The Top 8 Soil pH Testers For Your Garden

As is the case with many homeowners, you probably take great pride in your lawn and garden. After all, who doesn’t love spending a sunny weekend afternoon tending to their plants and flowers? However, not all garden soil is created equal. The type of soil in your garden area will determine what plants will grow well and how you should fertilize and water them.

A pH imbalance can lead to problems with your plants’ growth and development. This is why it’s important to test the pH level of your soil before starting any landscaping project, to make sure you are using the right techniques for amending the soils properly.

Soil pH testers allow you or your landscape professional to quickly and easily measure the acidity or alkalinity of your garden’s soil with results generally given in numbers between 0 (acidic) and 14 (alkaline). Because of this, we’ve collated a list of the 8 best soil pH testers on the market today to help you get started, as well as answering all of your questions related to purchasing one.

So, whether you’re just getting started with gardening or have been doing it for years, keep reading and learn more!

What is pH?

First of all, before even getting into how to better test or improve your garden soil, or what plants are better for specific areas and climates, we should first learn what the term pH means, and how we can measure it.

The specific term pH stands for “Potential of Hydrogen” or “Power of Hydrogen”. It essentially measures the amount of hydrogen ions in a liquid solution, with fewer hydrogen ions meaning that solution is more alkaline, or basic, and more hydrogen ions meaning that solution is more acidic.

The pH scale, which is the number value that a pH test provides, is only between the values 0-14, and it is inversely related to the amount of hydrogen ions in a sample. The more acidic a sample, with more hydrogen ions, actually has a smaller pH value – 0 to 6 means acidic. A higher number – between 7 and 14 – means the sample is more alkaline or basic. A value of exactly 7 means a solution is neutral; this is what pure water is.

How Can You Measure pH?

We measure pH levels in soil in two ways. The first is that you can send a sample of the soil to a lab, where they mix it with water and then a pH electrode is inserted into the upper part of the mixture, where the pH level is then measured and read out.

You can also use a pH meter to determine the pH level of your soil, and this can be done by yourself at home. A pH tester is essentially a metal rod with a reader at the top of it, and you implant it into the soil and it calculates a pH. For this tester to work, however, you need moist garden soil; dry, crumbly soil will not be able to be measured, so be sure to water your soil sufficiently in the days leading up to its testing.

What Are Optimal Soil pH Levels?

You might be wondering what the optimal pH level are for your garden, and whether or not your soil’s pH level is suitable for supporting the growth of certain plants. That’s a great question, and it will depend on which plants you want to grow in your garden area.

A very low pH means the soil in your yard is acidic. As a result, essential nutrients such as phosphorus are less available while useless or dangerous nutrients may build up and become harmful. It is also difficult for bacteria that is beneficial to your garden to thrive in acidic soil.

On the other hand, you don’t want soil that is too alkaline, or basic, either. Soil that is too basic cannot gain access to important macro and micronutrients like iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. Iron particularly is a key element for all grasses as well as plants, and it helps grow your grass green and lush.

The correct PH levels in soil are important for ensuring that your lawn receives the necessary chemicals to thrive. The soil’s pH level has an impact on a variety of factors that influence plant growth, such as soil bacteria, soil structure, nutrient availability, and nutrient leaching.

In general, you want the pH of your garden to be about 6.5, or slightly below, as this gives the most help nutritionally to your grass and plants. However, different plants require differing pH levels.

The Best pH Levels For Different Plants

What are the best pH levels for the plants you want to grow in your garden? Some plants prefer acidic soils, and some prefer more alkaline solutions.

Plants that prefer their soil to be slightly (or highly) acidic are: Magnolias, Dogwoods, Rhododendrons, Blueberries, Pachysandras, most evergreen trees and shrubs, and Hydrangeas.

On the other end of the spectrum, plants that are better suited for basic soil include: Lavender, Honeysuckle, Lilacs, Silver Maple, Cabbage, and Sweet Potatoes.

However, most plants, including the ones listed above, are perfectly capable of growing healthily and to their full potential in neutral soil, so its best if you aim for about 6.5 pH for your lawn and garden. If you want to raise or lower the pH of your garden soil, check out our post on the subject.

