Are your plants failing to flower or experiencing slow growth? It could be the quality of your soil that’s holding them back from achieving natural glory. Testing your soil is the best way to check that your garden has all the nutrients they need to grow and produce majestic flowers and vegetables.
A soil pH kit provides you with a solution to your issue. These testing kits analyze the nutrient content of your soil, showing you deficiencies, and allowing you to make adjustments using fertilizer or other nutrient formulas.
Take a look through the gardening department of any online retailer, and you’ll find dozens of these DIY self-testing kits available. How do you know which one will best suit your gardening needs?
In this review, we’ll walk you through the best soil test kits available.
- 1 Top Picks
- 2 Best Soil Test Kit Reviews
- 3 Pro Lab Testing Soil Savvy Soil Testing Kit
- 4 Luster Leaf Rapitest 1663 Premium Soil Test Kit
- 5 Luster Leaf 1847 Rapitest Digital PLUS Soil pH Meter
- 6 Luster Leaf Rapitest 1880 Electronic 4-Way Analyzer
- 7 Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit
- 8 AquaChek AccuGrow Soil Testing Strips
- 9 Soil Tester 3-in-1 Moisture Light PH Multifunctional Soil Acidity Test Kit
- 10 Soil Moisture Meter,3-in-1 Soil Test Kit, and Soil PH Test kit
- 11 Whitetail Institute Laboratory Soil-Test Kit
- 12 Why Is It Important to Test Your Soil?
- 13 The Types of Tests to Run on Your Soil
- 14 The Types of Soil Testing
- 15 Is It Possible to Get a Free Soil Test?
- 16 Wrapping Up – The Verdict
Before we start our review, we realize that some gardeners might want to skip to the final results. Here are our top options for DIY soil test kits.
Winner: Pro Lab Testing Soil Savvy Soil Testing Kit
- Soil Testing Simplified! Soil Savvy is a Ready-To-Use professional-grade soil test kit available to the general public that provides an Easy-To-Understand fertilizer recommendation tailored to your specific soil or growing medium.
- Take your soil sample, mail back with the paid postage, and receive your full media report in 3-5 days. Ok to use on all outdoor types of media, indoor medias including peat, coco, soils, composts.
- The analysis provides a full report, comprised of soil pH and 14 nutrients including (N,P,K) and access to all reports online. Soil Savvy is a truly sustainable approach to fertilizer management, by determining what nutrients are needed by your plants and eliminates over application of the nutrients they don’t need.
- The same soil testing technology used by leading agricultural producers, turf managers and landscapers is now available to YOU the home gardener! Each Kit includes all needed components and instructions for use.
This comprehensive testing kit checks the soil for both macronutrients and micronutrients, giving the gardener the information they need to make accurate soil adjustments.
Runner Up: Luster Leaf 1847 Rapitest Digital Soil Test Kit
- Easy to read digital output
- Instantly measures pH level
- Includes built-in electronic plant database with ability to build favorites list
- Have a look at the user manual below to get detailed usage instructions
- Designed and engineered in the USA
This test kit is the ideal blend of technology and chemical reagents, giving you accurate soil readings every time.
Best Value: Rapitest Premium Soil Test Kit 1663
- Contains components for 80 tests. 20 each for Soil pH, N, P and K
- Comes with sturdy plastic case
- Simple and detailed instructions included
- pH preference list for hundreds of plants included
- Tips for gardening and altering soil conditions included
This chemical soil test kit has everything you need to manage the soil in your garden. Complete with a refillable regent, this test kit is practical and affordable.
Best Soil Test Kit Reviews
And now, the moment you’re waiting for is here. Let’s unpack each of the best chemical and digital soil testing kits available right now.
Pro Lab Testing Soil Savvy Soil Testing KitThe Savvy Soil Testing kit does everything you need when analyzing your soil. This kit is one of the few that offers you both macronutrient and micronutrient testing. The Soil Savvy unit delivers fast and accurate results, and it breaks down the test results. For instance, the kit tests for nitrogen levels, and then breaks down those test results into levels of both ammonium and nitrates.
