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Comments on cheap soil ph meters?

Posted by onetwothreetim zone 5 (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 21, 09 at 8:55

I'm mixing my own soil this year for seed starting and got to wondering if I'm getting my soil ph right.

I was wondering if anyone has used one of the many cheap (less than twenty dollars) soil ph meters that are available?

Are they fairly accurate or no? I was wondering if they could be tested with any household products (Vinegar, distilled water, etc) to verify if they are reading correctly?

I know that I shouldn't cheap out when buying tools, but I just can't afford to buy expensive equipment for everything that I try to do. Maybe I'd be better off without a meter?

I'm using lime to adjust the ph of my peat.
Also soap as a wetting agent which I assume will move the ph one way or another?

Thanks in advance for any replies.
Tim


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Comments on cheap soil ph meters?

They're just about worthless. If you can find some kind of litmus paper - swimming pool stuff - and put a sample of your mix in with some distilled water and swirl it around and wait a few hours, that should give you a better, cheaper, idea.

I'd comment that if you're using peat and a bit of lime, you should get a decent, natural buffering.

I'd also comment, and speaking from experience, that for seed starting, and all the risk that goes along with maybe ruining your whole gardening season if you whiff on your home-made mix, that I'd consider springing the $8.00 for a bag of sterile, professionally formulated starter mix, and then once sprouted, transplant the seedlings into some cheaper, even home-made stuff.


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RE: Comments on cheap soil ph meters?

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RE: Comments on cheap soil ph meters?

I've had one for years. Awhile ago it stopped working. Then I got the idea theat maybe the probe had oxidized. So I rubbed it with steel wool and it then worked. I checked it in sulfuric acid (battery acid) and caustic soda. Both showed very acid, about 1 or 2, and alkaline, over 9 or 10. Checking soil my rose beds for which I was concerned about showed one with correct ph, 7, while many were 8. This after I had diligently applied lime in early Spring. All because two soil tests in a different part of the garden tested quite acid, 6.2 and 5.8. Well seems as though that was a mistake as the liming affected my roses as flowers were smaller and some were malformed.Another result that seems to confirm what happened is one rose began to show lighter yellow foliage so I applied ammonium sulfate, an acidifying fertilizer, and iron and out it performed the rest of the bed. In fact better than it had ever done.

Anyway a long story but it seems these "cheapies" should not be dismissed so easily. They may not be as super accurate as a high priced one but if they give you an approximate measure of pH probably good enough.


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RE: Comments on cheap soil ph meters?

When I tested a couple of the cheap soil pH meters I found they gave the same results whether I tested some vinegar or a baking soda solution, even after setting the meter to nuetral in distilled water (pH of 7.0). There is enough evidence around to indicate that purchasing one is largely a waste of your money.


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RE: Comments on cheap soil ph meters?

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 22, 10 at 8:00

The least expensive method for checking soil pH is to use a dye indicator solution, like bromothymol blue. This will be blue around pH = 7.6, and yellow around pH = 6.5. In between these values, the solution will be varying shades of green. You have to dig up a tablespoon of soil, and make a slurry with distilled water. The slurry gets filtered, and the filtrate is what you test for pH. This method is not as precise as a pH meter, but it is reliable. A small bottle of test solution sells for around 2 dollars, and will do 50 or 100 tests.


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RE: Comments on cheap soil ph meters?

Sorry for the couple-week late response, but I just bought one and it seems to reflect what I expect at least.

I'm not sure how these meters work, but mine only seems to report anything useful if it's held in soil. If I hold it directly in water or any other liquid, it doesn't do anything. But, I took some soil from my garden, which is slightly alkaline (according to both it and a traditional kit), poured some lime juice on the soil, and the pH meter immediately lowered its reading. Might not be accurate, but I'm going with it for now.

Mine was $8 at home depot, brand is Hold All. If anyone has any ideas on how to test it in soil with a pre-known pH, I'll try that and see if it matches.


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RE: Comments on cheap soil ph meters?

A very good and reliable soil test, soil pH, Phosphorus, Potash, Calcium, Magnesium, and soil CEC, from Michigan State University costs $15.00. A major advantage is that you get the level of Calcium and Magnesium which helps determine why your soils pH is where it is. Your pH meter will not supply that information.


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