How to Test Garden Soil


The nutrient level and relative acidity of your gardening soil is important to the health of your plants. A soil that has a high pH, or potential hydrogen ions, with a reading of above 7.0 is alkaline, while below 7.0 is acidic according to the Clemson University Extension. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension suggests performing a soil test every 3 to 5 years to determine whether your soil is at the right pH for your plants.

Step 1

Take a sample of the soil as soon as the final frost of the year has passed.

Step 2

Remove surface plants and debris such as grass and dead roots. Sample down to a depth of 6 to 8 inches for shrub and flower beds, 3 inches for turf and 8 to 12 inches for tree areas.

Step 3

Dry the samples at room temperature without using heating devices. Break up and lumps and remove stones.

Step 4

Mix all the samples together inside a plastic container and make sure the soil is smooth and free of debris.

Step 5

Mix the soil sample with tepid water until it is a brown liquid. Use distilled water to prevent the water from changing the pH of the soil.

Step 6

Place the soil sample into the pH testing tube and add a few drops of the testing solution into the tube as instructed by the pH test manual.

Step 7

Compare the color of the liquid inside the pH kit to the pH chart included with it to determine the acidity of the soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic container
  • Hand shovel
  • Garden gloves
  • pH testing kit


  • Purdue University Cooperative Extension: Collecting Soil Samples for Testing
  • Clemson Cooperative Extension: Soil Testing
  • The Garden Helper: How to Test and Adjust Your Soil pH
Keywords: soil pH, testing garden soil, testing soil

About this Author

Cleveland Van Cecil is a freelancer writer specializing in technology. He has been a freelance writer for three years and has published extensively on, writing articles on subjects as diverse as boat motors and hydroponic gardening. Van Cecil has a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from Baldwin-Wallace College.