In addition to the macronutrient breakdown, the kit also tests for levels of macronutrients, including magnesium, calcium, sodium, sulfur, boron, copper, zinc, iron, and manganese as well. This feature makes this the ideal testing kit for professional gardeners that want to know what’s going on in their soil.
The kit also makes suggestions on soil alterations based on your results. You get fertilizer recommendations, as well as guidance on the right organic and synthetic fertilizers to add to your soil.
The device also lets you know how much fertilizer to add to your garden as well. If you’re new to soil testing and want the best equipment available, then this is your top choice. The device has one of the highest price tags in this review, but we fell that it’s worth the money.
Luster Leaf Rapitest 1663 Premium Soil Test Kit
This kit is the best premium option available. With the Rapitest, you get the option of 80-different tests to perform on your soil samples. The kit measures NPK levels, as well as soil pH. It’s not surprising that it doesn’t feature any micronutrient testing, but that’s commonplace for most DIY options.
When using your kit, you’ll need some patience, as the results often take up to 10-minutes to show. Still, it’s a faster test than sending a soil sample off to the lab for analysis. The kit comes in a robust plastic case, and you also have the option of order reagent refills as well.
The chemical kit produces far better results than any probe system we tried, but you need a steady hand when pouring the right dose of reagent from the vials. As you play around with the reagents, you’ll feel like a mad gardening scientist, which is somewhat amusing.
We think that this is the best soil testing kit in this review. We highly recommend it to both novice and experienced gardeners for the best testing solution available.
Luster Leaf 1847 Rapitest Digital PLUS Soil pH MeterThe Rapitest 1847 kit tests nutrient concentrations at the root level of the plants. You can push the probe on this kit deep into the soil to see what macronutrients your plants are absorbing. The kit doesn’t test for micronutrients, but it does analyze the soil pH.
The easy-to-read digital display instantly measures the soil pH in a few seconds, and the reading is accurate. The unit has a built-in database of preferred pH levels for different plants, allowing you to optimize the spoil for your growing conditions and plant varieties.
Designed and engineered in the United States, this digital testing kit is pricey, but it’s a worthwhile addition to any gardeners tool collection.
Luster Leaf Rapitest 1880 Electronic 4-Way Analyzer
This 4-way testing kit is ideal for those gardeners with a bigger budget that wants to know more about the status of the soil in their garden. The kit features a 4-way testing system that checks macronutrient levels, pH, sunlight levels, and soil moisture.
It’s the ideal choice for newbie gardeners that need to learn more about water management and planting sites for the garden. Some reports show that the macronutrient analysis of the kit is somewhat hit or miss, with user reviews stating the same outcome.
One of the biggest downfalls of this device is it doesn’t offer you a breakdown in the concentrations of each macronutrient.
Instead, the kit offers you a “soil fertility” test that averages the values of NPK in the soil. While this is useful for plants that rely on a balanced fertilizer mix, it doesn’t suit plants that prefer a nitrogen-rich soil, such as tomatoes.
However, we did find the soil moisture and sunlight test beneficial, and they’re ideal for newbie gardeners or experts that need specialized monitoring of moisture levels, such as orchid growers. The pH test works well, and the results are available in seconds on the device’s digital display.
Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test KitThe Luster Leaf Rapitest 1601 is a classic home chemical testing kit for measuring the nutrient content and pH of your soil. With this kit, you place your spoil sample in the tube on the exterior of the kit. Add a few drops of distilled water, and mix in the reagent capsule.
You’ll need to wait for 5 to 10-minutes for the reaction to occur. After the color settlers, you can compare the results to the color chart provided with the kit.
There are plenty of other manufacturers offering similar versions of this kit, but we think that the Rapitest range offers gardeners the best and most consistent results.
Rapitest attach the color chart to the case of the kit, so you never have to worry about misplacing or losing your color chart. Each of the test boxes caters to one of four tests for N, P, K, or pH. You can complete 10-tests without the need to reorder your reagent capsules.
