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A garden is only as good as the ground that it's planted in. Discussion forum for the many ways to improve the soil where we plant our gardens.

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Old August 26, 2019   #1
kilroyscarnival
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Default Soil pH / light / moisture meters?

Are any of these gadgets any good? I saw a three-in-one for sale at Lowe's. The reviews online were decidedly mixed, but others said the poor reviewers were simply not letting the meter stay in the soil long enough to register.
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Old August 26, 2019   #2
brownrexx
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I don't know about moisture meters but don't waste your money on an at home pH meter.
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Old August 26, 2019   #3
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All you will get out of them is a reference point not a true lab reading.
But my cheap one worked for me and put me in the right direction and the plants exploded after soil adjustments.

I got made fun of here some time ago about it so I dont even talk about it much anymore and just do my own thing.
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Old August 26, 2019   #4
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I bought a cheap (under $100.) ph meter last year and it has helped me a lot this year in my home container garden. It seems that my tap water is too high a ph. When I see signs in the plants, usually iron and potassium defficiency, I know my ph is off and measure. I adjust the ph downward in a tub of water and use that at least every 2nd watering or more. Checking with the ph meter I see that some liquid fertilizers make the ph go down and no need for further adustment.
It has been interesting to use and if the meter is not completely accurate it is close enough to give me great results with my tomatoes.
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Old September 1, 2019   #5
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Thanks to all three of you for the feedback. I think the three-in-onemight not be worth it but I may look for a pH meter that is better reviewed than the all-in-one.
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Old September 1, 2019   #6
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Regarding the meters that test a liquid solution, blue lab and hannah are trustworthy brands. Avoid the super cheap ph meters off amazon and ebay. They are only about five bucks, but still a waste of five bucks.

The soil probe meters do have a bad reputation, but maybe some of them work. A lab test of your soil might be a better value for your money, though.
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Old September 2, 2019   #7
PaulF
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I agree with Cole; there isn't a inexpensive meter worth anything...not even to give an indication or a base to work from. There are professional soil testing labs that will give all the information you need or want for not much money and their equipment costs a whole lot more than any of us could possibly afford. Besides that the technicians know how to prepare the samples properly to run the tests. Fifteen bucks every other year is worth it to me.
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Old September 2, 2019   #8
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I think best cheap option for home growers is the pH paper. Try to get one that covers the range of interest only (like 5 to 9), as it will be a bit more accurate.
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Old September 2, 2019   #9
brownrexx
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I worked in a chemistry lab for years and our pH meters cost about $2500 each and the probes were $100 each and had to be replaced frequently. Each meter uses 2 probes.

The meters were calibrated with 2 standards every 8 hours to assure accuracy.

No home pH meters are going to give you much accuracy but pH paper should be fine although many of them only read in whole numbers and there can be a big difference between something like 7.0 and 7.9 so buy paper that reads to one decimal place.

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Old September 2, 2019   #10
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This reminds me of the young and some older guys at work that have been indoctrinated into buying everything China cheap.
They are flabbergasted I would spend the money on a Fluke meter when they have one for $35 dollars.
They aren't the same trust me.

The only thing that cheap pH meter did for me is tell me my soil pH was way high.
I confirmed it with vinegar.
I didn't have time for test results to be sent off and come back.

All I can say is it read 8 and I adjusted down to what it said was 6 and the plants responded very well.
It took a lot of tinkering to get any good reading from it at all.
My wife bought it for me.
If she would have known there were $2,400 dollar meters she would have insisted I would have gotten one of those.
I did and kept my mouth shut.
My wife was a math English and businesses wizard with no aptitude for instrumentation.

While we are on the subject if you are prone to weighing everything you cook to the gram, get good repeatable scales.
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Old September 3, 2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brownrexx View Post

No home pH meters are going to give you much accuracy but pH paper should be fine although many of them only read in whole numbers and there can be a big difference between something like 7.0 and 7.9 so buy paper that reads to one decimal place.
You mean like the ones they sell to test your body pH? This is the kind of thing I’m seeing on Amazon. Micro Essential Labs pHydrion Urine and Saliva ph test paper , 15 ft roll with dispenser and chart, ph range 5.5-8.0 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0001SR4NM..._VTXBDb6ND0WPM So I’d have to test the ph of plain, maybe distilled water, then stir soil in water and test that liquid?
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Old September 4, 2019   #12
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That would do quite nicely Kilroyscarnival. Gives clear color changes at relatively narrow intervals. Check your waters pH first to give you a baseline reading. If it is between 6 and 8 probably not going to influence pH to much. To wet soil, you need to add just enough water to give you a slurry, thick something a little bit damper than would be required for a throw-able mud ball, let sit for an hour to allow all the soil to wet out and add a little bit more water if needed. You only need just enough excess water to wet the paper
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Old September 4, 2019   #13
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I get my complete soil test done which included pH for $9 at Penn State so I would do that instead of buying pH paper for almost $9 and then distilled water for another dollar. Your soil pH is not going to change very quickly even if you add amendments so testing once a year is certainly adequate.

The important thing about testing soil that many people ignore is to take a "composite" sample which is 8-10 samples taken from different locations and mixed together and then taking a small sample from that composite.

I would not make the sample as thick as a mud ball, but more the consistency of pudding or a milkshake but not so wet that the soil settles to the bottom.

If you are going to go this route you should buy a fresh bottle of distilled water because the pH can change after it has been opened and it sits for a while, not 5 minutes but maybe several weeks.
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Old September 4, 2019   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brownrexx View Post
I get my complete soil test done which included pH for $9 at Penn State so I would do that instead of buying pH paper for almost $9 and then distilled water for another dollar. Your soil pH is not going to change very quickly even if you add amendments so testing once a year is certainly adequate.
Hey, any excuse to re-visit Penn State! Just kidding. I found out earlier this year that The Diner (aka Ye Olde College Diner in my time there) is gone.

I do think my county extension offers soil testing, though. I'll look into it.

The Epic Gardening guy on YouTube demonstrated a soil test kit that offered results that looked, appearance-wise, somewhat like the genetic 23-and-Me kits, or so he said. At $28 on Amazon, "Soil Savvy" looks a bit gimmicky. But that's a whole nutrient analysis, not just pH. And I'm going to be doing mainly container/raised bed for which I'm mostly using new purchased mix (and some homemade compost). The nice thing about the packet of strips was that I could test it seasonally and make sure anything I'm adding isn't throwing the pH off a whole bunch.
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Old September 4, 2019   #15
brownrexx
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I received a Rapid Test soil test kit for my birthday in May so I bought distilled water and tried it out. The results were nothing like my results from Penn State's Ag lab so I called the company and they said that the reagents could have been old and they offered to replace them. I declined and asked them to send me a digital soil thermometer instead and they did but that kit was a waste of money.
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