The 5 Best Soil pH Testers in 2022

4 soil pH testers inserted into the soil of a raised bed
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Are your garden plants stunted and not growing well? There’s a good chance your soil pH is off! Using the best soil pH tester on the market will ensure that you grow your best garden yet! Many people skip this step, so make sure that you aren’t making this common mistake.

Soil pH testers are a great tool to have because they provide valuable information, are inexpensive and can be used year-after-year, if cared for properly.

In this article, we’ll discuss why you should be using a soil pH tester, the necessary features that it should have, my recommendations on the best soil pH testers on the market, plus much more!

Let’s jump in!

What is Soil pH?

Soil pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline your garden soil is. Each plant has its own preferred pH range, but a general rule of thumb for an ideal pH range for most garden plants is 6.0-7.0.

A banner stating "The ideal pH range for most garden plants is between 6.0 and 7.0."

The pH scale is a broad spectrum that ranges from 1-14, with each number being 10x higher or lower than the previous. For example, a pH of 5 is 10x more acidic than a pH of 6.

  • pH of 1: very acidic
  • pH of 4: acidic
  • pH of 7: neutral
  • pH of 10: alkaline
  • pH of 14: very alkaline 

Why Use a Soil pH Tester?

Ensuring that the pH of your garden soil is within the ideal range of your plants is important for proper growth and fruit development. Each plant has its preferred soil pH and will suffer if the soil is outside of this range.

  • What happens if your soil is too acidic? Reduced availability of nutrients and micronutrients, resulting in deficiencies. Aluminum becomes soluble and can be taken up by plants resulting in aluminum toxicity and stunted growth. Acidic soil also disturbs the activity of healthy microorganisms in the soil. Common causes of acidic soil are excessive rainfall, organic matter decay, or acidic parent material (ex: pine needles).
  • What happens If your soil is too alkaline? Reduced availability of nutrients and micronutrients, resulting in deficiencies and stunted growth. Common causes of alkaline soil are watering with hard water that is rich in lime or growing in a desert or dense forest location.

Features of the Best Soil pH Testers

There are many different types of soil pH testers on the market. Some good, some bad! Here’s what you should be looking for when deciding which soil pH tester is the best for you and your garden.

A soil pH tester inserted into the garden soil with someone kneeling beside it with an iPad

Chemical vs Electronic

There are two different types of soil pH testers: chemical and electronic. Both are fairly equivalent in terms of accuracy if used correctly, however, there is a clear winner here in my opinion:

  • Chemical soil pH tester: Utilizes test tubes where you mix soil with distilled water plus a chemical that changes the color of the solution, which you then compare to a chart. This is a one-time use product (unless you have multiple packets of chemicals) and takes extra time to make the solution. 
  • Electronic soil pH tester: Utilizes a probe that is inserted directly into moistened garden soil to provide an immediate reading through an embedded electrode that measures the charge of the soil compared to a reference solution. You can continue to take readings throughout your different garden beds in an efficient manner. This is a sustainable option because this tool can be used over and over again for years to come. A clear winner in my book and what we’ll be focusing on in this review of the 5 best soil pH testers!

Probe-Length 

Look for electronic soil pH testers that feature a long test probe that is at least 7-8” long. The goal is to measure the pH around the roots of the plant, not the surface. Therefore, the longer the probe, the better – especially if you are growing plants with deep roots (tomatoes, potatoes, etc.)!

pH scale

Most soil pH testers on the market can handle a wide pH range, but it’s a good idea to verify this before you purchase. Vegetables grow in a pH range from as low as 4.5 (potatoes) to as high as 8.0 (asparagus), so make sure your meter will be able to handle that. 

Don’t worry, I’ve done the work for you – check out my product recommendations table in the section below!

Functionality

Who doesn’t like a multi-functional tool? However, this can either be a positive or a negative. I’ve found that when more features are involved, there’s more opportunity for something to break. Also, I feel like accuracy is better if the tool is designed and focused on one task. 

  • If you want the most accurate tool that is more durable and you don’t mind having multiple tools on hand (to measure moisture, nutrients, and pH), then a single-functionality tool would be a great choice!
  • If you are on a budget, don’t mind a little variability in readings, or don’t have the space to store multiple tools, then a multi-functionality tool would be a great choice for you.