This kit is not as accurate as professional soil testing, but it’s a good guideline for amateur gardeners that want to know the pH or macronutrient properties of their soil.
It’s an inexpensive kit, and you can expect to get results that reflect the price – somewhat mediocre. You also get a soil pH preference list that includes recommendations for more than 450 plants.
AquaChek AccuGrow Soil Testing Strips
We’re not a fan of using test strips for your soil testing. While testing strips are very easy to use, and they don’t create any mess, they also lack accurate results. The AquaChek testing strips are easy to use, and all you need to do is mix some soil with distilled water, and then add the strip to the mixture.
After pulling out your test strip, you have an instant reading that’s easy to compare to a color chart. The comparison chart comes separate from the kit, so you’ll have to ensure that you don’t misplace or lose it, or you’ll need to buy another kit. However, the kit does allow you to place the test strip over the chart, allowing for an accurate analysis.
The strips test for the presence of pH, N, P, and K in the soil, but it doesn’t offer you a breakdown of the analysis by macronutrient. You also get a spoil treatment guide with the kit, including suggestions on soil adjustments.
This soil testing kit is ideal for novice gardeners that want a general overview of the soil macronutrient profile. However, advanced gardeners might find the results a bit lacking. However, the system does provide you with a general overview that’s useful for determining if you need a lab test on your soil.
Soil Tester 3-in-1 Moisture Light PH Multifunctional Soil Acidity Test Kit
This basic soil testing unit doesn’t measure levels of N, P, and K, and it doesn’t test the soil for micronutrients either. However, the device does measure soil pH, as well as soil moisture and sunlight levels.
There’s no fancy level of detail with this device, but it does work well as a day-to-day testing unit. The unit accurately measures moisture, sunlight levels, and pH, and we find that it’s a good choice for novice gardeners that want to keep tabs on the health of the soil during the growing season.
We recommend this device if you have issues with hard water in your county, and you need to check the pH of your soil accurately several times a week after watering your garden.
The sunlight detection panel features placement at the front of the panel, which is an odd position, and might not give accurate results. We like to push the probe into the soil at an angle to allow for maximum sunlight to reach the sensor.
The soil tester has a reasonable price point, and it’s an affordable option for novice gardeners.
Soil Moisture Meter,3-in-1 Soil Test Kit, and Soil PH Test kit
Similar to the previous soil testing kit on offer from Soil Moisture, this 3-in-1 testing unitis another unit designed for in-ground use. This unit is one of the most popular on offer due to its affordable price, and you’ll find it in garden centers across the United States.
We fell that the device’s standard pH level setting is too high, as the device measures optimal pH soil levels between 7 to 8, not 6 to 7, as we would like. However, for the price, you get a device that reasonably accurate, and suitable for novice gardeners that want a general guideline for watering or feeding plants.
You also get a sunlight monitor as well, but it’s in the same awkward position as the previous unit we covered. Where this device is ahead of the pack is with its moisture detection. The device requires you to insert the probe into the ground, and it produces a reading of between 1 to 10 to give you an indication if it’s time to water the garden.
One of the drawbacks of this tester and the previous product is that it can take up to 15-minutes for the reading to settle. Therefore, you’ll need to put it in the ground and walk away for a while to do other gardening work before you come back and take the reading.
Whitetail Institute Laboratory Soil-Test Kit
If you’re a gardener that wants the most scientific approach to soil testing, then we can recommend the commercial lab test kit from the Whitetail Institute. With this kit, you get a free consultation of your soil test in layman’s terms from the team at Whitetail.
You’ll need to ship your soil sample to the Whitetail Institute, and that’s a hassle. However, the company gets back to you with an in-depth analysis of your soil content. The report also includes both macronutrient and micronutrient readings. You also get advice on how to fertilize your garden to bring the nutrient levels into balance, as well.
If you have the money to spend, and you don’t mind waiting for your results, then this kit can be worthwhile for an accurate reading.
Why Is It Important to Test Your Soil?
