Knowing the composition of your soil is very important. Today more and more people are venturing into gardening without testing their soil. Some of the questions that people ask include; “are home soil test kits accurate?” “how much do kits cost”, “where can I buy the soil testing kits” etc. Don’t worry we are here to answer all these queries.
As a farmer/gardener you need to know the benefits of soil testing, which are quite many. Due to its ‘trendy’ status, many gardening websites have cropped up if I may say. All of which offer advice on what to do to get the highest yields or the healthiest looking produce.
However, I am sure some of you, despite following all the instructions, never seem to get it right.
Your tomatoes never grow to be as juicy as you wanted, or your herbs don’t develop as well as you might have hoped. This is because most of the content available neglects to mention the importance of soil testing.
If you don’t know already, different crops require different soil types or soil composition. That is why your produce might not be the same as that of your favorite home gardening Youtuber or Blogger.
Most of us think that soil testing is a complex activity that only professionals can do.
Contrary to widespread belief, soil testing is quite simple, and you can do it by yourself.
Due to advancements in technology, companies have been able to make home soil testing kits that can be used by virtually anyone.
Some of the things that these kits can help you measure include pH levels, pollution levels, gardening potential, and toxicity, etc. However, are home soil test kits accurate? This is a question that we intend to answer in detail in this article.
Table of Contents
Why you might need to test your soil
To determine if there is a need to check your soil, you need to ask yourself the following fundamental questions:
- Have you moved into a new place and do not know much about the land?
- Are your plants struggling or not performing as per expectation? Do you suspect nutrient deficiency?
- Have you tested your soil in the last three years?
- Have you added alteration to your soil, and do you want to evaluate the impact?
- Do you want to plant or expand an existing garden? Do you want your plants to perform well?
The Process of soil testing
Once you confirm that you need a soil test, you must know the procedure. These tests will involve collecting samples, preparing them for chemical analysis, the actual analysis, and interpretation of the results. Soil testing does not solve your production problem. Instead, it gives you the information you need to rectify the problem.
For instance, if you were testing for the pH of your soil and the results show that the land is acidic, you can reduce it using different products available in the market. Typically the treatment involves the manipulation of the soil properties using lime and fertilizers.
With a home soil testing kit, the process is seamless. However, the main question that most people have is: Are home soil test kits accurate? This is a critical question since unsatisfactory results can never be beneficial to any gardener. Do not worry, though, in the next section; we will go in-depth on the accuracy of home soil testing kits. That is where home testing kits come in.
Accuracy of Home Soil Testing Kits
While there are several concerns about soil testing kits such as safety and usability, the main point of contention for most of us is the accuracy of these products.
Any Do it yourself kit or home testing kit often elicits some form of doubt or another.
People tend to associate laboratories with accuracy. Are home soil test kits accurate? What we don’t realize is that as much as laboratory conditions are more controlled, the variables at play are still the same.
The reliability and validity of results depend on the whole process being orchestrated as per guidelines. Home testing kits go a step further in integrating the steps in the design to eliminate errors associated with human activity, for example, mixing, sieving, etc.
Evidence from scientific studies
To dispel these fears, we relied on past studies conducted to evaluate the accuracy of home soil testing kits. One such study made use of several colorimetric home test kits that were available at the time. Samples were collected from different areas and prepared for testing.
A portion of each sample was tested using the home testing kits while the remainder was forwarded for laboratory testing. Standard laboratory testing processes were applied as prescribed by Agriculture and Natural Resources Analytical Laboratory, University of California, Davis.
Tests for nitrates, phosphates, potassium oxides, and PH were done in the laboratory and using kits. Four of the five test kits returned reading for all four parameters except for one which did not return readings for PH. These results were compared with the laboratory results.
All packages compared to laboratory results in varying degrees, with some consistently recording comparisons as high as 94% for all tests. The Researchers testified to the ease of use in handling home testing kits.
They attributed this to the color-coding of extractions, test boxes, and the provision of home user instructions in large print. You will notice one package did not return reading for PH. This asserts that when you buy a home test kit, be aware of what you want to evaluate.
|Atree 3-IN-1 Soil Meter||Atree||12.8 x 3.3 x 1.5 inches||Soil moisture, PH value and Sunlight intensity||3.2 ounces|
|Luster Leaf 1605 Digital Soil Test Kit||Luster Leaf||1.54 x 5.83 x 12.2 inches||Digital Soil Test Kit for pH, N, P and K||7.2 ounces|
|Rapitest Premium Soil Test Kit||Luster Leaf||12.01 x 7.01 x 2.01 inches||Digital Soil Test Kit for pH, N, P and K||16 ounces|
Atree Soil pH Meter, 3-in-1 Soil Tester Kits
This is a product from renowned manufacturer Atree. At 3.2 ounces of weight, you won’t even feel it when you carry it around. On top of giving you moisture and pH readings, it will also determine sunlight intensity.
Now that is great if you want not just to grow your plants but also have them strong and healthy. This way, you can decide if to adjust lighting for your plants or move them outdoors. The 3-in-1 soil tester is so easy to use; all you need to do is insert the probes some four to six inches in the soil you are testing.
The compact design means you can use it for indoor purposes, for example, potted plants. The 3-in-1 does not use batteries, thus no worrying if your cells are dead. A crucial property of this tester is the sensitivity of its probes, which transmit details to the conductor, ensuring you receive the correct readings.
Luster Leaf 1605 Digital Soil Test Kit
The Luster Leaf 1605 is one versatile soil testing kit. It is used to test four primary things, namely; pH, Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K).
The manufacturers have mastered the use of advanced LED digital technology to read test colors. Apart from this, the product comes with a booklet that has fertilizer guidelines that are based on the results you get.
With this device, you can perform 25 tests (10 for pH and 5 for the other minerals). To be very accurate, the item’s system is calibrated to read small color variations that the human eye cannot notice.
While the product does not specify its accuracy percentage, we can assure you that this device is simple to use and quite accurate. It serves the basic needs of any small scale gardener.
Rapitest Premium Soil Test Kit
The final product that we will look at is the Rapitest 1663 Premium Soil Test Kit. Like the Luster Leaf 1605, this kit also measures pH and NPK levels.
If you don’t know what NPK is, it is basically Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium that are the three essential nutrients for most crops.
You might have noticed that most of these kits do not measure micronutrients such as calcium and magnesium.This is because most DIY kits do not have these options. If you require such tests, consult the services of a lab.
The reagents used in this product are very accurate, like any lab analysis. Within 10 minutes, you will have your results. However, you must have steady hands to avoid mixing up the reagents.
If you are into gardening, farming, or your work requires soil testing; you need these gadgets. Gone are the days where you had to bear with delays of laboratory testing. The efficiency, accuracy, and ease of use, plug and read, leave you no excuse.
As a final pointer, we recommend you conduct your test when the soil is not frozen. It would help if you also did your test well in time so that the soil has time to recalibrate after any alterations made before you put it to your intended use. Follow the links provided to get yourself one of these gadgets.