The type of soil you have can make or break your growing season. Soils are your main nutrient base for vegetation growth, and if you want lush, green lawns and bountiful gardens then you need to make sure your plants are able to get to and use, available nutrients for growth and production. But how, exactly, can you determine if you have the right soils for the job without first losing plants to trial and error?
Luckily, soil test kits are readily available for you to use and provide the information you need to keep your plants growing as they should. The following soil test kit reviews highlight how each is used so you can determine which may be right for your soil needs.
Backyard Boss Top 5 Soil Test Kits for 2021
|Soil Savvy - Soil Test Kit||Check The Price!|
|Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit||Check The Price!|
|Whitetail Institute Laboratory Soil-Test Kit||Check The Price!|
|LaMotte Garden Kit||Check The Price!|
|Soil Kit- Soil Test Kit||Check The Price!|
Why You Can Trust Us
Our team of green-thumb gardening lovers understands that the best gardens start with the right soil. We have been working hard on our own gardens for years, testing different products and discovering what works best first-hand (and what doesn’t).
We have used that knowledge to put together a wide variety of informative articles and guides, sharing our knowledge with first-time gardeners and experienced gardeners alike. We’re here to help you discover everything from the best shoes for gardening to the best watering cans.
There is no need to go into gardening “flying blind.” Before you start putting your time and effort into the happy, healthy garden of your dreams, take a moment to check that your soil can provide the plants with the nutrients they require.
The following in-depth reviews will help you to pick the right soil test kit and avoid losing plants unnecessarily.
Best for Most Accurate Results
This is a great kit for first-time soil testing in areas that have yet to be planted. It provides a very comprehensive guide to the current soils and what can be done to improve upon them prior to planting your lawn or garden.
What We Like: The Soil Savvy kit is a mail-in kit that is easy to use and provides feedback pertaining to both soil pH and 14 micro and macronutrients in your soils. It includes everything you need (including a pre-paid envelope) to collect, mail, and read the detailed report you will receive back in seven to 10 business days.
The company also provides suggestions as to which fertilizers and other products are best for your soils to improve the health of your vegetation. This is a professional grade test kit that allows for easy to understand results any homeowner can use.
Who Should Buy It: If you are looking for detailed results and recommendations for products to improve your gardening, this test might be a great option for you.
Best for Budget
Perfect homeowners kit to check soils prior to planting or determine which fertilizers or amendments to make during the growing season.
What We Like: The Luster Leaf Rapitest kit provides quick results that you can get right at home. The kit comes with multiple tests so you can test various places on your property and even track the changes in the soil through the seasons as well as with amendments. All that is required is distilled water and your soils to get immediate pH results and quick nutrient levels.
The kit also comes with suggestions for various soil amendments, as well as detailed suggestions for common plant nutrient uptake. Everything is easily color-coded to avoid mixing anything up and making it easy for anybody to use.
Who Should Buy It: For those that are looking for a quick, easy-to-read test without spending a fortune, this budget test is a great option.
Best for Produce Gardeners
Produce growers will love this kit as it is specific not only to soil amendment but to the crops you are planting. This way you can be specific in how you feed your plants.
What We Like: The Whitetail Institute Laboratory Kit is designed specifically for soils used for producing garden beds. If you are planning on growing your own fruits and vegetables and want the best crop possible, this is a great kit to consider. Results provide specific suggestions to the crops you plan on putting in and measure both NPK as well as other important micronutrients.
pH and organic materials are also measured to provide you with knowledge of what can be added to your soils without you having to guess and waste product. You do have to mail your results to the lab, but results come within a week by mail or email, sometimes sooner.
Who Should Buy It: This test is a great option for any gardener that is interested in results specific to the crops that you plan on growing.
Best for Fast Results
If you are interested in a bit more of the science behind your soils and want your own detailed results without having to wait for a mail-in kit, this is an excellent choice.
What We Like: The LaMotte Garden Kit provides all you need for accurate chemical testing of your soils to get both pH and NPK results. It also gives great suggestions and tips to make your soils healthier once you know what is lacking (or in abundance and needs to be balanced out). This kit is a bit more comprehensive than simple water and tablet tests and requires a little more attention to detail.
With detailed instruction and the ability to test your soils multiple times, this kit comes complete with a soil guide and book so you can better understand the science behind the soils. All test tubes and chemicals are included and can also be ordered separately so the entire kit doesn’t have to be replaced again.
Who Should Buy It: If you want results FAST without compromising on accuracy, this test might work well for you.
Best for Problem Solving
This is a great test for problem areas that you need a prescription to help improve soil health. Plus, it is good for both gardens and grasses.
What We Like: The original Soil Kit brand soil test kit measures for specific pH, NPK, and select micronutrient results to provide a detailed analysis for fertilization suggestions. This is for both garden and lawns and explains problem areas so you can quickly address any issues.
All you have to do is mail in a soil sample and results should arrive in approximately one week with detailed descriptions of the area tested as well as what can be done for the type of vegetation you have growing there.
Who Should Buy It: Anyone that is struggling with problem soils and searching for an easy to follow results will find this test to be a great option.
