pH testing kit

About to apply sulfur to chlorotic azalea, but one poster advised I test the soil first. Here's what I got from my local nursery.
[t]wo options to test your soils pH. They have a pH meter which includes a reader and a stick that's very easy to use for $24.99. They also have a kit that'll check the pH, nitrogen levels and several other elements. The kit includes tablets which you put in the ground. Then you water the area and check for the various elements. The kit is $19.99. Please let me know if you have additional questions.
Thank you, Never having tested my soil before (gawd, after all these years!) I would value opinion on which is more accurate and less trouble to use.
The price difference is not great; results count.
TIA
(also, if anybody has source for cheaper price -- including S&H -- would be glad to hear of it)
Persephone
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About to apply sulfur to chlorotic azalea, but one poster advised I test the soil first. Here's what I got from my local nursery.
=============================================== [t]wo options to test your soil's pH. Nursery has a pH meter which includes a reader and a stick that's very easy to use for $24.99.
They also have a kit that'll check the pH, nitrogen levels and several other elements. The kit includes tablets which you put in the ground. Then you water the area and check for the various elements. The kit is $19.99. Please let me know if you have additional questions.
=============================================== Never having tested my soil before (gawd, after all these years!) I would value your experience.
TIA
(also, if anybody has source for cheaper price -- including S&H -- would be glad to hear of it)
Persephone
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We got a soil pH meter, a Kelway HB-2. This is a cone-shaped device (no electronics or batteries, has an analog guage) which you clean with a conditioning film and put into the soil. The needle is supposed to deflect and then slowly approach the real pH. The soil needs to be quite wet (we've not gotten a reading, at least this summer, without adding water, which I guess is OK if we use rain water rather than tap water).
So I guess this is working but I find it a bit hard to be confident that I'm using it right and can believe the results. If other people are using other soil test kits, I'd be interested in hearing about it. I like the idea of working from knowledge rather than guesswork. But I'm not sure what method is best. I'm assuming that the soil is different in each of the beds (given previous owners amending the soil, growing different plants, throwing potted plants in the beds, etc, etc), which makes me a little uncertain whether "just send in the soil for a soil test" is the right answer.
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Oh, how I wish I had rain water. Any amount. Yearn, yearn...
Forgot to mention that the info about testing kits from nursery requires that one use purified water. Sounds logical, not to get confused by extraneous minerals, but just another nuisance on this small-scale test, to acquire that kind of water.

ME TOO!
But I'm not sure what method is best. I'm assuming that the soil is

Good point. Some of the university or county sites require one to first send for a bag to gather the soil, then return the bag, then somehow get the results. That's probably do-able for a large-scale assessment, but all I want is info on ONE 17-18" pot of azaleas!
Persephone
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:-). In Washington, DC we are in the frustrating part of the year where it is very hot, fairly dry, and where the weather forecast calls for "chance of thundershowers" almost every day (but you don't know whether you'll get any).

That's another variable. I'm assuming rain water is good enough given that's what the plants are going to mostly get (we don't irrigate our garden heavily), but I'm far from an expert on these things.
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I use good ol' pH paper. http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/org/essi/clubextra/515131447.html pHydrion is a reliable brand, and should run about $6-10 for a 15 ft roll, which is good for a couple hundred tests. Nasco is (ime) a reliable source for this sort of thing: http://www.enasco.com/Buscar.do?q=pHydrion&x=0&y=0
You can also use the pH indicator on a swimming pool test strip.
Kay
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