What Types Of Tests Can You Run On Your Soil?

In addition to testing for the pH of your soil, you can also test to learn multiple other things about your soil.

Macronutrient Testing

These tests measure the levels of the three main macronutrients in the soil: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. These NPK levels are important, because they make up the majority of almost all fertilizers, so knowing the amount of each that your soil has is important. If you have an abundance of potassium, for example, you should buy fertilizer that has a relatively low amount of it.

Most of these tests are inaccurate in terms of nitrogen, although they are quite accurate in determining phosphorus and potassium levels. Nitrogen can become patchy or unevenly distributed throughout the soil, so you might benefit to take multiple readings in different locations.

Micronutrient Testing

While the majority of commercially available home soil test kits don’t check for anything beyond soil pH levels and the basic NPK ingredients listed above, there are other nutrients your plants require for continued development. Calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and a variety of other minerals are all examples, and some tests to have the ability to measure these.

Other, more ominous things may be tested for, such as lead or an excessive number of sulfates from ice melts. Some of these may be present in even excellent soil, however too much lead might be harmful to you or your children. Sulfates may prevent some plants from growing properly if the levels are excessively high.

The Different Types Of Soil Testers

There are multiple ways that you can test the pH levels of your soil. Some testers rely on a specific balance of chemicals to get a reading, some use electricity, and some are professional grade.

Chemical Soil Testers

Most chemical soil testers are rather simple. Fill a vial halfway with soil and then fill it the rest of the way with water, dropping in a colored capsule that matches the vial’s lid color. The colors indicate the nutrients for which they are intended. Shake the vial, and then wait for how long the product directs you to. You can then compare the color of the liquid inside to a chart to give you a preliminary idea of the nutrient levels.

More advanced chemical tests are a little more complicated, requiring you to mix a few drops of chemical reagent from a vial with several drops of water. However, those come with more complete instructions and multiple options for testing for.

Chemical tests are not necessarily the most accurate tests available, yet they can offer a good indication of what you need to add to your soil. Based on how many capsules or vials of reagent come with your test kit, you’ll have a set number of uses. Once you’ve used up those, you should buy a new test kit. 

Digital Soil Testers

Digital soil testers are more difficult to use than chemical ones. Electric conductivity testers are designed to check soil components at a specific electrical potential, so they often need batteries.

Before you start testing your digital soil tester, and after you’ve completed testing it, clean the probe or probes with alcohol or soap and water, to make sure that it is ready to use the next time you need to conduct a test.

If your digital tester includes vials, it is designed to be used with a slurry of soil and water inside the vial, as well as any additional chemical component. For testing, you should generally use deionized or distilled water, as that will result in a somewhat more precise measurement.

The majority of the digital test kits on the market today are designed to determine pH levels. If you’re interested in testing the macronutrients in your soil, a chemical kit will likely be required.

Analog Soil Testers

A soil tester with analog technology uses two to three metal probes to examine various aspects of the soil. When the rods are put in the ground, natural electrical energy flows between them and the non-digital gadgets they’re linked to.

Most analog testers can give a rough pH reading, some indication of how much sunshine it gets at the time of testing, and soil moisture. A few will also sample the soil’s overall fertility.

These are less accurate than digital testers but are quite simple and speedy to use. This soil tester requires cleaning after each test, and you may have to check many locations throughout your lawn, as nitrogen in particular is known for not being uniformly distributed.

Unfortunately, analog soil pH testers aren’t the greatest for in-depth knowledge. If you’re simply looking for an indication of how much your soil has changed over the past season, one of these should provide you with some information, but if you are interested in more detail, particularly regarding nutritional levels, you’ll want to go with another tester.

Professional Soil Testing

Professional soil testers in a lab setting provide the most precise soil testing. Scientists have a variety of lab instruments at their disposal to ensure that you receive an accurate picture of what’s in your soil makeup.

However, even expert soil testing requires that the samples be collected correctly. You’ll need to collect samples from multiple locations and mix them thoroughly together before allowing them to fully dry. From there, either mail it or deliver it to the lab testing facility, and they’ll run a series of tests on it.