Accuracy

This is the most important feature when looking for the best soil pH tester on the market. There’s no point in using one if it’s not accurate. I’ve done the research for you and have provided the best ones I could find in the product table below!

Durability

Durability is a huge factor to be paying attention to, especially when it comes to the delicate probe(s) on the soil pH tester. Some models are cheaply made and these can snap off, making your tool useless. I’ve kept durability in mind when deciding on the 5 best soil pH testers for you!

Digital vs Analog

Choosing between digital and analog is purely personal preference. With digital, you will need to provide some sort of power whether that’s batteries or charging. However, digital will provide a more precise pH reading. I like the simplicity of analog – less things to break or power up!

The 5 Best Soil pH Testers in 2022

Alright, friends! Here we go. I’ve scoured the internet to see what’s out there and kept all of the features above in mind to decide on the 5 best soil pH testers on the market in 2022. 

The Homesteading RD's Product Picks:

This is my favorite soil pH tester and is the best bang for your buck! I love that the pH tester is a single probe (less likely to break) and the display is easy to read. It has the widest pH range compared to the others and is very accurate. No batteries required, plus, it comes with a bonus moisture meter! Lightweight at only 1.6 ounces!

Probe length: 7"

pH Range: 3-10

While this is the priciest option, the easy-to-read LCD screen is worth the extra $5. No more guessing! This model provides data after just 10 seconds of insertion. This model also measures light, temperature and moisture! The only negative is that it requires 4 AAA batteries (included in purchase).

Probe length: 8"

pH Range: 3.5-9

This meter is light-weight and requires no batteries. It also measures moisture and light! However, with a double-probe feature this increases the risk of one of them breaking during insertion if your soil is rocky or compact. This model has a narrower pH detection range than the ones above, and the display is hard to read.

Probe length: 7.9"

pH Range: 3.5-8

Eventhough this soil pH tester has 30,000+ reviews on Amazon, don't be fooled! It's not the best one on the market. While it also measures light and moisture, these measures tend to be inaccurate. It doesn't require batteries, but the double-probe feature increases the risk of one of them breaking. It also requires a full 10 minutes to register the pH reading. This model has a narrower pH detection range than the ones above, and the display is hard to read. This was the most inaccurate pH tester of them all in my garden trials.

Probe length: 7.9"

pH Range: 3.5-8

While this article is mostly focused on probe-style soil pH testers, this soil test kit can be quite helpful if you are wanting to measure more than just pH. This kit comes with 40 tests and measures pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potash. It's fairly accurate, too! Just know that this is a more time-intensive method, especially if you are wanting to test several sections of your garden at a time.

How to Use a Soil pH Tester

Now that you have the best soil pH tester on the market, it’s important that you know how to use it properly! Without proper preparation, your reading may be inaccurate. Read on to learn how to use it, care for it so it lasts for years to come, plus troubleshooting tips!

Testing

*Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific model you have selected, but these are the general steps that should apply to most models.

A soil pH tester is inserted into the soil surrounding a cabbage plant

  1. Wet the soil in the area that you are wanting to test. If your soil pH tester comes with a moisture meter, take a reading. The soil moisture should be between 4-7 (moist, but not soaking wet). If the soil is too dry, the reading won’t take.
  2. Flip the switch on your tester to measure pH (if it’s a multiple feature model)
  3. Gently insert the probe into the soil, near (but not directly into) the roots of your plant. If you encounter any resistance, do not force the probe in. The probes are delicate and may break, especially if it has a double-probe feature.
  4. Wait a minimum of 10 seconds, then note the pH reading. Read your product instructions for its required processing time (some products take up to 10 minutes!). 
  5. Remove the probe and wipe off with a clean cloth. 
  6. Test again to verify your reading.

Care and Storage

Even the best soil pH testers on the market are delicate. That’s the nature of these instruments. They need to be properly cared for in order to last for years to come. 

  • After using, wipe off any soil or moisture with a clean cloth
  • Never insert the probe into a glass of water or any other liquid. This can damage the probe.
  • Never leave the probe in the soil for prolonged periods. This can result in corrosion. Always remove promptly after testing.

