Every gardener knows just how important testing the pH of soil is in order to ensure that plants are grown as optimally as they can.
What every gardener may not know, however, is what the best soil pH testers are. This is why we took it upon ourselves to discover the six top testers out there that are accurate, easy to use, and reasonably priced.
We have also written a buyers guide to give you an idea of what aspects to consider, the options available to you, and answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
- 1 Soil Tester Comparison Table
- 2 Soil pH Tester Reviews
- 3 Soil pH Tester Buyers Guide
Soil Tester Comparison Table
Soil pH Tester Reviews
DigHealth Soil PH/Moisture/Light Meter
With its ability to measure the pH of soil, its moisture, as well as light, there aren’t too many other devices on the market that offer this kind of versatility at such a low price.
From the picture you can see that there are two rods. The left rod measures the moisture, and the right rod measures the pH of the soil. The square dot on the face of the meter is the light sensor.
The pH is measured from a range of 3.5 – 8, the light from 0 dark – 2,000 Lumen, and the moisture from 0 Dry – 10 Wet.
It may take a little while to obtain an accurate reading – insert a probe into the soil and wait 2 hours – but the readings end up accurate. We also like how no batteries are required.
Luster Leaf 1605 Rapitest Digital Soil Testing Kit
Luster Leaf is one of the most reputable brands when it comes to testing soil, which is why we have included three of the company’s products on this list. The 1605 Rapitest is the first.
This device works a little differently to others on this list, in the sense that no probes are used. Instead, you obtain a sample of soil by mixing it with water, place it in a test tube, place the test tube in the chamber, push the appropriate button and obtain a reading in a matter of seconds.
One of the best things about this kit is that a booklet comes included that provides pH preferences for over 450 plants and how to adjust the pH of the soil. Recommendations for the best fertilizers to use are also provided.
We also really like not only are you able to perform 10 tests for pH, but also 5 each for Phosphorus, Nitrogen, and Potash.
MacDoDo 4-in-1 Tester
If you’re looking for one of the best soil pH testers that also gives you the ability to measure moisture, light, and temperature, you’ve found it.
The pH of soil is measured from a range of 3.5 to 9.0, moisture is measured in 5 levels, light in 9 levels, and temperature from -9C to +50C. It’s also good to see that the tester is very easy to use – just plug and read. All readings are accurate.
The LED screen is generously sized, which is always a plus to ensure that everything is as easy to read as possible. The meter takes a 9V battery and there is also a low battery indicator on the display too, which definitely comes in handy.
Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Soil Test Kit
This soil test kit from Luster Leaf not only gives you the ability to test the pH of soil, but also tests levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. In total, 40 tests are included – 10 each for pH, Potash, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus.
It simply works by you obtaining a soil sample into a vial, adding the contents of a capsule that is color-coded into the vial, shaking it, and then reading off the results on the color chart.
One thing to keep in mind is that the capsules are quite small, so you need to be careful when emptying them into the tester.
It’s also good to see that the chart has pH and NPK levels for more than 100 plants.
Rittenhouse Soil PH Meter
If you’re serious about obtaining only the most accurate readings, this tester by Rittenhouse is the one to buy.
In fact, it is used by professional lawn care companies, so you know that the quality is there. For this reason it is the most expensive on this list.
The pH range measured stands at between 3 and 8, but best of all is how no calibration is required. It is also much simpler to use and obtains readings much faster than many other testers on the market, taking under 5 minutes for a highly accurate reading.
There is also no need to mess around with a power source, chemicals, and most impressively even distilled water isn’t need either.
Luster Leaf 1880 Rapitest Electronic 4-Way Analyzer
The last of the best soil pH testers is a 4-in-1 tester that is available at a very reasonable price. You are able to measure soil pH, sunlight, fertility, and moisture, including NPK levels. Although, keep in mind that NPK numbers are not specifically given.
3 probes can be found on the device that measure 3 ¼. One downside that we will mention is that the display is quite small, which means that checking the readings takes more than just a quick glance.
As is typical of Luster Leaf products, extensive instructions are provided, and you are given recommendations on what to do to achieve optimal growth based on the readings.
