How to ph test soil

When growing organically in soil with either a super soil or living soil technique it is extremely important to keep your soil ph at the right levels so that the microorganisms can thrive and break down the nutrients in the soil for optimal plant growth. The range for organic soil should be between 6.2 and 6.8 slightly acidic almost neutral. I try to shoot for the sweet spot in the middle at 6.5.

This then begs the question, how do I test my soil?

There are a few methods to test this varying in accuracy.

  1. The basic alkalinity/acidity test. This will just tell you if your soil is alkaline, acidic, or neutral. First take two samples of your soil of the same amount and place in sperate containers. Make a small hole in the center in both using your finger and then put in just enough distilled water to fill the small hole. After adding the water sprinkle some baking soda in one container right into the hole. If it fizzes the soil is too acidic. If nothing happens the soil is alkaline or close to neutral. In the second container poor a small amount of white distilled vinegar in the hole you created. If it fizzes the soil is too alkaline. If nothing happens the soil is close to neutral or acidic. Compare both tests. If nothing happened in either test then your soil is close to neutral. This basic test does not give you an accurate ph but it can tell you if your soil is beyond healthy ranges of acidity or alkalinity.

  2. The slurry test. This one requires a ph pen/meter for water or a ph strip. You mix a ratio of 1 part soil to 1 or 1.5 parts distilled water in a container. Mix it, stir it, or put a top on and shake it then let it settle. This works best if you mix it a few times. Wait 15 minutes or so after the last mix for everything to settle and then use your pen or ph strip. The reading you get should give you an approximate ph of the soil you are using. This is more accurate than the basic test but it isn’t precise.

  3. Use a soil ph meter. These are usually more expensive than a ph pen/meter for water but they are the most accurate you can get at home outside of having your soil lab tested. To use you need to first moisten your soil down to the point you will be testing. Just enough so the soil feels moist but not wet or water logged. Then you insert your meter and leave it for the recommended time from the manufacturer. Some nice digital meters will give you an instant reading, some can take a few minutes. Once the required time has elapsed check the reading on your meter. This should give you a fairly accurate reading of your soil’s ph.

Hope this information helps some of you guys. Happy growing. :v::metal::call_me_hand:

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Great pointers for those new to the PH game @MDBuds. Knowing the PH of your soil and water/food is critical, and frequently over looked. I keep several methods of testing on hand reagents, strips and a good digital meter that is calibrated regularly.

I consider my PH meter one of my most valuable tools for growing. Just a small change can cause major effects in plants.

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@Rye I keep all of these things on hand myself. I just purchased a nice digital soil tester that measures ph, temperature, and even nutrients for less than $30. It even auto adjusts for temperature variables for ph and nutrient readings. It also has a digital library of recommended ph and nutrients for a variety of species so it’s incredibly useful for your regular gardening or monitoring your companion plants as well. I was ultimately happy that my old analog meter died in the end. :joy:

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What brand is that? Do you have a link or pic of it. Always introduce in new toys.

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@Rye here’s the link. It has mixed reviews on quality but the way they worded their reviews made it seem like they didn’t follow instructions. Some guys on there saying it was trash literally put a soil meter in liquids and then blamed the company for it being a broken piece of garbage. Dude, it’s a SOIL meter. :joy:

I’m definitely hoping it holds up as it’s supposed to if directions are followed and it’s only used in soil.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007Z0LTH6/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_C0vwFb6J9ND5E

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Funny how well things work when you follow directions.

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Great info this will be my first time performimg thing ph testing. Hope for better results.

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I’ve always used the method of placing a small amount of soil in distilled water and then testing the water with a digital meter.

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Update on that ph meter I bought. It works pretty good for fine compost and loam but if you have a lot of forest debris in your soil it doesn’t give a very accurate reading. It’s great for normal potting soil and for normal garden beds but anything with a lot of mulch mixed in affects the reading.

Looks like I have to stick with my slurry test until I can find a meter that works with all that wood I have in my soil. :joy:

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Good to know thanks guys

My leaves are turning yellow with some brown spots leading me to think it’s a PH problem, time to buy a meter, what do u think?

@rt447x I’d buy a meter or reagent test kit. I always test my soil ph first if there is a nutrient deficiency or surplus just to rule out a ph issue before I start adjusting nutrients.

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