Troubleshooting

Having trouble with your soil pH tester? Here’s some of the most common issues you’ll encounter:

The soil pH reading did not move

  • Your soil may be too dry. Try adding a little moisture and re-test.
  • You may be testing too deep (where the soil is drier), water more deeply or position your meter a couple of inches higher and try again.
  • It’s very possible that your soil pH is 7.0, which is what most soil pH meters hold at when not inserted into the soil. 

My soil pH probe has black spots on it

  • The copper on the probe will naturally oxidize from exposure to air overtime. This is normal and can be remedied with a gentle cleaning or by using it frequently. By inserting it into the soil, these black spots will rub right off. 

The soil pH probe snapped off

  • Once the probe has detached, there is no fixing it. Thankfully, these tools are fairly inexpensive! Be careful with your tool and never force it into hard, compact or rocky soil.

When Should I Test My Soil?

The best time to test and treat your soil is in the fall. This is because it often takes weeks for your soil adjustments to take effect. However, if you detect an issue in the spring, definitely correct it right away.

What Should My Soil pH Be?

It depends on what plants you are growing. Some plants such as potatoes can handle a pH as low as 4.5 while others like asparagus can handle up to 8.0. Most garden soil naturally ranges between 4.0-8.0, but most plants like a pH of 6.0-7.0

For a complete list of what pH range each vegetable likes, definitely get your own copy of my favorite gardening book: The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible.

The Homesteading RD's Product Picks:

This is THE gardening book to have! I've had my copy for over 10 years and it's the one that I keep going back to time after time. It provides design ideas for raised beds, compost bins, you name it! Plus helpful tables for pH ranges, companion plants and more.

How Do I Adjust My Soil pH?

So, you’ve been using your amazing soil pH tester and have identified an issue. How do you go about fixing it? A full guide on adjusting your soil pH is beyond this article, but definitely check out some things to consider below. For more details, check out my favorite gardening book: The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible.

How off is “too off?”

Knowing when to treat your soil pH is one of the most important steps! If your soil pH reading is within 0.5 of your plant’s ideal pH range, don’t do anything. If it is more than 0.5 from your plant’s ideal pH range, then you want to add some amendments to adjust the pH.

How to increase the pH of your soil

There are several different additives that can be mixed into your soil to make it more alkaline. The most common ones are as follows:

  • Calcitic Limestone
  • Dolomitic Limestone
  • Wood Ash – My favorite option, especially since we have so much readily available from running our wood burning stove all winter longpH amendement sprinkled on soil along with a trowel

How to decrease the pH of your soil

To decrease the pH of your soil, there are two different methods: a quick fix and a long-term fix. 

  • Quick Fix: Powdered sulfur, aluminum sulfate and iron sulfate
  • Long-term fix (my favorite option): add acidic organic matter like peat moss, pine needles, or composted leaves, sawdust or wood shavings. These not only adjust the pH, but they add nutrients and improve soil structure. 

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Final Thoughts

Using the best soil pH tester on the market will really up your gardening game! By ensuring that your plants are growing in their ideal soil pH range will boost their growth and fruit production, resulting in your best harvest yet!

I hear stories all the time of gardeners fixing pH issues and experiencing dramatic growth. Definitely don’t miss out on such an easy and inexpensive way to maximize your harvest!

*Information in this article was referenced from personal experience and/or from my favorite gardening book The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, unless otherwise noted.

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Achieve Your Best Harvest Yet!​

I’ve been using my Garden Growing Guide for years and I know that you’ll love it, too. It’s fully customizable to your growing zone and can be printed or used digitally. Happy Gardening!

15 thoughts on “The 5 Best Soil pH Testers in 2022”

  1. Thank you for posting this!!! Seriously, I’ve been trying to figure out the best testers and the reviews are all over the map. The chemical tests seem to be wasteful and there are hundreds of electronic ones. So thank you for helping me out!

  2. I have the water meter, but I need to get the PH one, thank you!! I didn’t know they made them in the same style. I have been using strips. Great in-depth info.

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