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Measuring Soil pH

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There are a number of different ways the average home gardener can test their indoor and outdoor garden soil pH levels.

Firstly a simple test is listed below. It can be used to determine very basic measurements of a soil or composts pH levels. Not super accurate but good for a general idea.

Simple Home Test

This test requires only a few basic household items and doesn't take much time if you have the patience and space to do the tests.

What you need:

  • Distilled water, or tap water left out for 24 hours
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Measuring cup
  • 2 containers
  • Trowel

What to do:

  • Start by getting a sample of soil using your trowel or scoop, about one cup. First test for basicity using the vinegar by adding a half cup to the soil. If it fizzes it is alkaline so you need to lower the pH levels. If there is no reaction at all rinse your gear and proceed to the next step.
  • Next test for acidity. Get a fresh sample, again around one cup. Now add a half cup of water and stir using your trowel or scoop. Add a half cup of baking soda, if it fizzes you have highly acidic soil. You will need to raise the pH levels to correct this soil issue.
  • If there is not reaction at all your soil is probably perfectly neutral and there is no adjustment needed.

Buying a pH Test Kit

If the home made test fails or you feel its simply not accurate enough, a home testing kit can be purchased from your local garden center or hardware store. Simple kits, such as this Rapitest soil test kit, work by using a chemical reaction to measure pH levels in soil. The downfall to these types of kits is that they are often made for only one use.

Another option for the home gardener is to purchase a pH probe such as a soil pH meter and are great investment providing many uses and accurate results. These can be expensive so shop around.

Simple pH test strips like PHion Balance Diagnostic Ph Test Strips from Amazon are cheap and very accurate. They are also easy to use and store.

Professional Sampling

Greenhouse operators and farmers (maybe really serious home gardeners) will sometimes use profession labs to find out the exact pH of soil samples. This often expensive and can take a long time to recieve results but might be a valid option if you plan on a large garden.