One of the benefits of hiring a professional tester is that he or she will examine the composition of your soil as well. You may learn exactly how much organic material, sand, silt, or clay is in your growing medium and use that to build up the soil from there.

However, this is by far the slowest method of testing your soil pH. It might take a few days to a week for your test results to come back. For this reason, we only recommend using a professional service if you aren’t able to get accurate readings from the other tester types.

Considerations When Buying pH Meters

Waterproof Testers

Using a pH tester that is waterproof is essential. Because the way testers work is by either probing into moist soil or by combining soil and water, it is vital that they don’t rust and can withstand several tests. Rust could also leach into the solution that you’re testing and affect the results.

Display

Make sure you understand and can clearly read the display of the tester before you purchase it. You don’t want to be stuck trying to interpret readings or misunderstanding and therefore incorrectly fertilizing your lawn.

Versatility

Fully understanding the overall health of your soil is a complex process, and involves more than just a pH test. Therefore, buying a tester that can also test sunlight levels, moisture levels, NPK macronutrient levels, and other measurements will significant help you diagnose and better treat your lawn. Look for a 3-in-1 option if you can, as this will save you from having to buy multiple testing kits.

Durability and Portability

Soil test kits should be sturdy, lightweight, and compact so you may take them with you to your yard. The probes aren’t intended for usage in hard, rocky ground, as they are delicate instruments.

Probe Length

Soil pH tested can either have a single or double probe design. Testing probes are most often constructed of metal, such as silver, copper, aluminum, or an alloy of metals.

While the metal type is not critical to your soil reading’s accuracy, the probe depth is. The longer the probe on your soil pH meter, the better, since it will give you a more comprehensive idea of the content of your entire section of soil – not just the topsoil layer.

Tips For Measuring The Soil’s pH

pH, Light, and Moisture Readings

Soil pH testers typically work within, and can display, a range of 3.5-8. If your tester displays a 3.5, that means it is incredibly acidic, and around a 6 is slightly acidic. If it indicates a number between 7 and 8, that means your soil is alkaline. 6.5 to 7 is good, neutral soil.

The indications on the moisture display range from 1 to 10. Thus, ifyou read a figure from 1 to 3, it is dry soil, moist soil if you read a number between 4 and 7, and wet soil if the number is between 8 and 10. Typically, these tests will come with a color indicator as well; dry soil will correspond to a red color, moist soil to green, and wet soil to blue.

The sun’s brightness is determined and measured in terms of lux or lumens. You could see a range between 0 and 2000 lux. There are three levels: low, normal, and high light. Low light includes anything from 0 to 200; low-light+ captures those exposures between 200 and 500; normal daylight is from 500-1000, and anything above 1000 lux is bright light.

Accurate Measurements

Probes for soil testers should be sensitive enough to detect even the tiniest changes in soil pH, temperature, or moisture.

There are a few things to consider when getting accurate data readings. The probes should be inserted deep into the ground about 4 to 8 inches, and in close proximity to the roots. If the indicator does not move or you receive incorrect readings, the soil is too dry or the probes are not positioned close enough to the roots.

It takes around 10 minutes for soil pH testers to obtain stable and reliable results.

Testing the Soil pH Without A Kit

To test the pH of the soil, add half a cup of vinegar to the area you want to analyze. If any bubbling or hissing sounds occur, it indicates that the soil is alkaline and has a pH of between seven and eight. 

But, if it doesn’t bubble, pour distilled water over a different part of the garden until it’s soggy, and then add half a cup of baking soda to that mixture. Bubbling from this region suggests that the soil is acidic with a pH level of between five and six. If neither of these procedures produce any bubbling, your soil is likely neutral in pH and has a score of 7.

However, while this can give you a quick glimpse as to the situation of your garden soil, it is not always accurate, and we would recommend purchasing an actual pH soil tester to better gauge your pH levels.

