Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Review

Does This pH Test Kit Work?

By Daniel Woodley. Posted to: Blog. Published: 6th June 2022.

There are several reasons why a gardener may want to know the pH level of the soil in their garden:

  • To diagnose issues with existing plants such as yellowing leaves or stunted growth.
  • To make sure that the soil is suitable for new plants, shrubs or trees.
  • So the gardener knows which fertiliser ratio (NPK) to use this season to avoid nutrient deficiencies.

Different plants thrive in different soils, but the only way to know your soil’s pH is to test it yourself with a DIY test kit or send a sample off to a lab.

There are two types of DIY test kits:

  • Basic pH litmus testing strips.
  • Kits that also test for nitrogen, phosphorous and potash in addition to the pH.
Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, 1 Pack
Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Kit (3.5-9 Range) | 100 Soil pH Test Strips
Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, 1 Pack
Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Kit (3.5-9 Range) | 100 Soil pH Test Strips
Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, 1 Pack
Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, 1 Pack
Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Kit (3.5-9 Range) | 100 Soil pH Test Strips
Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Kit (3.5-9 Range) | 100 Soil pH Test Strips

The Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Strips

I purchased the Garden Tutor test strips in June 2022, and although I’ve never used this brand before, I have used very similar products from competitors in the past.

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The pack contains 100 test strips and each is made from thin cardboard with three coloured squares near one end.

Each square contains a chemical which reacts with the soil and turns the square a different colour.

The kit also contains a booklet and a colour chart with pH levels from 3.5 to 9.

If you’ve never conducted a soil test before, you should be aware that this test doesn’t reveal the soil’s nitrogen, phosphorous, or potash content. Garden Tutor’s product only shows the pH level and nothing more. (At the end of this article you’ll find a product that does accurately test for NPK)

Test strip against the colour chart: From Garden Tutor

How to Conduct a Soil Test

I found it incredibly easy to conduct a soil test with Garden Tutos’s strips.

First, I collected 8 level tablespoons of soil and removed any twigs and grit etc. Next, I put this into a clean cup and added 8 level tablespoons of distilled water.

I stirred the solution and then left it alone for a couple of hours.

On the Garden Tutor website, the manufacturer states that this solution should be left for around 20 minutes, but I’ve also seen statements elsewhere that it should be left for several hours, so there is a bit of confusion here.

After a couple of hours, I stirred it again and then slipped the test strip into the cup for 60 seconds.

Upon removing the test strip, I could see that the three squares had changed colour:

Garden Tutor test strips changing colour

I then held the test strip up against the colour chart on the side of the bottle:

Garden Tutor test results

I found that it was easier to see the colours on the chart in broad daylight or under a bright indoor light. In normal indoor light, some of them looked very similar.

The first line contains blue colours which are all different shades, starting with light blue and ending with dark blue.

The second line starts with a pale pink colour and ends with a light purple colour.

The third colour starts with red and ends with very light orange.

Determining the pH Level

As you can see from the test strip in my photos on this page, the blue and pink squares indicate a pH level of around 6.5, which is normal, but the red/orange square suggests a slightly higher pH level of between 7 and 7.5 which indicates a somewhat higher alkaline content.

The booklet that came with the Garden Tutor kit states that the user should find the closest match, but how do I know which square is correct?

Taking an average number from the three squares, I would say that the soil pH in my test is around 6.7 to 6.8, which is slightly alkaline but not enough to cause any issues with my plants.

The booklet also has a chart which shows the normal and abnormal ranges:

pH scale chart

How Accurate Are The Results?

My one issue with this soil pH test is that it doesn’t give a specific number, it displays three, and it’s up to the user to determine the pH level from this.

I believe the best way to achieve this is to take an average of the three results; in my case, this revealed a score between 6.7 and 6.8.

In conclusion, I feel that Garden Tutor’s soil pH testing strips are accurate to within 0.5 but no more granular than that.

I would prefer a more accurate and definitive result, but I repeated the test on different soils, including some that I had deliberately altered with additives, and the squares did turn a different colour that corresponded with the changes I’d made to the soil.

Do Garden Tutor’s soil pH test strips work?

They did for me, but I can see why some people may get confused, especially if one of the coloured squares indicates high acid and the other high alkaline.

Given that these strips only reveal the pH and the low price (just over £10), I believe I got my money’s worth, but ultimately, the results aren’t as helpful as those I would get with a nutrient test (see below).

Alternatives

Garden Tutor’s test strips are the cheapest soil testing product I could find, but for an extra £10, one could opt for a nutrient test kit.

Rapidtest by Lusterleaf contains four plastic boxes that you fill with distilled water, soil and powder from the capsules.

Once shaken and left for a few minutes, the soil will change colour and can be compared to the chart printed on the side of the plastic box.

Each test provides you with four results:

  1. pH level.
  2. Nitrogen.
  3. Phosphorous.
  4. Potash.

The cheaper version (product id #1602) contains 4 x 5 capsules which is enough for five tests of each.

The more expensive version (product id #1601) contains 4 x 10 capsules which is enough powder for ten tests of each.

Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, 1 Pack
Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Kit (3.5-9 Range) | 100 Soil pH Test Strips
Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, 1 Pack
Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Kit (3.5-9 Range) | 100 Soil pH Test Strips
Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, 1 Pack
Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash, 1 Pack
Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Kit (3.5-9 Range) | 100 Soil pH Test Strips
Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Kit (3.5-9 Range) | 100 Soil pH Test Strips

My Recommendation

Garden Tutor’s test strips do what they say on the tin, but it takes a bit of guessing and averaging to get an accurate figure to within 0.5.

Given that many gardeners who test their soil would also want to know if the nitrogen, phosphorous and potash levels are within range, I feel that the Rapidtest by Lusterleaf is the better option.

However, if you only need to know the pH of the soil, then yes, these strips are great and as you get 100 of them, they work out way cheaper than off-site lab analysis.

I used these strips to test the soil in my hydrangea pots as I was experimenting with the pH to change the flowers from red to purple and having 100 test strips was really handy as I was checking the soil every two weeks.

Further Reading

You may also like:

How to make your own potting compost.

The cheapest retailers for bulk compost delivered.

The best hot composters and how you can make fresh compost in weeks, not months.

Our soil and compost section.

More From Daniel Woodley:

This review of Garden Tutor’s soil pH test strips was created by Daniel Woodley here at DIY Gardening and was published on the 6th of June, 2022.

Discover more helpful hints and tips from Daniel over at the blog.

Daniel is a keen amateur gardener who also manages a large residential landscape in addition to his own mid-size garden.

He also enjoys growing vegetables and fruits as well as his herbaceous border and container garden.

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