Is there a good home soil pH tester you reccomend?

Asked April 12, 2013, 7:51 PM EDT

Hi, I am a average gardener in the Willamette Valley and having bought my house from someone else and having found lime in their garage, I have no idea the pH of the soil in any given area of my yard. I have used the pH testers that use small capsules that you mix with water, but they are one use, and only test a small volume of soil. Is there a probe-type pH meter for under $50 that you would recommend for repeated yearly testing of multiple sites in my yard. While I am asking is there also a durable soil temperature probe you would recommend for both soil and compost piles? Thanks very much

Lane County Oregon soil ph soil testing soil and fertility issues

1 Response

Hello and thank you for asking about testing the acidity and temperature of your soil for gardening. Willamette Valley soil tends to be naturally acidic, and many homeowners use lime on the lawn in the fall to adjust the pH to encourage the turf and discourage moss.
The pH testers for use in the field or gardens are expensive and require care and calibration. The other tests you've seen are not super-accurate and solutions need to be "fresh". Depending on the crop you are growing, these may give enough indication of the acidity. Soil pH changes during the year, so testing in the fall is generally recommended.
I suggest you contact the local Master Gardener Volunteers to ask about the acidity sensitivity of the plants you'd like to grow or are growing. Soil analysis by a laboratory for pH and other nutrients is an excellent way to begin gardening at your new home, and they can talk to you about local options. The Lane County Extension Service Master Gardener phone is 541-344-0265.
Soil and compost thermometers are not so expensive, and look sort of like a meat thermometer from the kitchen, but the length of the probe varies.
OSU Extension Service has some articles on-line about your questions, and include links to publications with even more details, if you'd like to research more:
Winter is a good time to get garden soil analyzed, http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/node/937
Is it time to plant vegetables? Ask your soil thermometer, http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/it-time-plant-vegetables-ask-your-soil-thermometer
Think like a plant when measuring soil pH, http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/think-plant-when-measuring-soil-ph-1
Best wishes for a successful gardening year.