Cultivating perfectly pH-balanced soil is incredibly important for your plants’ health. A soil pH tester shows you the accurate pH level of the soil in your garden beds or plant pots. It will tell you if the soil is too alkaline or acidic. When the soil has the right pH balance, your plants will thrive.

One of the most versatile gardening gadgets, a soil pH tester, or soil pH meter, can be used for home gardens, urban gardens, fruit tree orchards, farming, or other types of commercially grown plants. So whatever type of garden you have, the amazing soil tester should always be the first step in your plant-caring regime.

Before you choose the right plant food, which provides beneficial nutrients, as well as the sun and rain, your soil pH tester accurately measures the condition of the soil. After you have determined the acidity or alkalinity level of the soil, you can confidently plant your flowers, fruits, vegetables, or herbs that will produce beautiful foliage and a bountiful harvest.

What is a soil pH meter?

Soil pH meters are devices used by home gardeners and agricultural professionals to measure the acidity or alkalinity of a soil. Getting your soil pH right is a must if you want to produce healthy, vibrant plants. To get accurate measurements you need to know the right procedure for your soil pH meter.

The pH meter consists of a probe and an indicator. In order to function, the probe must come into contact with the soil. The indicator will give a pH reading and the result will provide an accurate idea of pH levels in soil for most gardening tasks.

Soil pH meters are devices used to measure the acidity or alkalinity of a soil. They work by measuring the hydrogen ion activity and this is expressed through the potential for hydrogen or ‘pH’. The pH scale ranges from 0 – 14 with 0 being extremely acidic, 7 being neutral and 14 being alkaline.

The ideal pH range for most plants falls between 5.5 and 7.5. Although, some plants are still able to thrive outside of this range. Soil pH affects the uptake of key nutrients, so when pH is out of the ideal range there is a chance your plants and crops are not having optimum nutrient uptake and therefore not reaching their full growth potential.

Soil pH can be affected by many things. The most common influences on soil pH are weather, fertilizer, type and amount of irrigation, soil type, other plants in the area and nutrient availability. This means soil pH can change considerably and it is absolutely essential to take regular measurements using a soil pH meter to ensure healthy growing plants.

Different plants prefer differing pH conditions for optimal growth and survival, and this is why it may be important to check your soil pH. Soil conditions vary all over the country, ranging from about 4.0-8.5, and can be affected by rainfall, minerals and other plants.

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How a soil pH tester works

Portable Soil pH testers will have one of two main designs. They will either incorporate an electrode in the body of the device (all-in-one design), or the electrode will be connected to the main body by a wire.

Irrespective of the design, the principle behind the technology is the same. The pH electrode that takes the pH measurement consists internally of a reference electrode, reference solution, reference junction and a glass bulb with a hydrated gel layer. When your electrode is submerged in the diluted sample or pressed into the soil an electrical current is triggered. The tester then calculates the charge of the reference solution inside the bulb and compares it to the soil medium outside of the gel layer. This comparison results in a pH measurement which is displayed on the pH meter’s screen – all within a matter of seconds.

ph meter soil and water

What to look for when selecting your soil pH meter

There are many types of soil pH meters in different shapes and sizes to suit all applications, ranging from meters for the avid home gardener to large agricultural operations. When selecting the right soil pH meter for you here’s a list of things to consider.

  1. Portability. Will you need a pH meter that is lab-based, field-based or a combination?
  2. Method. Can soil be sampled directly or is dilution required?
  3. Functions. Are other built-in functions required? For example, soil moisture and conductivity.
  4. Length of the probe. The minimum sample depth is generally 20cm. Different plants and crops require measurements to be taken at varying depths.
  5. Accuracy. Traditionally direct soil sampling is less accurate than the dilution method.
  6. Calibration. Does the device come with any buffer solutions to calibrate your meter?
  7. Sampling time. How long does it take to get a result?
  8. Device and electrode durability. Take care as direct ground measurement can damage the glass within an electrode.
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