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Tip of the Day: Test your soil

Consumer Reports News: June 03, 2008 12:09 AM

Experts recommend that you test the soil in your lawn every three years to determine whether your yard has gone “sour” or “sweet”—industry parlance, respectively, for lower (heavily acidic) and higher (heavily alkaline) pH levels. Either pH imbalance will rob soil of nutrients. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, but a pH between 6.5 and 7.0 is best for most turf grasses.

But our tests of six home-use soil-test kits found them returning inaccurate or inconsistent results. They ranged from the $4 Rapitest 1612, a plastic capsule into which soil is added for one-time testing, to the $68 Kelway pHD 82353, which has a probe you insert into soil for repeated readings.  

Instead of using a home test kit, have your soil analyzed by a lawn service, a private lab, or your local cooperative extension services, whose tests cost as little as $15 apiece. You’ll find state-by-state listings of cooperative extension services on this page from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gian Trotta

Essential information: Read our Hassle-free lawn and yard tips for many more money-saving ways to make your yard look its best. Additional ways to improve your outdoor spaces are in in our Complete Lawn-and-Yard Guide.


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