No batteries are required, which is something we’re sure many will appreciate.
Soil pH Tester Buyers Guide
What is a Soil pH Tester Kit?
Every indoor and outdoor gardener knows that in order to grow anything in their garden well, the pH level of the soil has to be just right. This ensures that plants are able to absorb all of the various nutrients they need. The soil can’t be too acidic or too alkaline. Instead of trying to guess the pH level, a soil tester kit takes the guesswork out and gives you the answer.
What is pH?
pH is simply a measure of acidity. The number ranges from 0 and 14. 7 is neutral, any number below means acidity, and any number above means alkalinity.
While most people already know this because they learned it in school, what some may not know is that this scale is logarithmic.
What this means is that every increase by a single number actually means an acidity change of tenfold. For example, if the pH is 2 and it changes to 3, this actually means that acidity has changed by 10x. If it has changed from 2 to 4, the change is 100x.
As you can probably tell, this is why it is so important to get the pH level correct and only purchase the most accurate meters, as even if the reading is slightly off it can have a large effect on just how optimally your plants are able to grow. Having said that, many plants are able to grow well in a wide pH range, although some may not.
Different Types of Soil Testers
There are three different types of soil tester kits available: electronic meters, colored dyes, and pH test strips.
Electronic meters are considered to be the most accurate testers. They are therefore the best soil pH testers. In order to obtain pH reading, a probe is inserted into the soil, and the display informs you of the pH level. This is usually the case with more inexpensive models. However, more accurate meters require you to insert the probe into soil water.
This method of testing the pH requires you mix the colored dyes with soil water. You will see the color it changes to and can then compare it to the supplied chart to get an idea of the pH level.
pH Test Strips
Remember using litmus paper at school? Well, pH test strips can be thought of as more advanced versions of litmus paper. You are required to place a couple of teaspoons of soil into a glass container, fill it with water, shake the container, let it rest for 30 minutes or so, pour the soil sample through a filter into a second container, dip the pH strip into the second container, and finally compare the color on the pH strip to the chart that comes provided.
Factors to Consider
Accuracy is inevitably the most important aspect to consider. If a soil pH tester isn’t accurate it is beyond useless. Keep in mind that sometimes inaccurate readings are measured which isn’t directly the fault of the tester. Extreme temperatures – both hot and cold – can result in inaccurate readings.
Typically, the more you pay the higher quality and therefore more accurate the tester kit will be. Fortunately, you don’t need to break the bank to purchase a reliable and accurate tester – you only need to spend around $20.
Easy to Use
No gardener wants to be spending hours trying to obtain an accurate reading. Some of the more elaborate kits contain a number of components, including liquid reagents and test tubes. Keep in mind, that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are more accurate though.
A good electronic meter simply requires you to dip a probe directly into the soil or into soil water to obtain an accurate reading.
Clear instructions in the form of a step-by-step guide should also be included.
Maintenance is important to ensure that you are able to get the most accurate readings every time. This includes regularly cleaning the pH meter, calibration, and ensuring that the probe is kept in a special solution that keeps the electrode of the meter in check.
Size of Samples to Use
The larger the sample, the more accurate the result. This is because larger samples are more representative of the average pH of the soil as a whole. Small samples may lead to inaccuracy and leave you wondering why the pH reading you obtain is different every time.
What’s better than a soil tester that measure pH? One that measures NPK, of course. This stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The more information you have about the soil the better. But keep in mind that these soil pH kits are more expensive.
Besides pH, some testers also allow you to measure things like light and moisture too.
Are there any downsides to using electronic meters?
While electronic meters are highly accurate, tend to be easy to use, are portable, and are simple to calibrate, there are a couple of downsides.
The reading can be affected by temperature, so testing in extremely hot or cold environments may lead to some inaccuracy. Electronic meters are more expensive than other options, such as colored dyes and pH test strips. They also need to be calibrated with some degree of regularity.
Will I need to purchase batteries?
Many of the best soil pH testers have batteries already built into the meter and they should last for quite some time.
How often do I need to calibrate the meter?
Ideally, the meter should be calibrated before and after every use. If you forget, don’t worry; just remember to do so next time.