Testing Soil pH: 6 Methods for Measuring the Acidity or Alkalinity of Your Soil

Do you want to see your plants thrive? Try testing the pH of your soil. It helps to maintain the soil towards producing healthy crops. This guide will help with Soil pH testing and all the information you need to choose the best soil testing plan for your crops. Now let’s go over the basics.

What Is Soil?

Soil is the top layer of the earth where plants and trees grow. It is the loose material on the earth’s surface that allows plants to grow. According to Brittanica, the soil is one of the principal substrata of life on Earth, serving as a reservoir of water and nutrients as a medium for the filtration and breakdown of harmful wastes and as a participant in carbon cycling other elements through the global ecosystem.

Soil has four main components: minerals soil, organic, water, and air. Soul minerals are divided into soil quartz, while soil organic matter is Plant, animal, and microbial residues.

What Is pH?

pH (potential hydrogen) is the measurement of his acid or how primary a substance is. It is also the measure of Hydrogen ion concentration, a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. 

The higher the concentration of hydrogen ions, the more acidic the sample is, and the lower the concentration of hydrogen ions, the more essential a sample is. The pH range goes from m 0to -14, with seven being neutral. A pH of less than 7 indicates acidity, while greater than 7 indicates a base.

Why Test Soil pH?

As mentioned above, pH is the measurement of how acidic and basic a substance is. Testing the soil’s pH helps determine what plants are best suited for that area because the pH of the soil determines what nutrients are available to the roots.

 In addition, the soil needs enough supplements like fertilizers and soil adjusters to thrive. Measuring the pH can help determine what and how much you need.

Factors That Affect Soil pH

Inherent factors that affect soil pH, such as climate, mineral content, and soil texture, cannot be changed. Natural soil pH reflects the combined effects of soil-forming factors such as parent materials, relief or topography, climate, and organisms.

1 . Climate

Rainfall plays a vital role in determining the pH of the soil. Soils formed in regions of high rainfall are acidic, while those that are formed in regions of low rainfall are alkaline.

2 . Irrigation Water

The water used to irrigate crops affects the pH of your soil. If the water is more acidic or basic than the soil, it isn’t enjoyable, and the pH of your soil will adjust.

3. Percent Base Saturation

Percent Base Saturation is the percentage of the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) occupied by the basic cations. A low percent Base Saturation means acidity, while a percent Base Saturation of 50-90 will result in neutrality or alkalinity.

4 .  Natural vegetation

Soil becomes more acidic when crops are harvested because of the removal of bases. The type of crop will determine the relative amounts or removal.

5 . Fertilizer

It is essential to check the soil pH before and after adding any fertilizer because pH will affect our readily available nutrients to the plants.

6. Soil Solution

The more you dilute the solution, the higher the pH value. However, the pH tends to drop as the soil gets progressively dry. Soil reaction is also influenced by the presence of CO² in the air, and as the CO² concentration increases, the soil pH falls and increases the availability of the nutrients.

How To Test Soil pH

Soil pH testing is done to see the level of acidity or alkalinity. Conducting a soil test gives you plenty of time to plant a nitrogen-fixing cover crop for a mild water climate. 

Many plants have a particular preference for the degree of alkalinity or acidity in the soil. The pH is measured across a scale that ranges from 0 or highly acidic to 14, which is highly alkaline.

There are several ways to test for soil pH. The most common ways involved laboratory tests, how tests, and DIY tests. The most precise figures laboratory test will take two weeks to get the results.

How To Test Soil In The Laboratory


  • pH meter
  • pH electrode
  • ATC probe
  • Stirrer

Step-by-step On How To Test Soil pH In The Laboratory

  1. Weigh 20g of soil, same info a 100ml beaker.
  2. Add 20ml of deionized (DI) water and place on a stirrer, and mix for 30 minutes.
  3. Cover for an hour.
  4. Allow the buffers and soil sample to come to room temperature. Remember that a temperature difference will add an error to your measurement.
  5. Use a 2-point calibration with a pH seven and a pH ten buffer solution.

How To Test Soil pH Using pH Meters

Test Soil pH Using pH Meters

Soil pH Meters have automatic temperature compensation and are customizable without any guesswork. It can take a lot of reading, with the only expense being your time.

