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Home soil testing

Posts: 58
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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Pretty new here. Wondering about soil testing. It appears lab work is the most reliable, but also more expensive. Are there cost effective and equally reliable home soil tests out there that you have tried and can recommend? Thank you
Posts: 1132
Location: Central Wyoming -zone 4
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this is a good question that i'd like to know the complete answer to, i do know that one can test for sand:clay ratios though through a simple process:
you take a clear glass jar of some sort that is easily seen through, fill it halfway with soil to be tested and fill the rest with water
close the jar and shake VERY WELL until it all appears mixed together
set jar down in an area it wont be disturbed

sand will settle near instantly, very quick
silt will settle within hours to a day or so
clay will take a couple days to a bit longer to settle and will keep the water mucky and dark for a lot longer than sand will
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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There are cheap pH testers (available from most garden centers & mail order houses), and they also offer a version that also reads NPK.

The pH testers are "relatively" accurate...they'll tell you if it is alkaline/neutral/acidic...but don't believe the actual numbers they give you. I have heard too many people tell me that their numbers were way off from what lab reports said. They can still be useful as a way of seeing if things are swinging one way or the other, but not accurate enough for planting purposes for plants that are picky about their environment.

From what I have seen and heard, the NPK info they provide is so far off that they are essentially useless.

Contact your local Extension Office, as they often provide free/cheap soil testing through their university. These tests generally cost less than one of those crappy meters. Plus, they will provide you with info on how best to take your samples.

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