Soil Testing Instructions


The nutrients available to your plants can affect the growth of your plants significantly. Nitrogen is responsible for making sure your plant has strong foliage growth. Phosphorus helps with blooming and seed formation, and potash helps with strong root growth. The pH level, or acidity and alkalinity levels, of your soil affects how much of these nutrients your plant can absorb. You can test all of these factors to see if your soil needs an adjustment.

Step 1

Dig a 3-inch-deep hole with your shovel in one corner of your garden when the soil is dry. With a spoon, collect 1 cup of soil at that depth and put it in a clean container. Dig holes and collect soil sample from each corner of your garden. Put each sample in a separate container.

Step 2

Label each of your soil sample containers so that your know from which section of your garden you got the sample. With the side of your spoon, crumble the soil in each container finely, and remove any rocks or pieces of wood.

Step 3

Test the pH of your first soil sample by opening the cap on your pH soil test. Add soil up to the soil fill line. Open one of the capsules that came with your kit, and pour it over the soil. Use your dropper to add enough water to fill it to the water line.

Step 4

Shake the pH tester well. Set it aside for one minute to let the soil settle. After one minute, compare the color change in the tester to the chart to determine your soil's pH level. Write down the results in your notepad, and make a note of the area of the garden from which the sample came.

Step 5

Repeat the pH test for each soil sample to determine if the soil pH changes in different areas of your garden. Wash the tester under running water between each test.

Step 6

Make a solution from each soil sample separately by mixing 1 cup of soil with 5 cups of water in a bowl. Keep each soil sample separate. Mix each solution well, and set it aside to settle for 30 minutes.

Step 7

Put the solution from your first sample into the chamber of each test for nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, using the dropper.

Step 8

Open the capsule that corresponds with the type of nutrient test into each solution. Shake each tester, then wait for 10 minutes for it to develop. Compare the color change to the chart that came with your tester. Jot down the results for the first soil sample in your notebook.

Step 9

Test the NPK levels of each of your other soil samples, and write down the results. When you are done, you will have an accurate picture of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potash levels of each area of your garden. You will also know the pH level, and how well plants are able to receive these nutrients. Use the information that came with your soil tester to figure out the soil adjustments needed, if any, for the plants you will be growing.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Spoon
  • Labels
  • pH soil test kit
  • Notebook
  • 4 bowls
  • NPK soil test kit


  • Lusterleaf: Soil Test Kit Instructions
  • Ed Hume Seeds: Testing Your Soil
Keywords: testing soil, soil pH test, nutrients in soil

About this Author

Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Robin Coe has reported on a variety of subjects for more than 15 years. Coe has worked on environmental health and safety issues in communities across Ohio and Michigan. Coe holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a double-major in international politics from Bowling Green State University. She has also received training and experience as a nurse aide.