How to Test Soil PH With PH Test Strips

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Soil pH test strips (similar to litmus paper) offer answers about the acidity or alkalinity of a soil sample. The pH scale ranges from 1 (acid) to 14 (alkali) with 7 being neutral. Generally most nutrients dissolve best when the soil pH is 6.5 to 7. Knowing soil pH allows you to choose plants that will thrive in your locale.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil sample (1 tbsp.)
  • pH test strip
  • Distilled water
  • Small bowl
  • Timer
  • Color chart that comes with test strips
  • Pour the soil sample in the bowl and add enough distilled water to create a mixture with the consistency of a milkshake. Stir well.

  • Leave mixture alone for one hour, but add water as needed to retain consistency.

  • Place a drop of the mixture on a test strip and wait one minute.

  • Rinse strip with distilled water.

  • Match test strip color with the accompanying color chart.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some test strips are easier to read than others. Consider purchasing ones that have two or three blocks of color as they provide a more precise result. When selecting your sample, remove mulch and other organic fragments from the top and dig about 10 inches down. It is best to collect and mix samples from various locations within the area of interest as soil pH may vary considerably within the same field, yard or garden. The combined sample will provide an average pH.
  • Do not use dirty, brass or galvanized tools as they may add metals to the sample which may produce inaccurate results.

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