There are several different soil pH testing methods available to determine if your lawn and garden soil is acidic, alkaline or neutral. This is an important determination to make as it can affect your flowers, plants, shrubs and trees grow properly. If your soil pH is not ideal, then you can take the necessary action to change the soil pH to an ideal level.
The three main soil pH testing methods are a DIY vinegar and baking soda test, a soil strip test at home or a professional soil test. This review focuses on the DIY method and at-home testing strips and kits, including insights into how professional testing differs fro DIY strips.
DIY Method With Vinegar And Baking Soda
Often the most cost-effective way to test your soil pH is a DIY vinegar and baking soda test. You may already have everything you need inside your home, otherwise, you can pick up the vinegar and baking soda for less than five dollars at a local grocery store. In addition to the vinegar and baking soda, you will also need a hand shovel, a small and clean bowl and water. You can then use the following process to test the soil pH:
Collecting The Sample
Once you gather all that you need, start by digging up several cups of soil. Reach deep in the soil with your hand shovel (6 to 8 inches), avoiding damage to any plants in the process. Break up the clumps and smooth the soil. Also, remove all debris from the soil — such as sticks, rocks and pieces of plants.
Mix In Waer To The Soil
Next, mix the soil together with water in a small clean bowl. You will need approximately one cup of soil, and add just enough water to make the soil muddy.
Conduct The Vinegar Test
Once the soil is muddy, add vinegar to the soil solution. You will need 1/2 cup of vinegar. Be sure to stir the vinegar into the soil thoroughly and gently. If the soil foams, fizzes or bubbles, then the soil is alkaline.
Conduct The Baking Soda Test
If the soil does not react to the vinegar, then it is likely either neutral or acidic. You can then repeat the process to see if the soil is acidic. The same process applies — add soil and water to make it muddy then add baking soda this time instead of vinegar. If the soil reacts, meaning there is foam, fizz or bubbles, then the soil is acidic.
If the results seem flawed, then there may be an issue with the process. When in doubt, consider purchasing a soil strip test or ordering professional testing. These methods are far more reliable and provide more detailed feedback about the quality and acidity of your soil.
Using Soil Strip Tests
A soil pH test is more reliable than a DIY vinegar and baking soda test. A soil strip test provides a more precise measurement of the soil pH, and it may include additional tests in addition to the pH. You can use a soil strip test to determine your soil’s pH by following the process below.
Gather The Soil Sample
Dig for a sample of the soil the same as you would for the DIY test. Ideally, reach at least six inches deep into the soil for best results. Place the soil sample into a clean glass. You will only need one to three tablespoons for this
Add Water And Filter The Soil
Fill distilled water to the same level as the soil sample, which should create a muddy soil solution. Next, stir the soil diligently. For best results, filter the soil into another clean glass. You can use a coffee filter when transitioning the soil solution from one glass to the other.
Dip The Soil pH Test Into The Soil Solution
You can then test the soil’s pH by placing the soil strip into the soil. The soil strip should change colors, and the supplier should also provide a color chart that shows pH levels. Match the color of the soil strip with the color on the chart provided to determine your soil pH.
One useful tip is to test various parts of your soil. Certain areas of your lawn and garden may have a slightly different soil pH. You can consider the pH for each area to determine the average soil pH for your lawn and garden.
What Soil Test Kits Give You
There are different types of testing kits available in addition to other tests that may come along with the soil pH test. Understanding the different types of tests and testing methods can help you determine which is right for you and how to use each type. The most common types of testing methods include:
- Analog tester
- Professional testing kit
There are benefits and potential drawbacks to each type. For example, a digital test does not use strips and instead uses a digital device. This allows for unlimited soil pH tests, whereas other testing methods are limited to a certain number of tests. A professional testing kit is perhaps the most reliable, and it involves mailing the collected sample in for detailed test results.
Many pH testing kits also offer an N-P-K test. This tests the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium levels of the soil — which are key nutrients in fertile soil. Some may also offer a water and light test as well. It is important to determine your needs before deciding which type of soil pH test is right for you.
Contact The Soil Experts
Get in touch with our team at Dirt Connections for more information about soil pH testing. We have years of experience helping those in our local community with their soil needs. Whatever your specific reason for testing your soil pH may be, our team is willing and able to help. We can also provide high-quality soil and other products and services, meeting all of your soil and dirt needs.
Dirt Connections was started with one goal in mind: providing quality residential and commercial construction services to clients on time and on budget. Reach out for more information on how we can support your next project.
For your convenience our estimates are free and by appointment. Call 703-940-9949 for a free estimate today!