Soil tests come in various forms, ranging from digital devices to strip tests, but they provide precise results and will help you avoid over-fertilizing, which can lead to more pests or damaged plants. To help you keep your soil well-balanced, we’ve compiled some of the best soil test kits.
Why buy a soil test kit?
Whether you’re new to gardening or you’ve been planting seeds for decades, a soil test kit is a very important tool for growing healthy, vigorous plants. These tests will determine whether your soil’s pH is acid, neutral, or alkaline and indicate which elements are missing from your soil. This will save you a lot of money in the long haul, so you can eliminate excess lime and fertilizer purchases. Instead, you can use your trusty tester to find out what specific nutrients your plants desire.
What should you look for in a soil test kit?
- Accuracy & Type: There are digital probes, at-home lab tests, and mail-in lab tests available. Lab tests that you send to professional labs, receiving the results after a week or so, are usually the most accurate tests. Each soil test kit will vary in accuracy, but be on the lookout for features like easy-to-read results or durability for tests with probes.
- Versatility & Recommendations: One of the best qualities of soil test kits is that whether your plants are indoors or outdoors, these kits will be versatile enough to examine any sort of soil. They can even be used to test your lawn and trees. When you get the results, many soil test kits will provide a deep analysis of your soil and let you know what the next steps are for maintaining a perfect soil environment. The more professional test kits will also offer fertilizer and lime recommendations to achieve optimal soil health.
What should it test for?
Soil pH is one of the most important measurements in a soil test kit, so almost all kits will provide a reading on the pH level at the very least. The pH scale runs from 0 (acid) to 14 (alkaline). The balance between the two will allow nutrients and minerals to break down and dissolve in your soil, providing optimal growth, so you’ll want a soil pH of 6 to 7 (neutral).
The test kits often check for levels in nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash. These are the nutrients commonly found in fertilizers, so if your soil already has enough, you’ll know not to over-fertilize. On the other hand, if the levels are too low, you’ll know to add more fertilizer. Different plants prefer specific nutrients over others, so be sure to research the type of nutrients required to grow your plants well. Some can even test for moisture and light exposure to ensure that the plants you want to put there will thrive in those conditions. The more detailed and professional test kits also provide readings on micro-nutrients to pinpoint more specific nutrients that could be deficient in your garden, like iron, copper, and manganese.
MySoil Soil Test Kit
If you're looking for a soil test kit that will help the growth of your grass, plants, and fruits, then this testing kit is ideal for you.
Pros: This soil test kit is great for any growing scenario, meaning that you can use it on your lawn, in your organic garden, on your trees, or for composting. It’s ideal for someone who has multiple types of plants in multiple places on their property. Because it’s tested through professional lab analysis, it measures 13 plant nutrient levels, which is a lot more than most at-home test kits provide. When you receive your results, it comes with fertilizer and product recommendations, making your job a lot easier.
Cons: You don’t get your testing results right away. Instead, you have to wait a week. If you want your results immediately upon conducting the test, then this kit isn’t for you. Another setback is that there’s only one sample. If you have a large property and want to test various spots and locations, you’ll have to buy multiple soil test kits. You have the option of buying one, two, or four, but the price can add up quickly.
Bottom Line: This is a great soil testing kit if you have a large property and want to test the soil all over your land. If you don’t mind waiting for the results and dishing out some extra cash to get more testing kits, then you should definitely consider MySoil because it’s accurate and provides some excellent recommendations on how to maintain your garden or lawn.
Luster Leaf Digital Soil Test
This digital soil test kit is designed to make soil testing easier with its easy-to-read LED display.
Pros: You get your results within a few seconds. The test will let you know if you have a deficiency or a surplus of a certain nutrient with a color scale that’s super easy to read, use, and understand. You can perform up to 25 different tests for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash/potassium. The presentation of test tubes, the dropper, and the reagents will make you feel like a scientist, which is especially fun if your little kids join in and help you read the soil.
Cons: There are only four chemical soil capsules included when it would be better if there were more. If you want to thoroughly test your garden with multiple tests, you’ll need to buy extra supplies. Each test requires a special process for soil presentation, so that can be fastidious.
Bottom Line: It’s really easy to use and understand through its LED digital display. Although it comes with a limited amount of supplies, it’s a great soil tester if you have a small- to medium-sized garden or lawn. It also comes with fertilization guidelines, charts, and tips, so it has plenty of recommendations and easy-to-read instructions.
Luster Leaf Professional Soil Test Kit
This soil test kit provides great tips for gardening and altering soil conditions.
Pros: This is one of the most accurate and least expensive soil test kits around. You can purchase 40, 80, or 200 tests to be prepared for wherever you want to do some investigating. The plastic case that it comes with also comes in handy, so you can properly store all of the test tubes and reagents.
Cons: The testing process can be a bit tedious because different chemicals have to be added depending on the test. You must allow the sediment to settle before acquiring the liquid needed for testing, so the whole process can be daunting to beginners. If you buy 40 tests (10 each for pH, N, P, and K), there’s a limited amount of supplies to generate a large enough soil test from your garden and lawn, so you’ll have to buy more materials.
Bottom Line: If you follow the directions to a T and have plenty of time to spare, this testing kit will work just fine and give you accurate results. You get your results quickly, but it’s a long road to get there if you’re new to these types of soil tests.
Whitetail Institute Laboratory Soil Test Kit
Save time and money with this mail-in soil test kit.
Pros: This kit is very easy to use. Everything that you need is included, so you can send your soil off to the lab quickly. The results are easy to understand, and the report you get back in the mail will tell you precisely what your existing soil nutrient levels are and what you need to do (if anything) to improve them. Professional consultation is also included to ensure the greatest health for your soil.
Cons: Some users reported that Whitetail Institute doesn’t respond quickly to inquiries and sometimes sends the results back late. You also have to pay a shipping fee to send your soil into the laboratory.
Bottom Line: The wait for information is disappointing, but when the results finally reach your hands, they come in a detailed report that’s professional, accurate, and reliable. The soil test kit is also very affordable and is done by professionals, so you don’t have to deal with any test tubes or chemicals yourself. If you don’t mind waiting for your results, then we recommend this highly accurate test kit.
Garden Tutor Strips Kit
This test kit helps promote growth and vigor by making sure your soil pH levels are on point.
Pros: This is a great soil test kit if you’re looking to quickly test the soil pH of your garden or lawn. The results are instantaneous. There’s also a color chart and a full-color pH testing handbook with lime and sulfur application charts. It’s optimal for most plants, provides 100 test strips, and is very inexpensive compared to other tests.
Cons: These strips can only be used to test soil pH. Although that’s the main reading that most people look for in a testing kit, it might not be suitable for people who want a more extensive report. Since you’re comparing your test results to a color chart, the colors might not clearly match all the time, and it could be difficult to differentiate the reading.
Bottom Line: If you’re new to gardening, landscaping, and soil testing in general, this is a quick and precise way to read the soil pH levels of your garden or lawn. Compared to other soil test kits in this article, it’s restricted in what it tests for, but it’s an inexpensive kit that will provide you with results for the most common measurement.
There are many different types of soil test kits out there, so whether you’re a beginner or an expert in horticulture, you should be able to find a test kit that gives you the answers you seek and that helps you grow a greener lawn, healthier fruits and vegetables, or prettier plants.