Are these small soil testing kits reasonably reliable?
They wouldn't have to be 95% accurate to put you in
the ballpark, and point you in the direction of what
additives are needed. Do you use them, or rely on
your county agent for analyzing samples?
TKS for any advice.
All of this is correct, but if you live in a place (like mine) where I
have former bog patches and sand dunes, grass and woodland, then those
test kits will at least give you a map of your soil. If you have a
small plot with uniform soi, then sure, it is as you say.
The cheap soil testing kits (using color indicators) have been
reasonably accurate for my soil. Comparisons with lab tests have been
pretty close. A good lab can tell you a lot more, but I still use the
cheap kits as a way of judging variation over space and time, only
occasionally using a lab to make sure things aren't totally out of whack.
BTW, in this coastal city environment, there was no "county agent" with
a free/cheap lab. I ended up using the U/Mass-Amhearst lab, which was
quite reasonable and extensive in their testing.
Of course, the cheap "meters" (particularly the pH meter) are completely
Your Soil May Vary...
Our Coop Extension doesn't do soil testing either but they maintain a
list of commercial soil testing laboratories. As to the soil testing
kits, the mail-in kits that you purchase at garden centers have given
good results, but the ones with the chemicals included are pretty
variable. May be volatile chemicals with a short shelk life.
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