Soil testing

Hello, I have a large pile of ash from burning leaves, wood, limbs, pine straw etc, and I've read that ash can be helpful to plants if my soil ph is not over 7.5.
My questions is, how do you test your soil and what tools are used.
Im looking to test my soil soon and see some cheap and expensive testing kits on amazon.
thanks
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Nathan Heafner wrote:

"large" is not an amount... large relative to what... a wheelbarrowful won't do diddly to an acre of ground.

I'd not bother with the cheapo kits, get something priced midrange. If you bring samples most plant nurseries will test your soil for free. Then see how their numbers compare to what your soil test kit reads.
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Nathan Heafner wrote:

The best method that will give a reliable result of sufficient accuracy at a reasonable price is a dye indicator kit. You mix a soil sample with some dye and observe the colour against a white background, or with white powder puffed on to it. You compare the colour to a chart and it will give the soil pH to withing half a unit. It is easy to do even if you have somewhat impaired colour vision (which is the case with about 8% of males). If you are severely colour blind you are out of luck but that is rare and you would already know that you have the condition. One kit that has all you need will do several hundred tests and costs about $25 here, the price may be different where you are.
Cheap electronic probe systems are inaccurate and expensive ones are accurate but fiddly to use and fragile.
David
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On 1/6/2013 5:34 PM, David Hare-Scott wrote:

pH paper is about half this cost. I've got a couple of multi-range papers left over from my lab days. They must be 30 years old and still work.
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Frank wrote:

On your old papers, the OP hasn't got them and no doubt they still change colour but how would you know if they are still accurate?
On using papers in general, you would have to add water to your sample of soil to get the paper to work. Is the system calibrated to take that into account with your local water or are you assuming deionised water is available? How much water per given soil sample do you add and how does the OP measure that? What is this talk of relative cost when there are no numbers to compare?
Your suggestion might be fine but we don't know that. I would stick to the system that was designed and calibrated for the purpose.
D
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On 1/7/2013 3:54 PM, David Hare-Scott wrote:

Some of the papers I have are very narrow range and contain two separate indicators so you can tell pH down to 0.1 unit, far more than needed. Distilled water would be best but I think tap water is OK and I just slightly dampen soil before testing.
My soil and well water here in Eastern US are acidic. Well has pH ~6.5 and soil is even more acidic. I've dumped wood ashes on back lawn with no problem and ground is still acidic.
If op lives in East, his soil is most likely acidic. I believe Western soils tend to be alkaline.
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David, what is the name of the $25 pH kit? PH papers may not be a bad idea, if this says what I think it says <http://shop.chemicalstore.com/navigation/detail.asp?MySessionID -92013 8590&id=PHPAPER114> at 80 strips for $6.25. Amazon has a tempting pH meter for $68.99 <(Amazon.com product link shortened)> but I don't think it can be calibrated. More practical and more expensive is something like <http://www.groworganic.com/growing-supplies/field-meter/soil-ph-meter.ht ml> at $129.00 .
Even with our Mickey Mouse money, 3.785 liters of deionized water costs about a dollar.
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Billy wrote:

The one I have is Manutec, it's locally made, I don't know if they export or if there are others in the US. It's about $22-$25 AU online. I have done dozens of tests and the bottle is still 2/3 full. I cannot be more precise about cost than that.
Burke's Backyard (a marketing organisation based on Don Burke's TV show) sell one for $9-90, I don't know who makes it and I haven't tried it.
I am guessing it is basically the same technology as in universal indicator paper but the liquid dye system is specifically set up for soil testing, where the paper is aimed at water solutions.
D
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