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How To Get The Best Soil pH Tester (2020 Edition)

Digital Soil Ph Meter

   Soil pH meter readings that are too high or too low results in your marijuana plants not being able to properly absorb vital nutrients, and your plants being more susceptible to diseases. A pH tester ( AKA pH Meters) can measure the pH in water, soil, and some soil testers measure both.  As a result, for cannabis growers wanting to maximize their yields, accurate pH readings are mandatory.

Knowing which meter to use is tricky. That's why I've decided to review and also give you advice on how to choose the best one for you.

So, test your pH!

FYI-I realize you may already know about the importance of  pH and would just like to see my reviews. As a result, I am going to first review the best soil testers, and afterward, I will give a brief introduction on why it important  for cannabis growers to know their the pH.  

Different pH Testing Options?

Other than sending soil samples to the lab, the two most common ways to test the soil for pH are listed below.

  • Test Strips: These are simply strips of paper, which change color with the corresponding color representing various the pH. This is the least accurate way to determine you pH.
  • Handheld: Are used directly in your grow space where you submerge the probe electrodes into the garden soil and then read the meter. The Handheld meters look like  a pen or a bike tire pump.
  • pH Pen: pH pens are digital or analog and they the same as a pH meter; but,  they are more compact and tend to cost less than a meter. 

This review will only cover handheld pH meters and pH pens. 

What Should You Look For In a Soil Tester?

The following are the criteria that you need to look for when shopping for a soil tester. 

  • Accurate Readings: It is not surprising that the more accurate your pH tester is, the more you will pay.   If you are only growing one or two plants, you don't need pinpoint accuracy,  and pH test strips are likely sufficient. If you are a commercial grower, you should invest in a high-end (they generally cost $100 to $200) commercial-grade, soil test kit. Also, if you are a commercial grower, you should send your soil samples to an outside lab. 
  • Usability: It should be as easy to use as possible. That is why, if you are not mechanically inclined, you should consider a basic one at first with few bells and whistles, and if you desire, you may then want to upgrade at a later time. Additionally, your pH rating should also be easy to read.
  • *Multi-Functional: This is optional. If you are not hydroponically growing your weed, knowing  your water pH is not a priority. As a result, you should acquire the best one that you can afford.  The most common multi-functional pH meters will test sunlight, soil pH, and moisture,  and some of the more expensive ones measure water pH.  Therefore, if you are growing hydroponically, you should consider purchasing a multi-functional model, that will work for both soil and water. 
FYI-if you are having a problem finding an acceptable soil tester you should type in "soil test kit" or something similar. 

Best Soil Tester Reviews

Bluelab METCOM Combo Meter Review

The Bluelab  Combo Meter is a professional tester for soil pH, temperature, and conductivity.  It can be used for soil, water, and even wine. This meter is unique in that it has two probes, one for pH and the other for  productivity and conductivity for soil

EASY CALIBRATION-A common complaint concerning cheap soil pH pens and meters is that they are tough to calibrate and you have no idea when or if was actually calibrated. Blue Lab though, via a screen reading, will tell you when it is calibrated correctly and ready to go. Also, after 30 days, this meter also reminds you that you need to calibrate your it again. 

The Bluelab   is expensive. But, having a sub-par cannabis harvest also costs you time and, if you are a professional grower, money.

So, the questions that need to be asked are:

  • "Should you splurge and get this premium Bluelab soil tester?"
  • Is the premium price for this Bluelab Comb meter worthwhile?

Purchaser Review Summary

PROS

  • Easy To Use-Numerous purchasers stated that it works straight out of the box
  • Quick Reading-Some reviewers noted that the Bluelab Combo quickly reads the pH. One reviewer even said that the reading was faster in comparison to Hanna, who is another company that makes premium pH testers.
  • Calibration-Very easy calibration.
  • Durability- Numerous reviewers noted that this pH meter works for years without any trouble.
  • Accurate Results-Its superb accuracy is praised.

CONS

  • Probes- An easily breakable probe is a common problem that occurs with many soil pH testers. Here, a few reviewers mentioned that the probes tend to break off easily. (This can be easily fixed by purchasing replacement probes)
  • No On and Off Switch-To stop you from running your batteries out by mistake, instead of an "On and Off" switch, this meter has an auto-shutoff. The problem is that the time set for the auto shut off is quite short, and purchasers have complained of the pen shutting off when it is in use.
  • Battery Required- This is a minor complaint. But, not having to worry about a battery dying is a definite upside. 

Conclusion

If you need pinpoint accuracy for your water and soil pH readings you should get consider the Bluelab. If you are a hobbyist grower or a newbie cannabis grower though buying this meter is overkill as you will likely not be able to fully appreciate all of its advanced features.

