It’s a simple fact: the soil you have determines the success of your gardening efforts. While high-quality, nutrient-rich dirt can produce lush lawns and bountiful harvests, dirt with the wrong pH level and nutrient content significantly reduce your chances of success.
The only way to truly know if your dirt has all the soil nutrients it should is to use a soil test kit. While you can hire a gardening professional to test your soil for you, affordable DIY kits are available at most garden centers and home improvement stores.
These soil kits analyze your soil’s pH levels and nutrient content to help you know where you need to make adjustments using fertilizers, plant foods, and other supplemental nutrients. While some are old-school chemical tests, others offer a modern digital approach.
To help you find the perfect kit for your home garden, we’ve rounded up a few of the best soil test kits on the market. Plus, we’ll answer common questions about home soil tests so you can garden with confidence knowing your soil is packed with the nutrients it needs.
How can I Soil Test myself?
The best way to test the chemical makeup of your soil yourself is to use a store-bought soil testing kit. They’re a fast and easy way to find nutrient deficiencies and pH imbalances in your soil that could negatively affect plant growth.
Soil test kits measure for common nutrients, as well as the soil’s pH level that creates a healthy environment for plants to grow, including:
- Nitrogen (N)— the main component of chlorophyll, which plants use for photosynthesis
- Phosphorus (P)— essential for cell growth and photosynthesis. Without proper levels, plants cannot mature or produce
- Potassium/ Potash (K)— regulates photosynthesis and the movement of water and nutrients in plant tissues
- pH Level— most garden plants thrive in soil with a pH level of 6.5- 7.0, though specific plants may prefer more basic or acidic growing conditions
Are home soil test kits accurate?
Soil testing is a key component of home gardening and farming, so it’s crucial that they yield accurate results. While home soil tests kids aren’t quite as precise as professional lab testing, they offer a rough estimate of your soil’s nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and pH level. Store-bought test kits are more reliable and provide better results than DIY tests using household ingredients.
Various studies testing the accuracy of home soil test kits found that accuracy varies based on the test kit's brand and the tested nutrients. In general, cheap, low-end kits are less likely to provide accurate results than higher-quality tests from reputable garden equipment companies. Regardless of what test you use, it’s crucial to follow all of the directions properly using reliable methods on representative soil samples.
What is the best soil test kit for a home?
Best Overall Soil Tester
If you’re looking for a basic soil test kit that is affordable, straightforward, and reliable, look no further than Luster Leaf’s Rapitest Soil Test Kit. Its patented color comparators and easy-to-use capsule system make it easy for first-time home gardeners to test the basics: soil pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Plus, the detailed instructions also list the soil pH preferences of over 450 different plants.
To use Luster Leaf’s Rapitest Soil Test Kit, all you need to do is place a soil sample mixed with water into a color comparator, add powder from the correlating capsule, shake, and wait for the color to develop fully. Each kit contains enough components for 40 total tests, with 10 for each individual nutrient.
Best Digital Soil Test
Looking for a more high-tech way to test your soil? Try Luster Leaf Rapitest Digital Soil Test Kit. The affordable digital test offers an electronic version of their best-selling 1601 Soil Test Kit. With just the push of a button, you’ll get results back in seconds on soil pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, or potash!
While it can be challenging to identify color variations in manual test kits correctly, Luster Leaf Rapitest Digital Soil Test Kit does the hard work for you. The compact device reads the test colors from the soil samples tested, utilizing advanced LED technology to provide accurate results. Plus, the tester booklet offers helpful instructions on how to adjust your soil’s pH accordingly and recommendations for the best fertilizers to improve soil chemistry.
Best Mail-In Soil Testing Kit
When it comes to soil testing, it doesn’t get much easier than Soil Savvy’s Mail-In Soil Test Kit. All you have to do is follow the step-by-step instructions included in the kit and mail your soil samples in for professional analysis. In 7-10 days, you’ll be sent a personalized report showing fourteen nutrient levels and your soil pH level. Plus, it offers synthetic and organic fertilizer recommendations for your soil’s unique needs.
The professional-grade soil test kit harnesses the same soil testing technology used by top agricultural producers, turf managers, and landscapers. It's easy-to-understand results will help even the most inexperienced home gardener understand the complicated science of fertilizer management.
Best Soil pH Strips Test
Soil pH affects both the nutrients available to your plants and the soil-dwelling organisms that support a healthy garden. While most plants prefer soil with a pH level of 6.5 to 7, some prefer growing in more acidic or basic soil. But maintaining the correct pH level is an ongoing task, one that can be quite challenging depending on where you live.
With Garden Tutor’s Soil pH Test Strips, you can keep a watchful eye on your soil's pH level without spending a fortune. They’re calibrated specifically for testing soil and provide fast, accurate results. All you have to do is add a representative soil sample to a cup or testing jar, mix it with water, and then dip the strip in the water solution. After a few seconds, the strip is ready to be matched to the color pads on the accompanying pH color chart.
The easy-to-use strips measure pH levels ranging from 3.5 to 9.0, so you can optimize your soil to the needs of almost any type of plant. Each kit contains enough test strips for 100 pH tests. With the help of the detailed pH testing handbook, you’ll feel confident in the results of each and every at-home test.
Best Professional Soil Test Kit
If you’re a serious home gardener, you need serious gardening tools like LaMotte’s STH-7 Soil Macronutrient Test Kit. The professional-grade kit includes 400 combined tests for pH, nitrate-nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, humus (organic matter), calcium, and magnesium. Plus, it comes in a lightweight carrying case with removable foam trays that allow savvy gardeners to quickly solve problems in the field.
While LaMotte’s soil testing kits are a good deal more expensive than other DIY soil tests, it’s worth the investment if you’re looking for a comprehensive fertilizer management tool. The colorimetric and turbidity tests are easy to interpret thanks to the soil management handbook and soil analysis report forms included in the kit. When you’ve used all 400 of the tests, restock your kit with LaMotte’s convenient refill packages.
Best Soil Testing Kit for Lawns
Soil test kits aren’t just for backyard gardens and flower beds. They can be incredibly helpful in maintaining a lush, green lawn. With MySoil’s Soil Test Kit, you can easily monitor the health of your yard with a simple mail-in soil test. It measures thirteen nutrient levels, including nitrogen and pH, to help you keep your lawn green and healthy year-round.
The kit provides everything required for use, including prepared return postage for sending in your completed soil sample. After receiving your kit, register it online, add the soil sample, and return it in the mail. Once the lab has analyzed your sample, it provides a length report complete with fertilizer recommendations tailored specifically to your yard’s unique nutritional needs.
Best 3-in-1 Soil Meter
If you’re looking to improve your indoor plants' health, it may be worth using a soil meter to help monitor your plant’s needs. This affordable 3-in-1 Soil pH Meter from Sonkir measures soil moisture level, pH, and sunlight levels to provide a holistic view of plant health. In addition to indoor planters, the compact, portable soil meter can be used for outdoor gardens and lawns.
Unlike other soil meters, Sonkir’s 3-in-1 tool doesn’t require additional batteries. All you need to do is insert the sensor probe into the soil and toggle to switch to the test you’d like to measure. Its double-needle detection technology provides fast, reliable results that make plant care easier than ever. Thanks to its durable design, the affordable product will be a staple in your gardening routine for many growing seasons to come.