We were so excited to discover these home soil test kits! The idea that you can test for nutrient deficiencies and pH levels in your very own home without having to wait for or mail in your soil sample to the extension agency? ALLURING. But, like all of our products, it’s important that we’re able to back them up and test them and see if they actually perform. So, on this fine August day I took it upon myself to test these out on my own garden soil.
The way the product is designed makes it feel like a fun science experiment (which it is) but it’s extremely straightforward and easy to use. The color-coordinated test containers and capsules are easy to understand. Once you get everything open and all over the table, you’re not going to lose track of what’s what. The directions explain how to take a soil sample (which is similar to how you’d take a soil sample for the extension agency) and detailed instructions on how to go about using the kit correctly.
The kit comes with four containers (a container each for testing pH, Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus) that are each split into two chambers. One is the test chamber and one is the reference chamber. Each container then has a set of 10 color coordinated capsules (only one capsule needed per test - that’s a lot of tests) that contains a developer that is added to the test chamber along with your soil sample. The combination of your soil, the developer, and some water (the kit comes with a handy dropper tool) takes only a short time to turn the appropriate color which you then compare to the associated color chart, determining your results.
The pH test took all of five minutes to complete while the nutrient tests take more time as you have to mix your soil sample with water and allow the water to settle. Certain types of soils settle faster than others but the directions recommend 30 minutes to 24 hours. I let this sample sit for 24 hours just in case. And so the next day I completed the experiment, following the directions, mixing the developer into our soil water in the “test chamber” and waited just 10 minutes for the colors to develop!
Test results (clockwise from top left) for pH, Potassium, Phosphorus, and Nitrogen
The results were generally as expected. The soil pH was neutral and it had sufficient levels of phosphorus and potassium. This makes sense because I’ve been fertilizing heavily with these nutrients as my fruit crops like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers have been developing. The nitrogen levels on the other hand were quite low. I’ve purposefully not fertilized with nitrogen to promote fruit development (and tomatoes are notoriously heavy feeders) but it was a good reminder that I’ll have to amend our soil before we plant our fall crops in order to get those beautiful leafy greens in autumn.
Beyond just the test, the instructions also include a plant pH preference list (so you can know if your soils are doing what certain plants need them to do) that includes ornamentals, vegetables, and fruit shrubs. It’s a surprisingly long and useful list, actually. There are also instructions on exactly how to adjust your soil pH or nutrient availability with specifics on what to fertilize with and how much. So really it’s set up for even the most beginner gardener turned soil scientist!
This is a useful and quick way to answer some nutrient availability problems on the spot rather than waiting weeks to get your soil tested by the lab, leaving a huge chunk of time with less than stellar results in the garden. I’d still recommend getting your garden soil lab tested every few years, as these can give you more detailed results and useful input that the home soil test doesn’t begin to cover. Even so, its usefulness cannot be ignored. In the future, I’ll definitely be adding this home soil test kit to my arsenal of garden problem solving tools and I hope you will too!
Article Written by: Hannah Gibbons
About the Author: Hannah Gibbons, an employee at Sow True Seed since 2020, has nearly a decade of experience in the agricultural industry. Their passion for environmental education and regenerative agriculture has been the cornerstone of their work, aimed at making gardening accessible to all.