For example, if you only grow in soil, you don't need to worry about hydro pH testing. But, a professional or serious home grower will not be disappointed with the Blue Lab, METCOM Combo Meter.


Apera pH Meter


The Apera AI209 Value Series (value is in comparison to their other models) PH20 Meter is made by Apera instruments in Germany.    However, Apera does have a headquarters, in the United states.   Apera, is known for making, expensive, quality products that are suitable for professional use. As a result, this meter isn’t a cheap $10 model. But, compared some of other Apera’s models, the PH20 is reasonably priced.
The main question, that needs to be addressed, is whether or not the PH20 is worth its premium price.

Purchaser Review Summary

PROS

  • Easy to Read- The LCD screen is quite large and easy to use.
  • User Friendly-Quick pH reading and a smiley face icon appears once the test is completed.
  • Middle Ground-Good compromise for anyone who doesn't feel like spending $100+ on a lab material, but wants a more accurate reading that a $10 soil tester will give.
  • Calibration- It comes pre-calibrated and is also easy to calibrate.
  • Well Made-The, waterproof, PH20 comes in a sturdy case and the pen itself is quite sturdy.
  • Accuracy-The two points for calibration increases its accuracy.


CONS

  • Probes-Unlike other, high-end, soil meters, the PH20 probes cannot be replaced.
  • Water-The PH 20 is designed to work with water. So, you cannot use it for soil without first mixing the soil with distilled water. (You have to do this also with many other pH testers also)

Conclusion

The PH 20 is an excellent pH tester that is easy to use, well-built, and highly accurate. I was especially impressed how the PH20 is so user friendly. For example, it’s challenging to know exactly when your pH readings are complete. However, with the PH20 all you have to do is wait for the smiley face icon to appear on its large LCD screen. Both experienced gardeners and newbie gardeners were impressed with this feature. My one complaint is that, unlike the Kelway, with the PH20 you cannot replace the probes. This is unfortunate, because its costly and wasteful having to buy a new meter if the probes break when you should be able to simply replace the PH20 probes.


Kelway pH Soil PHD Meter Review

The Kelway Soil pH Meter is a portable and be purchased for around $90. These pH Meters are expensive. As a result, purchasers are justified in expecting these meters to be user friendly, durable, and have accurate readings. So, I will be less forgiving in this review.

Purchaser Review Summary

PROS

  • Very User Friendly-Numerous reviews stated that it is easy to use. All that is needed to test the pH is for you to clean it, dampen the soil with distilled water, and place the probe into the soil.
  • Low Upkeep-All you have to do before and after using this meter is to wipe it clean.
  • Durable-Cheap soil pH testers, even when they have accurate meter readings are known for having durability problems. For example, the iPower 3-in-1, and the have reviewers state that the pH measuring probes break off easily when attempting to test, rocky soil. Here, out of nearly 90 reviews, I saw zero complaints concerning  flimsy probes or any other quality issues.
  • Quick Readings-It only takes around three minutes for the pH soil test to be completed.
  • Accurate Soil pH Readings-First of all, there were few complaints concerning Kelway's accuracy, and it was praised overall for its accuracy. Also, what I found quite impressive was when a reviewer stated that its accuracy was comparable to a soil pH test where the sample is sent to a lab.
  • pH Range- The meter covers the entire pH range. (Some of the budget soil pH testers have a limited, range)

CONS

  • Expensive-This is a premium and expensive soil pH tester. As a result, paying the premium price for this may not be justifiable if you have a small garden or just want to test the soil of a few potted plants.
  • Not Amazon Prime Eligible- So, if you need it ASAP, it could be an issue.

CONCLUSION

This is an excellent and affordable,  soil pH testers that is affordable. Granted, they are expensive. However, at least in the US, the price is most likely within reach for the average middle-class individual.

If you have a small garden or just want to test the soil of a few potted plants, the added price for this Kelway may not be justifiable.  However, for serious gardeners who demand pinpoint accuracy buying a Kelway is a wise.  Also, as this soil pH meter is said to be nearly as accurate as a professional soil pH test, so, depending upon the size of your garden, you can save money by not being having to pay for professional lab soil pH testing. In summary, if you can afford the it, and you have a big enough garden, I recommend you  get one. 


Gain Express Soil pH And Moisture Meter Review

 (Amazon.com Choice)

The Gain Express is a Chinese made, mid-priced soil pH, moisture tester. However, it does not test water pH. It claims to be easy to use. (Both for testing and reading the pH scale) On paper, this sounds like this is an excellent, soil pH But it what they claim true? Read the rest of this review to find out.

