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Are you considering starting a garden at home? But your grades in high school agriculture aren’t all too encouraging? You might have understandable questions about the nature of your garden soil. Perhaps, you may have just started your garden and have a natural fear of your plants experiencing stunted growth. If you fall into any of these categories, you must carry out a soil test to alleviate your fears.
For starters, the quality of your garden soil could significantly prevent your garden from achieving natural glory. So, soil tests are important for you to assess the quality of soil in your garden and let you know what steps to take to improve it. This is because a healthy lawn, flower bed, or pot plant needs the right environment, high-quality nutrients, and good soil for dynamic growth.
The good news is that with the aid of a soil test kit, you can easily and quickly carry out a test from the comfort of your home without summoning a soil testing company.
Carrying out an at home soil test will help you understand the components of your soil, so you can take appropriate measures to ensure that the soil is ideal for supporting healthy plant growth. In addition, keeping track of important soil properties such as its texture, drainage, composition, acidity, and mineral density will help you manage your garden and control losses.
In this article, you’ll learn everything there is to know about carrying out a soil test at home and find out the 7 best at-home soil test kits money can buy.
CAN I DO AT HOME SOIL TEST?
Yes, you can do a soil test right from the comfort of your home using an at home soil test kit. Carrying out a soil test does not require any form of professionalism, as this soil test kit comes with easy-to-follow instructions and procedures.
HOW DO YOU TEST IF YOUR SOIL AT HOME IS GOOD?
Home soil tests will hint at what soil you’re working with and if there is any need for improvement.
While some plants thrive and flourish effortlessly, others need specific conditions to do the same. For example, if you want your plants to grow in the best possible soil environment, you’ll need to test the soil to ensure it has the proper nutrients in the right proportions.
Likewise, before planting anything in your garden, it’s best to test the soil to know if you’ll need to add anything to help your plant grow adequately.
The test for the soil nutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) is slightly different from the pH test.
I’ll be showing you how to carry out both soil tests.
Equipment and Materials Needed.
- At-home Soil test kit.
- Clean container.
- Clean shovel or trowel.
- A clean absorbable sheet.
- Distilled water
Here’s how to collect the soil sample for testing
- Use a clean shovel or trowel (to avoid contaminating the soil) to take a sample from different parts of your garden and remove any plant residue, leaves, or surface dirt.
- Then you cut straight into the soil approximately 6 to 8 inches deep to take your sample (avoid taking samples from where ashes have been dumped, manure or compost stored, or brush burned, as this may tamper with the test result). Next, repeat random sampling around the garden.
- After you’re done collecting your samples, combine them in a large container; it could be plastic, paper, stainless steel, or even a glass container (Avoid using a filthy container). Materials containing dirt will introduce foreign substances into the soil and alter your reading.
- Mix the soil samples you’ve collected thoroughly using the same shovel or trowel in step 1. Next, spread the soil evenly on a clean absorbent surface in a warm enclosed area and allow it to dry for 12 hours – 24 hours until most of the naturally-occurring moisture evaporates.
After you’ve collected your sample, follow these steps to carry out an at home soil test;
- Using a clean container, mix 1 cup (150 g) of soil with 5 cups (1,200 ml) of distilled water instead of tap water. This will ensure that your test result is accurate, as tap water contains chemicals and minerals that can alter the result. Next, with a clean plastic or stainless steel utensil, stir the soil into the water and allow the mixture to sit until the soil settles.
NB: Heavy clay can take up to 24hrs to settle, so you might have to wait a while before moving on to the next step (you want your testing water to be as clear as possible, so it is better you leave this water to sit overnight).
- Now that your sample is settled; with an eyedropper that is packaged in the at home soil testing kit (or a normal eye dropper), carefully fill both chambers of the test containers included in your test kit with sample water (be careful not to disturb the murk at the bottom because you need clear water). Add the water until it just reaches the line at the top of the uppermost colored square. Do not under-fill or over-fill either chamber.
- Every home soil testing kit comes with its own reagents and equipment, but the basic testing method is similar. Most of them come with special capsules corresponding to the different soil components (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) you want to test. Designating one container for each component, carefully add each capsule of test powder to its matching container. Do this by pulling apart the plastic capsule corresponding to the nutrient you want to test and emptying its contents into the container. Be careful not to spill the capsule’s content so that the results are not affected.
- Mix it up by shaking it vigorously. Allow it to sit until the test powder is completely dissolved. Ensure that you wait at least 10 minutes after mixing before you begin reading the results (Ensure the particles are completely dissolved. Set a timer if you have to). Make sure to give the test powder adequate time to mingle with your sample water.
- All you have to do now is check the color of your sample water and compare it with the color chart in the soil test kit.
To check the soil pH test using stripes
- After you’ve collected your soil sample, mix the dry sample with distilled water in any clean container of your choice.
- Stir the mixture vigorously and allow it to sit for about 30 minutes.
- Drain the sample into another clean glass container using a coffee filter to get a clear liquid sample free from solid particles.