The 8 Best Soil pH Testers

#1. Kelway Soil pHD Soil Acidity Test

Kelway Soil pHD Soil Acidity Test
  • Test your soil with accuracy and ease to determine if you need to adjust soil acidity
  • Requires No chemicals, power source or distilled water
  • Easy to operate because of the hand held size
  • It uses a tiny flow of electricity (totally safe) through the two metal plates to measure soil pH
  • Alternative to Kelway hb-2

The Kelway Soil pHD Soil Acidity Test is one of the best, if not the best and most accurate pH soil tester kit on the market currently.

Kelway is a fantastic manufacturer, and aside from providing this outstanding pH tester, it offers some of the best client service out there, so you’re in excellent hands. According to soil pH tester reviews, the Soil Ph Tester is a very accurate ph tester since no matter how many times you test it, you will get roughly the same result. The display is positioned high up, so it’s simple to read from any angle.

The Kelway pH Tester is simple to use. It requires no water, electricity, or chemicals to operate, and is highly accurate. The pH of the soil is measured by pushing electricity between two metal plates using a non-technical method. It is extremely light – it weighs just under 13 pounds – and easy to hold and transport.

It’s worth noting that this tester does not include the conditioning film sheets, which are usually included in other brands, so must purchase them separately. Only the tester, 2 green plastic strips to clean the tool (optional), and practical instructions are included in the package.

The tester is a pretty dependable one, so you may use it for years to come. You must clean it after each usage and avoid leaving it in the rain or any place where there is a lot of moisture. Remember that the Kelway soil pH tester should not be used on rocky ground since this may result in an incorrect reading and the probe may be damaged. Also, you leave it in the soil after use, it will destroy the probe.

#2. SONKIR 3-in-1 Soil Moisture/Light/pH Tester

SONKIR Soil pH Meter, MS02 3-in-1 Soil Moisture/Light/pH Tester Gardening Tool Kits for Plant Care, Great for Garden, Lawn, Farm, Indoor & Outdoor Use (Green)
  • Kindly NOTE: This soil tester can not be applied to test pH value of any other liquid. If the soil is too dry the indicator will not move, and water it before testing.
  • 3 METERS IN ONE: Soil moisture level, Soil pH value and Sunlight level could be tested easily according to your need by switching the function button of this soil meter.
  • NO BATTERY NEEDED: Simply insert the meter into soil, wait few minutes, accurate test results will be displayed on the readout panel. No battery is needed.
  • STURDY AND SCIENTIFIC DESIGN: Reliable materials and upgraded technology used for this soil meter make it advanced and high-quality for long-term use.
  • MULTIPURPOSE SOIL TEST KIT: Portable and compact design enables you to use this soil meter for house garden, farm, lawn and any other soil & plant analysis. Ideal for indoor and outdoor use.

The SONKIR 3-in-1 Soil Moisture/Light/pH Tester is our top rated 3-in-1 testing kit. The kit has a versatile 3-in-1 design that enables you to monitor all areas of your plant’s soil quality. It can assess soil pH, moisture levels, and the amount of sunshine your plants are receiving. You can use it anywhere – in your garden, on both outdoor and indoor plants, on your lawn, and even around your farm.

The metal dual probes improve the speed and accuracy of analyzing pH levels, soil moisture, and lighting conditions by providing reliable and accurate Scientific Data Detection Monitoring Technology.

This soil pH tester is simple to operate and does not require batteries, and you may easily change modes with a simple touch of a button. Using the extra-long 7.9-inch probes, insert them 2-4 inches into the soil, and then wait 10 minutes for the needle pointer to show a solid, accurate reading on the dial.

You can easily transport the SONKIR 3-in-1 around your yard, since it is lightweight and portable. If the soil pointer does not swing to indicate pH, moisture, or light levels, the probes aren’t close enough to the plant’s roots, or the soil is too dry. 

This test meter by SONKIR is covered by a 12-month free money-back or replacement guarantee.