Plants are like people in the sense that they need the optimal balance of macro and micronutrients to maintain health. If you plant your flowers and vegetables in nutrient-dense soil, they’ll flourish. Take away the nutrients, and they struggle.
Take a look at any fertilizer packaging, and you’ll see the common macronutrients listed on the label. Phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen are the three key nutrients that plants need to thrive. However, they also need micronutrients like calcium, as well.
Before you go ahead and plant those geraniums in your flowerbed, it’s best if you test the soil first. Testing throws out the guesswork in your gardening and allows you to prepare a substrate that’s suitable for your new flowers or vegetable plants.
You might not need to fertilize at all, and if you add fertilizer to nutrient-rich soil, it might result in your plants burning. By testing the earth, you ensure that you have the right balance of nutrients in the soil, avoiding these types of mishaps in your garden.
You’ll also need to check the pH balance of the soil as well. The ground requires the optimal balance between acidic and alkalinity for your plants to grow. If your soil is outside the optimal range, it affects the growth of your flowers and vegetables.
The Types of Tests to Run on Your Soil
When testing your soil, you’ll need to pay attention to the following issues.
All fertilizers you purchase online or from garden centers come with a Nitrogen, Potassium, and Potassium rating (NPK). The ration shows you how much of each nutrient is in the mixture. Your soil could be lacking in one or mo0re of these critical macronutrients. The soil could also have adequate levels of one or two nutrients while being deficient in a third.
A chemical test can accurately measure levels of potassium and nitrogen, but it might struggle to measure nitrogen levels in the soil accurately. Nitrogen is mobile in the soil, and it also collects in deposits. Even professional soil testing labs sometimes have an issue with accurately measuring nitrogen levels.
Nitrogen provides growth to the plants during the vegetative stage, while phosphorous provides the plants with the nutrient it needs to flower or produce fruit. Potassium allows the plant to build a robust root system, making the crop resistant to disease and changes in climate.
However, each of these nutrients can slow growth or cause aberrations in development if they aren’t at optimal levels in the soil.
Most home soil testing kits don’t test for nutrients other than the NPK macros listed above. However, your plants also require other micronutrients to maintain health. Examples of micronutrients affecting the health of your garden include calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and many more.
You also need to be aware of other anti-nutrients and contaminants in the soil, as well. Lead or sulfate deposits can stunt the growth of your plants and contaminate the final vegetables, making them unsuitable for consumption.
Soil pH Testing
The pH of your soil is critical in testing the alkalinity or acidity of the growing medium. Most plants in your garden will grow optimally in soil that has a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0. However, some plants might prefer more acidic soil, depending on the recommended growing requirements
Back in the day, farmers would test the soil’s pH by taking a mouthful of dirt and tasting it to determine the pH level. Fortunately, agricultural science made things a bit easier with the introduction of soil pH testing kits.
The Types of Soil Testing
There are three types of soil testing you can use when measuring your garden’s pH levels.
- Chemical testers
- Digital testers
- Lab testing service
Today, you get probe and chemical testing kits that can measure the soil’s pH in seconds. With a probe tester, all you need to do its push it into the ground and read the display of the device. With a chemical testing kit, you add a small amount of soil to a tester and combine it with chemicals to get the reading. Both ways are efficient and cost-effective methods of measuring soil pH.
Let’s look into each of the three methods in more detail.
Chemical Soil Testing
Most chemical soil testing kits are relatively straightforward to use. You’ll need to add a small sample of soil from your flowerbed or vegetable garden to a vial, and then drop in a colored capsule that corresponds with the vial lid.
Shake the vial, and then wait for the chemical reaction to take place. The manufacturer will provide a reference chart with the kit, allowing you to compare your test results. Using this method, you get a rough idea of the nutrient value and pH of the soil.
Each chemical soil testing kit comes with a limited amount of reagent. Therefore, you’ll have to buy a new kit when the reagent runs out.
Digital Soil Testing Devices
Digital kits are more complex than chemical testing kits. These battery-operated units launch electrical charges into the ground that interact with the nutrients in the soil. Some kits come with a probe that you insert directly into the soil.
