & Test strips will suffice. However, if you are looking at changing or increasing your soil pH via the use of soil additives, then you really need an electronic meter to prevent your garden becoming overly acidic and leading to plant death.
Try to work out how often you intend to test your soil pH level, how much you want to splash out on a tester, and whether you need detailed information or just a rough estimate of acidity levels. Hopefully, this article will help you make up your mind and see how accurate are soil pH meters are for your garden needs.