  1. Dig out the top 2 inches of soil with a shovel in your planting bed.
  2. Loosen the soil with a garden trowel to about 5 inches deep. Add a scoop to the bucket.
  3. Add soil from each sample site to the bucket.
  4. Mix all the soil samples thoroughly and remove any rocks or pieces of debris.
  5. Go ahead and measure 2 cups of the mixed soil and put it in a clean container.
  6. Add distilled water to the soil and leave it to stay damp enough to compact it inside the container firmly.
  7. Use an included pad or a paper towel to clean the probe on digital soil.
  8. Turn your digital soil pH meter on and insert it into the soil. Make sure it has good contact with the soil. Keep its way from the bottom of the container.
  9. Please leave it to sit in the soil sample for the stipulated time recommended by the manufacturer, which is usually 60 seconds.
  10. Take note of the readings and make any changes as indicated. The soil is expressed on a 14 point scale with 7.0 being neutral and numbers higher than 7 is alkaline and vice versa.

How To Test Soil Using pH Strips

pH Strips, also known as litmus paper, are easy and cheap but hard to read. Test strips will not give accurate results; they only have a resolution of 0.5 pH units.

  1. Rub your hands using a small handful to clean off anything that might affect the soil.
  2. Take a small handful of soil and wet it using distilled water. You can also use a plastic lid to mix the soil with distilled water.
  3. Put the test strip on the water and soil mixture. Then wait for a few minutes for the color to change.
  4. Compare the color chart that comes with the strip. Take the reading from the area closer to the soil instead of taking it further away from where the water wicks up to.
  5. Repeat the process several times with samples from different parts of your garden.

How To Test Soil pH without A Soil Kit

Testing soil pH without a soil kit is not as precise as using a commercial test, but it will tell if your soil is acidic or alkaline.

Equipment Or Tools

  • Garden Towel
  • 2 Small plastic containers.

Materials needed

  • White Household vinegar
  • Baking Soda.


Gather some soil from the planting area into a clean plastic container. It is advisable to take a composite soil sample.

Test For Alkalinity

Add ½ cup of water to the soil sample and mix. Then add ½ cup of vinegar. If it is fizzling, it has an alkaline pH which means the acid is reacting with the base in the soil.

Test For Acidity

Add ½ cup of water to the composite soil sample and mix slowly. Add baking soda and mix thoroughly. If it bubbles or fizzles, the soil is acidic. The reaction results from acidic soil coming in contact with an alkaline substance (baking soda).

Amend The Soil If Necessary

After conducting the test, if the soil shows it is Alkaline or Acidic, you can amend it to bring the pH into a suitable range for the plants you want to grow.

How To Test Soil pH With A Kit

Test kits are easy to use but hard to read and dispose of because it requires a limited number of tests. Using a soil test kit involves distilled water or deionized water and some chemicals in a tube.

Not every kit involves the same order of operations, but it generally involves the following steps.

  1. Dig a small hole of about two to four inches deep.
  2. Check for any twigs or stones and move them aside, then fill the hole with distilled water. (Water that is neither acidic nor alkaline).
  3. When the hole created turns into a muddy pool, insert the test probe.
  4. Wait for a minute to get a reading.

If the pH reads below 7, the soil is acidic. Higher than seven means the soil is alkaline; exactly seven means neutral. Note that most plants do well in soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.

Frequently Asked Questions

1 . What Are The Signs Of Acidic Soil?

There are various signs of acidic soil; they include;

  1. Wilting glass blades
  2. Weeds and moss
  3. Leaf blight
  4. Stunted grass growth
  5. The high volume of oak and pine trees

2 . What Household Items Can Be Used To Test pH?

  1. Small paper or plastic cups
  2. Baking soda
  3. Teaspoon 
  4. Lemon juice
  5. Milk
  6. Lime
  7. Toilet bowl cleaner

3 . What Is  The Most Accurate Way To Measure pH?

pH Meters are regarded as the most accurate type of measurement, and they are widely used.

4 . What Are The Signs Of Poor pH In Plants?

  1. Stunted growth
  2. Brown spots on leaves
  3. Leaf necrosis
  4. Leaf tip burn
  5. The blossom ends in fruit.

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