Other kits require you to fill a vial with soil and add distilled water before probing the vial for your results. It’s important to note that you’ll need to clean the probe after each use to avoid alter9ing the results of your next test.
Most digital testing kits focus solely on testing the pH of the soil. There are a few that can tell you the nutrient value, but they aren’t as effective as the chemical testing kits.
Professional Lab Testing
Professional lab testing is the most accurate and useful method of testing the nutrient quantity and pH of your soil. You’ll need to take a soil sample from multiple sites in your garden and mix them. Let the soil dry our entirely, and then send it to the lab for testing. Most nurseries will take your soil sample and send it to the lab for you.
When the lab finishes, they’ll either call you directly or send the results back to the nursery for you to collect. Lab testing provides accurate results, and it’s the ideal method to use if you think you might have numerous nutrient deficiencies in your garden.
However, the results are subject to your soil sample. Therefore, it’s vital that you take numerous soil samples at different depths and sites around your flowerbeds. This method ensures that you get the most accurate results from your lab testing.
One of the best features of professional soil testing is that the test includes the makeup of your soil as well. The test will tell you how much silt, clay, sand, and organic material is present in your soil mix, allowing you to make the right adjustments to your growing substrate.
It’s also important to note that professional lab testing of your soil can be somewhat pricey and far costlier than buy a multi-use chemical or digital kit.
Is It Possible to Get a Free Soil Test?
If you’re looking for a free soil test, you have a few options. Most agricultural schools offer free testing results as a means to train their students in the art of soil testing. In some areas of the U.S, all you need to do is visit a local drop-point, like a library, and pick up a soil sample container.
Follow the directions inside the container, and then drop your sample off at the required testing facility for inspection. In some cases, you might have to pay a small fee to cover the sundries used ion the test.
DIY pH Testing
It’s entirely possible to do a basic home pH test on your soil using a few crude items. Take your soil sample and two clean containers. Split the sample between the two containers, and then
You can do a very rudimentary home pH test with just a few simple components, around 4-tablespoons in each is sufficient. Add a ½-cup of white vinegar to the soil, and listen for any sound of fizzing. If you do hear fizzing, then your soil is slightly too alkaline, and require adjustment back to the correct neutral pH balance.
In the second container, add a ½-cup of distilled water to the soil and half a cup of baking soda. If you hear a fizzing sound, then the soil is too acidic. However, both of these tests don’t reveal exact results, and it’s always better to go with a real testing kit over this DIY strategy.
Using the Right Water for pH and Macronutrient Testing
Using regular tap water is one of the biggest mistakes novice gardeners make when analyzing soil pH. Tap water varies in its pH level, depending on the city, county, or state. Not all tap water is the same, and it varies in pH levels depending on the water treatment processes used by treatment plants across the country.
As a result, you might find that the pH level differs anywhere from 4 to 5-points, depending on your local treatment plant methods. “Hard water” is generally water with a pH reading over the 9-mark. Hard water is far too alkaline for your plants, and you’ll need to bring the value down closer towards 7.
“Soft water” describes water with a pH value lower than 6, and it’s too acidic for your garden. While this presents challenges for gardeners during watering, it also interferes with your testing results. Adding tap water to your kit results in an inaccurate reading, and you might end up over or under-fertilizing your soil.
We recommend that you always use distilled water when conducting a soil test. Distilled water has a neutral pH, giving you an accurate reading from your analysis. You can pick up some distilled water from the garden center, building supply, or even your local gas station (gas stations use distilled water for topping up batteries.)
Wrapping Up – The Verdict
Testing your soil is necessary if you want a healthy and vibrant garden. There are no other means to check your soil nutrient content other than with a soil testing kit. There are plenty of options in this review that you’ll find useful for this task.
However, if we had to pick one testing kit for use at home, we would have to recommend the Pro Lab Testing Soil Savvy Soil Testing Kit. This kit has everything you need to get the best soil analysis possible, at the most affordable price.