I'm considering buying one of those 4-way soil analyzers and was
wondering if anyone has ever compared their results to an actual
"mailed in" soil test. I've tried testing my soil over the years using
those test tubes with tablets/drops and haven't been satisfied that the
results I got were accurate. I'm looking for a simple, reliable way to
regularly test my garden soil. I prefer organic fertilizers and don't
want to put in something I don't actually need. Thanks.
Sorry for straying a bit, but... I am curious as to why you
aren't satisfied with the do-it-yourself chemical tubes? Big
differences when compared to a professional test?
As far as those electronic probes, I would imagine flakiness
related to soil moisture variations. But I can't say for sure.
I have been using those, and all I can say is that they are at least
consistent. Soil from nearby, equally composted beds, and soil from my
houseplants (same compost source, different temperature and moisture)
scored equally. Certainly, if you have a large garden with different
soils in different beds, you go through it quickly (I have a second
ten-samples one, which I will finish in the spring).
Further, the pH scores agreed with the prevalence of indicator weeds
(chickweed 6.5, dock 5, for example). I did get one bed mail-tested but
I was dissatisfied with the procedure because some beds are on yellow
sand and others are on black, boggy soil. Some beds have received lots
of acid wood chips over the years and others have received the milder,
less nutritious dried leaves.
I am probably sloppier than you are, because I have access to unlimited
horse manure and wood ash, both of which correct problems quickly, and
also I have a rough idea by now of what plants need, how much wood ash
corrects the pH, and how long does it take for N to be depleted.
I get an occasional e-mail from a Orchid supply house that is not too far
from home and they sent a note the other day indicating that they had received
some temp/PH meters ($61) and one that does temp/EC/TDS for $71 (these are
the Hanna models) -- not sure if they can be used in soil or just for testing
fluids such as those used in aquariums or for hydroponics/orchid growing.
Any ideas on whether these can be used in soils as well would be much
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