Soil pH Tests
Soil pH tests give you a quick and easy way to radically improve the quality of your garden soil.
There are several methods of making soil pH tests. The most accurate is an electrical "bridge" which checks the reaction by electrical resistance. These soil pH meters are very simple to use and now convenient pockatable little devices. They aren't very cheap though so few amateur gardeners are likely to want to extend to such a luxury (If you're keen though, they make great new toy).
While this device gives extremely true pH readings, most gardeners will want to use soil pH test kits despite the probability of less accurate results.
When using either approach to soil pH tests, it is important to take individual samples from different areas of your garden. It may be tempting to take a number of samples and mix them to give an average, but such results can be highly misleading.
My own vegetable garden, while on land graded nearly a hundred years ago, is an example of how much the soil in one plot can vary. In one area it lies over an old creek bed that was filled in 1868 to make a level building plot. Since this was before bulldozer days, I can just imagine an old-fashioned horse-drawn scoop cutting down the hill on which the house was built, partially filling the creek with this earth. In another spot I find prairie soil of a different character. In one corner of the plot, tons of coal ashes were used in a mixture with some black soil and manure from a barn that once occupied the site.
All this soil history has been revealed gradually. Over a period of years I have double-dug the entire garden, uncovering everything from old barn footings to a buggy dashboard and an 1850 whiskey bottle. Incidentally, I unearthed a midden of undecayed chicken bones and rabbit skulls, which merely confirmed for me again the fact that bone (a good source of phosphate) resists decay for decades.
In this one garden, a small section filled with old eroded woods soil had an acid pH of 5.8, while the other end of the garden, where ashes predominated, soil pH tests showed 7.8. Obviously, if I had mixed these two to get an "average" sample I would have received a report of no value to me in working with either the acid or alkaline soils.
If you have your own test kit, however, various sections in your garden can be tested and treated individually. Even with simple soil pH test kits which cannot be expected to be more accurate than within two or three fractions of a point at best, you can still easily build up a picture of your entire garden.
Soil pH Test Kits - find out about the quick, easy and cheap way to find your soil pH
Soil pH Meter - more info about the electronic but affordable tools for quick, accurate and convenient testing of your soil
Measuring Soil pH - further advice on measuring soil pH