#3. Gain Express Soil pH & Moisture Meter

Soil PH Meter, Soil Moisture Sensor Meter, Soil PH Tester Gardening Tool Kits for Plant, Tree, Soil Tester for Moisture Great for Garden, Lawn, Farm, Indoor & Outdoor Use 295mm Long
  • 【Accurate pH and Moisture Measurement】: Achieve optimum results with this pH and moisture meter. It provides accurate and reliable readings to determine the pH levels and moisture content of different types of soil. Ensure your crops, vegetables, flowers, shrubs, trees, and fruits receive the proper nutrients for maximum growth.
  • 【Versatile and Practical】: Suitable for commercial use in vineyards, orchards, field production, and lawn maintenance, as well as for home use in gardens, planters, and lawn maintenance. This meter is designed to meet strict quality and safety standards, ensuring its effectiveness in various applications.
  • 【Deep Penetration and Durability】: The longer and slender 295mm electrode allows for deep penetration into the soil, providing comprehensive measurements. With a waterproof metal electrode/probe and durable construction, this meter guarantees a trouble-free and long-lasting life.
  • 【Convenient and Self-Powered】: No batteries required as this meter is self-pow.
  • 【Note】: To maintain accuracy, it is recommended to calibrate the meter periodically and follow the operating temperature range of 5 - 50°C (41-122°F).

The Gain Express Soil pH & Moisture Meter is another great 2-in-1 option that both tests the soil pH as well as its moisture levels.

The Gain Express is a simple pH meter that requires a single probe to measure pH levels from three to eight. The moisture of the soil may be tested easily using the button on the base. This meter doesn’t use batteries. As a result, you won’t have to worry about replacing them or receiving incorrect results as a consequence of low battery life. Simply put it into the ground to get your reading.

This device has been created to be easily transportable and low-weight. It also includes a long probe, allowing you to obtain soil readings that are far down by the roots.

The pH of the soil is measured with a meter that has a range of 3 to 8 and an accuracy rating of 0.2 in accordance with my usage. It also monitors soil moisture levels on a scale of 1 to 8.

#4. Luster Leaf 1605 Digital Soil Test Kit

Sale
Luster Leaf 1605 Digital Soil Kit for pH, N, P and K, 25 Tests
  • Reads test colors utilizing advanced LED digital technology
  • Just push test button to get results in a few seconds
  • Includes pH preferences for over 450 plants and how to adjust soil pH
  • Booklet has fertilizer guidelines based on nitrogen, phosphorus and potash test results.
  • Performs 25 tests: 10 for pH and 5 each for Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potash

The Luster Leaf 1605 Digital Soil Test Kit combines chemical NPK macro-nutrient testing and pH analysis with a digital reader. The digital reader is a lifesaver for individuals who find the shaken chemical kits difficult to decipher.

The Luster Leaf 1605 isn’t a substitute for a complete lab test from an ag extension or professional lab, as is the case with most tests of its kind. It’s just a fantastic, quick home testing choice. Test tubes, vials, and capsules are on hand for your reader – this way you won’t have to purchase a brand new reader each time. However, you’ll want to make sure your digital reader stays as clean as possible in order for it to operate properly.

This is an excellent choice for a novice gardener or someone who just despises color-matching against a badly-printed chart. We think this is a great soil test kit, and one of the best available at its price point.

#5. Atree 3-in-1 Soil Moisture, Light and pH Tester Kit

Atree Soil pH Meter, 3-in-1 Soil Tester Kits with Moisture,Light and PH Test for Garden, Farm, Lawn, Indoor & Outdoor (No Battery Needed)
  • 3-IN-1 FUNCTIONS: You can measure soil moisture, pH value and sunlight intensity. It's helpful for you to plant flowers, plants and make them grow healthy and strong(This soil tester CAN ONLY be used in soil, it CANNOT be used to test any liquids)
  • EASY TO USE: Simply insert the probes into the soil about 4-6 inches (2/3 of the probes), and you'll get your reading
  • COMPACT FOR INDOOR & OUTDOOR USE: Know when to water, adjust pH, or change lighting for your flowers, plants both indoor and outdoor
  • NO BATTERY NEEDED: No batteries or electricity needed, plug and read
  • SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE: Sensitive probe could sense changes of the soil and transfer details to the conductor, displaying the accurate values for you

The Atree 3-in-1 Soil Moisture, Light and pH Tester Kit is a solid and functional option for a great low price. It runs, it works, and that’s all there is to it. It isn’t gorgeous or likely to win any accolades in the high detail department. This is a great, basic unit for people who need to monitor the pH level of their soil on a regular basis.