Nutrients Needed for Healthy Plant Growth
Your plants need some very specific nutrients in order to grow and produce. They also need to be in a soil pH that allows for proper use of these nutrients. Even though many plants and grasses are very tolerant of slight changes in nutrient availability, they still will show signs of receiving too little or too much of those basic nutrient needs.
Plants that grow outside of ideal conditions may show all sorts of changes in their growth and appearance. Everything from vigorous green growth lacking blooms and production, to withered yellow leaf tips and even strange red or yellowed veins can be a sign of nutrient and/or pH imbalances.
The pH of your soil is important because it allows the available nutrients to be used by the plant. Ideally, you want your soils to be between 6.5 and 7.0 on the pH scale, meaning it fairly neutral, rather than too acidic or alkaline. Most plants can handle some variances, however, with certain species preferring more or less acidity. Be sure to know what species of plants you have to help provide them with the best pH possible.
Potassium, also called Potash due to early production techniques that used wood ashes as a source, is a crucial nutrient. It controls the movement of nutrients, carbohydrates, and water within plant tissues. It helps regulate photosynthesis and is in charge of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange.
Nitrogen is what makes chlorophyll convert sunlight into energy during photosynthesis. Without it, the plant is unable to support the amino acid building blocks of the plant itself.
Phosphorus is the nutrient associated with plant maturity and production. It is needed for the processes of energy storage, cell growth, and photosynthesis.
All these nutrients work together to allow the plant to process vital chemical reactions for healthy growth from seedling to production. When they fall out of balance your plants and lawn may not be able to grow as well or use the nutrients available to them.
What a Soil Test Is
Soil tests measure these basic nutrients and pH levels to provide you with an idea of what problems you may have. These soil nutrient testers also provide you with an idea of the types of soils you may have and allow for ways to help amend and improve the soils themselves to provide a quality growing medium. Soil tests are easy to come by and can generally be ordered online or picked up at a local garden center for you to complete on your own or send off for results.
Why Use a Soil Test?
Obviously, if you have plants that aren’t looking so great you are probably frantically looking for answers to salvage what you can. Although most plants can bounce back from short periods of neglect if you regularly soil test you can avoid this worry before you even put a plant in the ground. Nutrients are not always fixed in place either. Heavy watering and rainfall can make it leach through the soil and knowing the habits of nutrient availability in your soils can help you provide what is needed during the growing season.
Soil nutrient testing can be done at any time of year and definitely should be a regular part of property maintenance if healthy vegetation is a goal you have. Knowing your soils makes it easy to add what is needed to make them the best they can be for plant growth. Soil tests are incredibly easy to use and can also be very budget-friendly, allowing you to track your soil health year-round. They can also help you to select the best fertilizers, either store-bought or from home composting, to boost your soil health effectively.
They also can help you determine what soil difference you have on your property. Soil is not consistent from one area to another, and if you have struggled to grow certain plants in one area that thrive in another- this is a quick way to fix this problem.
Types of Soil Tests
The best soil tester kits are going to provide, at a minimum, accurate pH and N-P-K nutrient levels. Although there are electronic digital readers available for instant results, almost all will only tell you pH and moisture: useful information, but not what you need for true soil amendment purposes. Other digital readers that are available to read more detail have not been as accurate as manual tests, hence why they are not as readily available.
The two types of kits this article is focused on are at-home kits and mail-in kits- both of which provide the information you need to make decisions pertaining to your soil health. At home, DIY kits are quick and easy to use and only require a soil sample and distilled water to use. They provide the answers you need in a fair amount of time (it may take up to 24 hours for certain soils to settle out of your water sample).
Mail-in kits are also easy to use and may provide an even more detailed soil analysis of your soil health but do require that you wait for your results. These are generally more accurate overall than DIY kits but are preferred by those who have very specific problems with their plant growth that they may have already tried to find a solution to. These also often include the presence of heavy metals in your soils that could be causing problems.
How We Picked
As you can see, there are many different options available for soil test kits ranging from quick and simple at-home kits to mail-in kits with detailed and targeted results. To narrow down our list to the top five, we considered the ease of use, accuracy, and reliability of the many kits on the market.
Backyard Boss understands that we have readers of all gardening skill levels. With this in mind, we picked soil test kits that stood out in five different categories including budget kits, most accurate results, and those with targeted results for hard-to-solve problem soils.
We put together a list including a variety of highly recommended test kits so that gardeners of all levels can find the perfect kit for their needs.
The Best Soil Test Kit Is…
No matter whether you have a new property to plant, an existing yard you are curious about, or problematic soil areas, a dependable soil testing kit is exactly what you need. Both mail-in and DIY soil kits are easy to use perfect for learning about your soil health and what you can do to make it better. Why wait until you have vegetative problems when you can easily see if there might be any future growing issues? Choose a test that is best for your growing situations.
You may want to try a couple of these test kits for different areas of your gardening. Overall, however, our top pick was the Soil-Savvy- Soil Test Kit. This kit provides detailed and accurate results including tips for how you can improve your soil quality and, in turn, improve your gardening!
If you have used any of the above tests, we’d love to hear about your experience below. Also- let us know if you have any further questions. As always, please share!