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  • the best soil tester

    I'm looking for something that it's accurate. I thought Rapitest electronic 4 way analyzer was a good choice. But I saw some mix thoughts about it on the internet.
    There is also Rapitest soil test kit, it has 40 tests for PH, N, P and K.
    Of course there are some other brands. Which one is accurate electronic or other style, which brand?
    thank you

  • #2
    Jenny, it depends on your needs. Electronic tests are only good for rough estimation, but they do work for that. Mine can tell when I have adequately fertilized my vegies, but it would not tell me if I had an imbalance, or a missing nutrient. It is probably measuring (roughly) ion concentration, and would probably measure saltwater as fertilizer (just a hunch--haven't tried it).

    I find it quite handy, though, because that's all I need to know, really. My soil is deficient in all major and many minor nutrients (it's like beach sand), so I don't need to be told that over and over again; I just need to know if I have fertilized it enough, with the balanced fertilizers I tend to use. I see the needle point to "not enough", fertilize some more, see it go to "enough", and stop. That's all I need to know.

    The pH, moisture, and light meters come in handy too--especially the light meter for starting seedlings indoors and trying to make sure light levels are really high enough.

    I have found home kits to be messy and slightly tedious. Those will give you readings for the 3 major nutrients, and sometimes pH. Not as useful for my purposes.

    University agriculture extensions sometimes do soil tests for a fee. Those are usually fairly comprehensive, and probably worth it mostly when starting a garden, but perhaps also after a long time to see how the soil has changed and how it's doing.


    • #3
      Thank you so much for this detailed answer. I never tested before. Every year, I'm adding new vegetables, getting more experience, seeing more problems, you know. So, I wanna be more professional, do the best as much as possible.
      I'm searching internet, there are so many different type of fertilizers for many different situations. I'm kind a confused, and I don't know what my soil needs and what it has already extra. Some people say these tests are not that accurate, go to University extension to test your soil.
      I know that with the best seeds, if the soil is lack of some elements, the taste can be bland, not enough yield, smaller than they supposed to....


      • #4
        In my opinion, it seems to me that electronic testing can give you:

        1. very accurate light intensity, but cannot tell you light spectrum (color).

        2. Some what accurate moisture contain, depending on chemical salt composition of the soil.

        3. Somewhat PH measurements, depending on chemical salt composition and moisture in the soil.

        4. Not accurate at all for the other tests.

        5, Very accurate temperature measurements.



        • #5
          I agree with Atash and Decarch. My university extension charges $10 for an extensive and complete soil analysis. As said above, a beginning garden area should be tested once a year for a couple of years and then every third year just to keep track of trends.

          You can spend from $40 to $150 for a soil test kit and not be nearly as accurate in actual conditions as those professionals who have access to machinery costing in the many thousands of dollars. A $70 kit I bought ended up being worthless, so that was seven years worth of real good analyses. Even my $25 pH meter was not worth it.

          My opinion is don't buy a kit, let the pros do it.


          • #6
            Thank you so much for your help guys. It seems like the best idea to have Extension do it. I'm glad I asked.


            • #7
              I can see that this thread hasn't been updated in quite a while, but I wanted to post a moisture meter that I found. Here's a link: It's really accurate in it's moisture readings because it uses the dielectric method to measure the moisture. That also means that the salt content of the soil doesn't effect the reading like most meters. I love it and use it all the time. Just thought you might want to know.


              • #8
                I don't know if this is the "best" soil tester, but it is cheap, and you get a side-dish out of the bargain:

                Take some red cabbage, slice very thin, and drop it in some boiling water until the water goes purple.*

                Keep the water: it's a pH test. When you add an acid to the solution, it'll turn red--an alkali and it'll go in a bluish (yellow if it's REALLY alkali). Add a couple of tablespoons of your soil, let sit for a couple minutes, and voila! You can even make pH strips by concentrating the solution and soaking some kind of non-treated paper in it. And while this has a certain "old wive's tale" quality to it, it does work, and with a little footwork you could actually be relatively "scientific" about it: take solutions of known pH (vinegar, baking soda) and add these to your cabbage solution, then compare these to your soil sample.

                *Then heat some butter in a pan, toast some caraway seeds in it briefly, and combine with the boiled cabbage.


                • #9
                  Some of us in urban areas do not have access to county agents, or university extensions, or state testing agencies, yet we have some of the worst problems. I need my soil tested for plutonium (sludge from the 60s), arsenic (treated lumber and rat poison), and lead (paint and exhaust) in addition to the big 3 and pH.
                  I've not been happy with electronic pH testers because they require too much precision in water concentration to obtain an accurate reading (though they confidently report in tenths). I'm just as happy with litmus paper. But how I'm to keep my peppers at 6.25 while most of my vegetables are at 6.5 I've no idea.
                  The tests for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium differ from product to product, but seem to be consistent from test to test. I've never tried a massive soil amendment to see whether any product would notice the difference. I expect you can trust any of the products to inform you of a huge imbalance, but you should not rely on them to give you a precise reading unless you have calibrated them against a reliable standard.


                  • #10
                    not sure about the rapidtest system but I just saw a project that has a soil ph tester that hooks up to your mobile phone! Looks pretty interesting, maybe worth a shot.


                    • #11
                      What is the best way to test soil in a vegetable garden ?


                      • #12
                        I can give a suggestion.You can spend from $40 to $150 for a soil test kit and not be nearly as accurate in actual conditions as those professionals who have access to machinery costing in the many thousands of dollars. A $70 kit I bought ended up being worthless, so that was seven years worth of real good analyses. Even my $25 pH meter was not worth it.

                        Chamber of Commerce


                        • #13
                          Too much of this nutrient or too little of that, and you have problems.Just as humans need the right balance of nutrients for good health, so do plants. For example, when tomatoes grow in soil that’s deficient in calcium; they develop blossom-end rot. Sometimes, too much of a nutrient is detrimental: Excessive nitrogen causes lots of leaf growth (such as clematis or peppers) but few flowers or fruits.The right pH enables plants to use nutrients from the soil. Soil is rated on a pH scale, with a pH of 1 being most acidic and a pH of 14 being most alkaline. If your soil's pH isn't within a suitable range, plants can't take up nutrients — like phosphorus and potassium — even if they're present in the soil in high amounts. On the other hand, if the pH is too low, the solubility of certain minerals, such as manganese, may increase to toxic levels.