The best soil tester
Plants need light, oxygen, water and a growing medium to meet their nutrient needs. Commercial and natural fertilizers can provide essential nutrients that the soil may lack. But to get the right type of fertilizer, gardeners should first know the condition of the soil they have. Testing garden soil is the best way to determine what – if anything – and how much it needs. Soil testers and test kits range from simple pH strips to complex chemicals where defects can be identified. There are a variety of soil test kits available, but how reliable are they? Home gardeners rely on these kits when deciding whether to improve their soil, so I want to make sure the kits provide accurate results.
The best soil test kit to help achieve one gardener’s goals may not be the best for another, as various kits provide different types of results. I tested multiple suites for accuracy, reliability, and ease of use. Know in advance what to look for when buying a soil test kit, and find out why the following products are great for helping to determine soil defects. Also, identify the pros and cons of each product that I found in my hands-on testing.
Considerations when selecting the best soil sensor
Many gardeners and home gardeners buy fertilizer and soil amendment products that promise to boost plant growth, improve soil structure or bloom and produce fruit. Still, unless the product provides what the soil lacks, the result may not be what the gardener expects. In some cases — such as fertilizing nutrient-rich soil — plants may even suffer fertilizer burns. Soil testing takes the guesswork out of gardening and landscaping, which is why I tested the top soil testing products on the market today.
Soil quality varies from place to place. The soil in some areas may be perfect for growing vegetables and flowers, while in other places the soil must be heavily modified with organic matter before anything can be grown. The following four common soil types have different properties:
Silt: fine and soft, silt particles are smaller than sand. The silty soil is associated with previous floods that washed away the topsoil downstream. Silty soils are suitable for most types of plants, but can benefit from adding organic matter to help increase drainage. Depending on its nutrient content, the silt may also need fertilization.
Fertile: Fertile soil is the best mixture of silt, sand, clay and organic matter and is the gardener’s best friend. It drains well but resists compaction when dry. It is suitable for growing fruits, vegetables and most types of flowers and shrubs.
Clay: Although clay is rich in nutrients, it is made up of ultra-fine particles that stick together when wet and become hard when dry. Plants do not grow well in clay because their roots cannot penetrate thick clay as easily as they can in other types of soil. Clay must be modified with organic materials such as compost to help aerate the soil and make it suitable for growing plants.
Sand: Better than clay because it provides space between grains for roots to grow, but is not as nutrient-rich as loam, and sandy soils drain well. It is suitable for growing bulbs, such as tulips, and root crops, including potatoes and carrots. When preparing the soil for the upcoming growing season, adding organic matter will help retain moisture when planting other types of plants.
The best soil test kits can help gardeners figure out the most beneficial fertilizers or amendments to add to the garden. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about soil test kits.
Q: Why do I need to test the soil?
If the plant is thriving, there is no need to test the soil. But if the plant appears to be wilted, dead or simply not growing well, testing the soil can help determine if the problem is due to a lack of soil structure or nutrients.
Q: Can I test my soil?
Absolutely. Many DIY soil testers are available to test everything from moisture and pH levels to the amount and type of nutrients in the soil.
Q: Is the digital soil monitoring instrument accurate?
Digital soil testers are usually fairly accurate. Gardeners can improve accuracy by conducting multiple tests at different locations in the garden and comparing the results.
Q. What are the methods of soil testing?
Soil test kits feature pH dipsticks, analog or digital meters, and chemical testing. A soil sample can be sent to a laboratory for professional testing.
Q: What does the pH test measure?
The pH test measures the acidity and alkalinity levels of the soil.
Q: How do you adjust soil pH?
Soil treatments can raise or lower the pH of the soil, depending on what the gardener is planting.