- Dip the test strip into the sample (make sure to read the instruction on the test kit manufacturer’s manual to know how long to leave it in the liquid)
- When the color is turned, compare it with the color chart to determine the pH of your soil.
Soil pH test using a Metered Test Probe
- Dig a 2-4 inches hole in your yard.
- Fill up the hole with distilled water.
- Insert the calibrated test probe into the mud.
- Hold it in there for 60 seconds and take your reading.
- Repeat this procedure in a different part of your garden or yard, as the case may be.
DO AT HOME SOIL TESTS KITS WORK?
Yes, they do, even though they have several limitations. When choosing a soil test kit, there are features you should look out for, as this also contributes to the workability of the test kit.
A good soil test kit will offer information about the soil’s pH value, salinity, electrical conductivity, total dissolved solids, texture, moisture, nutrients, and temperature and recommend fertilizers to apply after the test have been carried out.
Also, the kit should be durable, lightweight, compact, and strong yet sensitive.
- MySoil – Allows you to test your soil for 13 available plant nutrients including Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.
- Soil Savvy – This home soil kit tests for pH and the levels of 14 nutrients, including Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium
- Atree – The 3-in-1 soil meter measures the soil moisture, pH value, and sunlight intensity
- Garden Tutor – This kit is tests soil pH.
- Kensizer – Designed to specifically to check soil moisture and pH.
- Rapitest – Accurately determines the soil pH and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (potash) content of indoor and outdoor soil samples.
- LusterLeaf – Easy to use and provides accurate results for soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium.
The MySoil Starter Pack soil by Predictive Nutrient Solutions is a revolutionary test kit that comes with one MySoil soil test kit and a stainless steel MySoil soil probe. All the products in the kit are 100% made in the United States.
- The MySoil Starter Pack allows millions of prospective home gardeners like you to grow the healthiest gardens by providing accurate results.
- The soil test kit is easy-to-use.
- It provides organic and synthetic fertilizer recommendations tailored specifically to your soil type.
- It can accurately detect and measure 13 available plant nutrients, including Nitrogen and pH, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfur, Iron, Magnesium, Boron, Copper, Zinc, and Sodium.
- The MySoil Starter Pack includes everything you need, including sample collection, soil testing, and prepaid return postage.
- The starter pack also has a specially designed soil probe that’s easy to use. The soil probe is made from 100% stainless steel, measuring 8 inches in height and 0.5 inches in diameter.
- The probe allows you to have consistency in the depth and proportion of soil measured to ensure that only the best quality soil sample is collected.
At $59.99 you can get the MySoil Starter Pack directly from their official website.
This soil test kit is easy to use, and if you care about the healthy composition of your lawn or garden, then this is the best product for you. It provides you with easy-to-use tools, accurate results, and access to information that will help you improve your soil.
Soil Savvy is an amazing soil test kit that lets you know exactly what your plants need to flourish, eliminating the need for guessing and questioning. It aims to revolutionize home soil testing
It is a ready-to-use professional-grade at home soil test kit available to the general public and perfect for organic gardening.
- Soil Savvy is easy to use and gives quick results.
- This soil test kit provides you with a full detailed report of the pH and plant available levels of 14 nutrients, including Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.
- The soil test kit comes with all the necessary components and easy-to-follow instructions to guide you.
- All you have to do is fill the Soil Savvy container provided in the kit with a portion of soil and mail it in the prepaid postage envelope.The soil sample is then taken to the UNIBEST laboratory to be thoroughly analyzed.
- The results of the analysis are sent directly to your email or your account dashboard on the official website.
- A Soil Savvy analysis report provides an easy-to-understand graph clearly showing the soil nutrient level (too low, too high, or normal).
- UNIBEST provides you with custom fertilizer recommendations tailored to your soil to give your plants just what they need.
Soil Savvy home soil testing kit is available for $26.95 on the official website. It comes with special discounts that allow you to save 10% and 15% when you purchase 2 packs and 4 packs, respectively.
This professional-grade soil testing kit is super easy to use. It will help you better understand your lawn by providing you with precise fertilizer recommendations for organic and synthetic products in an easy-to-read format specifically for your soil type.
Atree is a 3-in-1 soil meter that’s capable of testing the moisture content, light, and pH of the soil in your gardens, farm, indoor and outdoor plant pots, and lawn. It is easy to use and requires no battery to function optimally.
- Atree 3-in-1 soil meter measures the soil moisture, pH value, and sunlight intensity to help you make the necessary improvements to your soil.
- This 3-in-1 at home soil test kit is easy to use, and all you have to do is insert the testing probes into the soil (4-6 inches deep) and get your readings.
- The best part is that Atree doesn’t require batteries to power it.
- The included sensitive testing probe can detect changes in the soil and send signals to the conductor to display accurate results.
- It tests pH range of 3.5-8
- It tests moisture range of 1-10 accurately.
- It tests relative light of between 0 and 200 lux.
- It can be used in both indoor and outdoor areas.
At $17.92, the Atree 3-in-1 soil meter is available for purchase in selected online stores
This home soil testing kit is designed to accurately measure moisture, the pH level of the soil, and sunlight level. The moisture meter is useful and seems to work pretty well, and its relatively lower price makes it affordable.
Garden Tutor Course Kit is a robust soil testing kit produced by Garden Tutor, whose aim is to create simple, effective, and practical tools that solve important questions.
This at home soil test kit forms a part of the Garden Tutor Course kit (it comes with a free online course) that provides free access to learning tools that help you start and nurture your garden with confidence and competence.
- The course kit includes many tools, including a compass, a full-color reference guide, a soil pH test kit, a compass, measuring tape, a soil testing jar, drafting tools, layout graph paper for your garden, and much more.
- The soil pH test strips are calibrated to test pH between 3.5 and 9.
- It comes with 100 test strips.
- The soil test kit has a full-color pH testing handbook that features lime and sulfur charts.
- The course kit has a compass that allows you to analyze sun exposure.
- It also comes with a soil sample mailing kit that allows you to take soil samples and mail them to Garden Tutor for testing. However, this comes at an extra cost.
The Garden Tutor Course Kit is available for sale at $39.95. On the other hand, the Garden Tutor Soil pH test strips cost $14.49.
This soil test kit requires no expertise, and its instructions are easy to read. Using the pH strips doesn’t create a mess and is affordable. I recommend this soil testing kit if you want accurate results for testing the pH of your soil.
A product by Kensizer Inc, the Kensizer soil tester is a vital soil test kit designed specifically to check soil moisture and pH.
It comes with a responsive dial and dashboard that makes it easy for you to read the test result and take better control of the state of your plant’s growth.
- The Kensizer can test for soil pH and moisture content in one set.
- It is lightweight and portable, making it easy to use and carry around for testing on the go.
- The dashboard and arrow pointer makes it easy to read test results.
- The Kensizer at-home soil test kit doesn’t require batteries to function.
- The simple probe detection function allows you to easily insert the probe into the soil and get accurate results while limiting damage to the probe.
- Soil moisture during testing must be between 4 and 7 to ensure that you get a relative pH value that’s close to the absolute value.
The Kensizer soil test kit is available at $14.99 on the official website.
What sets this particular soil test kit apart is that it comes with a moisture tester that ensures you are not overwatering your expensive plants.
It is also quick and affordable.
The Rapitest Premium Soil allows you to test indoor and outdoor soil samples to accurately determine the soil pH and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (potash) content.
It is easy to use and portable.
- Rapitest Premium soil test kit (80 test kit 1663) allows for field or classroom use.
- It provides accurate and low-cost testing for soil pH and important nutrients such as Nitrogen, phosphorus, and Potassium.
- It comes packed in a sturdy carrying case that allows you to easily take it anywhere.
- The soil test kit is easy to use and comes with complete instructions. You also get specific recommendations to improve soil quality based on the test results.
- Rapitest’s at-home testing kit contains liquid reagents and enough equipment for you to carry out 80 total tests, 20 each for pH, Potassium, phosphorus, and Nitrogen.
Rapitest premium soil test kit costs $29.49
If you are new to soil testing, you might want to consider this at-home test kit, as it will equip you with what you need to know about the basic nutrient composition and pH of your soil.
Lusterleaf rapidest digital soil test kit is designed for professional and home use. It has 25 tests: 10 each for soil pH and 5 each to test the soil nutrient (Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium).
This soil test kit also comes with a color comparison system that makes it easy to read
- LusterLeaf test kit is quick and easy to use, providing accurate results for soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium.
- This innovative and affordable soil test kit is easy-to-use and has patented color comparators.
- It contains all components needed for 25 tests. 10 each for pH and 5 each for Nitrogen, Phosphorus potassium
- It comes with detailed, easy-to-understand instructions that even a beginner and experienced gardener can understand.
- The soil test kit includes a soil pH preference list for more than 450 plants that you can use as a reference.
LusterLeaf is available for purchase at $38.95
This soil comes with a tester booklet that tells you how to adjust your soil pH and provide fertilizer recommendation.
ARE DIY TEST KITS ACCURATE?
If you are considering testing your soil and you’re wondering how much you can trust the results, DIY soil test kits may not be as accurate as professional soil testing. But getting the reliable result you want is totally dependent on your ability to follow clear instructions, as these kits come with specific instructions.
When used correctly, home soil test kits are pretty accurate. However, there are other factors that may affect the accuracy of the test. For example, using a contaminated sample or not using the right amount of soil sample.
Overall, home soil test kits are a reliable way to test the nutrient levels in your soil.
Whether you’re a gardener or a farmer, as long s you’re growing seeds in the ground, you need these home soil test kits. A soil test kit is one of the most important tools for growing healthy and vibrant plants. Soil testing is easy, and you can do it all by yourself.
Regardless of which kit you choose to buy, you no longer have to wait for ages before your soil test result from the laboratory arrives.
Get your preferred soil testing kit today.