ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Use a Soil Test Kit to Test for Nutrients

Updated on May 22, 2013

One of the more important tasks on my Spring Home Improvement list is testing the garden soil for nutrient content. Using inexpensive test kits from a local garden center, I test the soil in each raised bed in my garden. The tests indicate the levels of nitrogen(N), phosphorous(P) and potash/potassium(K) in each bed. The results help me determine which nutrients are depleted and which are plentiful so I add the correct balance of fertilizer to each bed, resulting in a healthy and bountiful garden.

How to Test Your Soil Using a Kit
1. Select a soil test kit that provides a comprehensive chart system. The kit I use has four small tubes; each has a colored cap and a matching colored capsule. The kit includes tests for pH balance, nitrogen, phosphorous and potash. Other available kits provide litmus strips. Either method requires matching the resulting color, either of liquid in tubes or on litmus strips to a colored chart.

2. Keep the soil moist for several days before performing the tests. On testing day, turn the soil in a small section of each bed or in several areas around the garden. Use soil from 4 to 5 inches below the top soil for accurate results.

3. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to obtain samples. My kit calls for placing 1 part soil to 5 parts water into a small jar and shaking vigorously. I used a clean canning jar with a lid and filled it approximately 1/5 of the way with soil and then added water to fill the jar.

4. Allow the sample to sit in daylight for several minutes until the sediment settles at the bottom of the jar. My kit then called for adding a small amount of the sample to each tube and emptying the corresponding colored capsule into the tube. For example, the purple capped tube is for testing for nitrogen, so I emptied the purple capsule into that tube. I then shook each tube vigorously.

5. Check the results against the color chart provided in the kit. The results may take approximately 10 minutes to show, and are expressed in general terms. For example, the pale pink color in the purple capped tube indicates that the nitrogen level in the test bed is "Very Low," but the phosphorous level is "Very High."

6. Perform a soil test for each bed or area in the garden and note the results in a notebook.

Test Results from Soil Sample
Test Results from Soil Sample | Source

How to Add the Right Nutrients to Your Soil
1. Use the results to determine the right mix of fertilizers for each area or bed in the garden. For example, the results of the first bed tested in my garden indicates a deficiency in nitrogen, but phosphorous and potash are plentiful.

2. Note that packaged fertilizers indicate content with numbers that correspond with the macronutrients nitrogen(N), phosphorous(P) and potash or potassium(K). A package label may read, "8-5-5", meaning 8 parts N, 5 parts P and 5 parts K.

3. Select a fertilizer with the number corresponding to the nutrient that is deficient in the bed or area. For example, to add nitrogen, the above mix may be suitable, though a higher number for nitrogen may be desirable.

4. Turn the selected fertilizers into the areas or beds, mixing them into the soils and then smoothing the soil surface with a rake.

5. Wait a few days before planting your spring crops. Fresh fertilizer may burn young, tender seedlings or inhibit seeds from germinating.

Check the pH of your soil as well. Vegetables prefer soil with a pH balance of between 6 and 6.9 for optimal growth.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)