Purchaser Review Summary

PROS

  • Easy Use-According to the vast majority of reviews, the claim  that this meter is simple to use is correct. All that is needed for testing is to simply dip the probes into the soil, and wait for a few minutes for the reading.
  • User Friendly-The screen for the measurement is conveniently located on the top, which makes it easy to read.
  • Overall Ratings-It has excellent ratings when it comes to "Ease of Use" and also "Easy to Read." And it's accuracy is rated well above-average.
  • No Batteries-no batteries are needed.
  • Well, Made- Most purchasers agreed that it is solidly built.
  • Great Recent Reviews- Recent reviews, as of the time of this review, are all 4+ stars.

CONS

  • Probe Length-A few readers stated that the probe is too long, which can make it challenging to maneuver when wanting to test pH in certain types of rocky or hard soil.
  • Accuracy-Overall the accuracy is quite well; however, one user stated that to get the most accurate results, you may need to apply sandpaper to the probes.
  • Moisture Readings-Many reviewers were ambivalent or critical when it comes to its moisture reading.

Conclusion

Gain Express is a well-made, mid-priced pH tester that has received excellent reviews. If you want to use this meter for your soil pH, you can't go wrong. Overall, it's the ease of use (both testing and reading), which makes in the running for being  among the best soil testing kits that I am reviewing. 


Sonikr-MS-X1 (Amazon's Pick)

The Sonik-MS-X1 is a budget, 3-In-1, soil tester that measures sunlight, soil pH, and moisture. A 3-In-1 tester is very convenient and especially as helpful as it is a pain to carry three tools with you in the field. But, even the Sonikir is cheap, it still needs to get the job done.

Sonkir-MS-X1 Review

PROS

  • Accuracy-Very few complaints concerning its accuracy. Also, based on purchaser reviews that specifically address the accuracy, reviewers, overall, rated the Sonikir as having above-average accuracy.
  • User Friendly-The The screen is large and easy to read.
  • Customer Service-Is rated as very responsive. For example, when a purchaser received a damaged product, they were promptly given a new product. The only complaint concerning their customer service/return policy was when clients stated they waited too long to inspect the product, and it was too late when they attempted to return the alleged defective product.
  • 3-In-One Capability-The ability to test sunlight, soil pH and also have a soil moisture meter is quite impressive for a budget soil pH tester.
  • Moisture-Some reviewers praised how well it worked for testing soil moisture.
  • Gets The Job Done-Reviewers note that based upon what you are paying, it is a great deal.
  • Vetted-Overall it received excellent reviews. (Based upon 1k+ reviews)
  • Batteries- It doesn't require batteries.

CONS

  • Durability Issues-A couple purchasers stated that it stopped working when it got a bit wet. Additionally, the tester probes tend to bend when put into hard soil. However, Sonikr specifically warns purchasers to be careful about forcing the probes hard into the soil. So, it likely could've just been an issue of a purchaser being too rough when placing the testing probes into the soil.

Conclusion

With the vast majority of their reviews being above four, Sonkir reviews are excellent. The consensus is that considering its low price, and its 3-In-1 functionality, it gets the job done, which is all that should be asked of budget soil tester.  

As a result,  it is an excellent purchase for the hobbyist grower who just needs a ballpark figure when it comes to measuring sunlight, soil pH, and moisture.


Why Care About Soil pH?

It's okay if you find this confusing because all you need to know if your pH is either too high or too small it can damage your cannabis plants.

The following background information will help you gain at least a basic understanding of pH.

What Is pH?

The pH acronym means "potential of Hydrogen," and pH is the measurement of the levels of hydrogen ion concentration in either soil or water that is used to test the acidity or alkalinity of soil or water

Do You Have Acidic Soil or Alkaline Soil?

The pH level of soil or water depends on the ration of hydronium ion to hydroxide. The pH scale is from zero to 14.  Zero to six  is acidic. Seven is pure water, and eight to 14 is basic or alkaline. Different types of plants tend to thrive under different levels of pH.

Please see the chart (Fig 1) for a more in-depth description of the pH scale, which will help you understand the relationship between alkaline and acidity. 

pH Scale
For cannabis, you should strive for  between 5.5 and 6.5.

What Happens If You Have Too Little or Too Much pH?

If your soil pH is more than 7.5 cannabis plants roots will have a hard time taking in vital nutrients like iron, zinc, manganese, and boron. If  the soil pH levels fall to below six, plants are unable to absorb phosphoric acid, magnesium, and calcium. Also, marijuana plants are more likely to be subject to diseases when the pH level drops between three to five when the temperatures are near 80 degrees Fahrenheit.


For my other Ph Testes click the links below: