How to Conduct a Soil PH Test


No matter what you are growing, a soil pH test is essential to determining the fertility of your soil, as certain plants prefer soils that are either acidic, neutral, or alkaline. With this information, you can amend the soil as necessary for whatever you are trying to grow. Soil pH tests are relatively simple to conduct by yourself. You can get soil pH test kits from most garden supply and hardware stores, and they are usually not very expensive. They generally consist of a testing solution (powder or liquid), a test tube, and a chart telling you what the colors of the test solutions indicate.

Step 1

Take a sample of the soil in your intended planting area. Try to avoid bits of grass, leaves, or other organic matter that may be sitting on your soil's surface. You want to test the soil, not the mulch or other things growing in it.

Step 2

Break any clumps of soil up so that the soil sample is granular. Do not break it up with your fingers, as oils from your fingers can affect the pH of the soil. Use a kitchen fork to mash it up as finely as you can.

Step 3

Put a small amount of soil into the test tube that came with your soil pH testing kit. Follow the manufacturer's instructions about how much soil to use. Usually, it is a very small amount, a teaspoon or so.

Step 4

If your testing solution is a powder, proceed to step 5. If it is a liquid, apply the testing solution to the soil. In the case of liquid testing solutions, you may not need to add any water. Check the instructions that came with your soil pH test kit to make sure.

Step 5

Add distilled water to the testing solution powder and soil in the test tube. Check the soil pH test kit's instructions to see how much water should be added. Do not use tap water---distilled water has a neutral pH level, but most tap water does not. Tap water could affect the results of your pH test and compromise its accuracy.

Step 6

Wait the recommended amount of time specified by the soil pH test kit's instructions. Look at the color of the solution and compare it to the color chart provided with the soil test kit to learn what your soil's pH level is. A reading of "7" indicates a neutral soil pH that is suitable for most plants. Acid-loving plants, such as tomatoes and azaleas, like pH levels below 7; a few common plants that prefer higher pH levels include oregano and zinnias.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not touch the top of the test tube, nor any of the things you will put into it. Your skin oils could get mixed into the solution and compromise the test's accuracy.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil pH test kit
  • Soil
  • Distilled water (optional)
  • Garden trowel
  • Fork


  • Garden Gate Magazine: How to do a Soil Test
  • Garden Helper: Soil Acidity
Keywords: soil pH testing, soil fertility tests, soil test kit

About this Author

Amrita Chuasiriporn is a professional cook, baker, and writer. In addition to cooking and baking for a living, Chuasiriporn has written for several online publications. These include Chef's Blade, CraftyCrafty, and others. Additionally, Chuasiriporn is a regular contributor to online automotive enthusiast publication Chuasiriporn holds an A.A.S. in culinary arts, as well as a B.A. in Spanish language and literature.