For a comparable price, this pH tester and sensor is unbeatable. Simply insert the metal probe about 4 to 6 inches into the soil and it will provide a reading. There is no battery or electricity needed, simply probe it and read.

#6. Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit

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Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, 1 Pack
  • Quick, at home results for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphrous and Potash
  • Innovative and inexpensive soil test kit features an easy-to-use capsule system and patented color comparators
  • Contains all components needed for 40 tests. 10 for each of pH, N, P and K
  • Simple, detailed instructions included. Great for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.
  • Soil pH preference list for over 450 plants included

Next on our list of the top 8 soil pH tests for your lawn and garden is the Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit. This is the most popular home chemical kit. It’s readily available, and should be a standard part of every household testing arsenal. Simply insert a little amount of soil into the tube side of the box, fill it with distilled water and the reagent capsule specified, and mix everything together. Allow it to rest until the color has fully developed, and then compare it to their color chart.

Small tube test kits are similar to these, but the 1601, on the other hand, comes with a color chart attached. There’s no worry about losing your color chart with this soil test kit, which is located on the test unit itself. Each test box is capable of running ten tests without a refill package, each of which is one of four types: pH, N, P, or K.

It’s never going to be as accurate or thorough as a professional test, though if you’re simply looking for a starting point, this is an excellent and inexpensive alternative.

#7. Whitetail Institute Laboratory Soil Test Kit

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Whitetail Institute Laboratory Soil Test Kit, Ensures The Most Successful Deer Food Plot Possible, Professional Consultation Included, Receive Results Within One Week
  • ENSURE the most SUCCESSFUL food plot possible
  • SAVES YOU MONEY on fertilizer and lime
  • VERY EASY TO USE - everything you need is included
  • RESULTS by mail or email WITHIN ONE WEEK
  • Results and recommendations are easy to understand

The Whitetail Institute Laboratory Soil Test Kit is a commercial lab testing kit.

The Whitetail Institute offers a free consultation on your soil with the purchase of your kit. On the phone, the consultation is only a few minutes long and primarily breaks down your findings into simple language. A report is also included, along with an analysis of your soil nutrients.

You will, however, need to purchase both the test and the shipping of your soil sample. The data, on the other hand, are thorough and well worth obtaining. Similar effects may be obtained at your local agricultural extension, but if you don’t want to look for it, this isn’t a bad at-home lab testing kit to choose.

#8. iKKEGOL 3 in 1 Soil Moisture, Light, and PH Acidity Meter

The iKKEGOL 3 in 1 Soil Moisture, Light, and PH Acidity Meter is another great option if you are looking for a budget friendly tester. It has three distinct tests, each of which it performs with excellent precision – soil moisture, pH, and solar light intensity.

This pH soil tester has a moisture sensor in the form of bronze and silver probes that measure moisture and pH, respectively. It has an intuitive switch that allows you to instantly change the settings. The probe rods are not the most durable, however, so take care while placing it in the earth. This is why you should not use this in rocky ground, as you risk breaking it and getting incorrect readings.

Because the screen is little, if your eyesight isn’t good, you may have a hard time reading it. Yet it gives consistent readings with minimal variations, no matter how many times you measure it. You may use it for as long as you’d like since it doesn’t require batteries.

Conclusion

Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. It ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. The three main types are acidic (below 7), basic (above 7) and neutral soils that have a pH of about 7. Because the pH of your soil is such a necessary piece of information, but is one very few people know, soil pH testers are a must-have for any gardener and we hope this blog post has given you some ideas on where to start. We’ve covered everything from the basics of what is pH, how it can be measured, and good soil pH levels, to the different types of tests that can be performed on your soil.

If you are still a bit unsure as to exactly which soil pH tester you should purchase for your lawn, allow us to again recommend the Kelway Soil pHD Soil Acidity Test. Also, don’t be afraid to contact a professional and get your soil scientifically tested if you would rather do that.

Good luck with all of your planting and grass growing ventures. And if you’re looking for more information about how these tests can help your plant-growing success, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us below!