The Best Professional Soil Test Kit

by Becky
Published: Updated:


If there is one absolutely vital piece of growing a garden, it is doing a soil test. Whether you’ve had a garden for years, or are just getting started, it is essential to test your soil.  After years of trial and testing (16 to be exact), I’ve found what I believe to be the best professional soil test kit.

I’m so happy to have found a company that makes a test kit that is professionally done, easy, and offers custom soil recommendations based on results.

Soil Testing

This post contains affiliate links and is brought to you by RX Soil. All opinions are my own. Full disclosure can be found here.

Why Is Soil Testing Important?

A proper soil test will act as a guide to reveal your soil organic matter, any severe nutrient deficiencies, PH level, and show its ability to retain nutrients. 

Not only does a soil test show soil deficiencies but it will also show excesses of specific nutrients. If you were to fertilize blindly, without a soil test, you could easily make these excesses worse and cause toxicities and nutrient imbalances in your garden.

Is Soil Testing Worth the Money?

As a gardener, it’s common spend hundreds or more getting a garden set up. There are costs associated with buying seeds, buying transplants, purchasing compost, and maybe even soil, but too often the soil is not tested before getting started.  

Failure to test soil and implement the results can lead to crop failures across your entire garden. Thus wasting all your time and effort you put into the set up. A professional lab test soil test and results do cost money, but you will recoup the cost and save even more money in the end with a bountiful harvest. 

How Often Should I Test My Soil?

And even if you have had a garden for years, you should be testing your soil at least once a year. Nature is never stagnant, even if you get a perfect soil test back one year, you’ll need to test it again the next to make sure all the nutrients and ph are being maintained. 

In addition, a soil test is a great way to keep an accurate record of whether or not your soil’s organic matter is improving.

What Soil Tests Should Be Avoided?

There are a lot of options and methods of testing soil available but I’ve found over the years that the majority of soil tests fall short in one regard or another. Don’t fall for using cheap or gimmicky soil tests. Even the homemade tests won’t give you all the details you need to know.

Let me say that again, don’t use cheap DIY tests! You are legitimately throwing your money in the trash. I’ve used them and they are so inaccurate it’s crazy. No one is going to get a good soil test result by using a pinch of soil and trying to read the color of the water.

In addition to the cheap DIY kits, I’d recommend avoiding a test from your cooperative extension. It may have a low cost or even be free but speaking from experience, it was not worth it. My extension only took dry soil samples, making it so I had to wait a few weeks for the soil sample to dry indoors. Then I had to drive over an hour round trip to drop it off, and finally to top it all off, I waited for another month for the results. 

My Cooperative Extension would only give recommendations for amendments that were conventional and I was organically gardening. It was such a pain and hassle overall. 

What is the Best Professional Soil Test Kit?

The BEST professional soil test kit is made by RX Soil. RX Soil uses a professional laboratory, Waypoint, for testing that does testing day in and day out and is incredibly accurate.

Even though Waypoint has an option for sending soil to them directly, I don’t recommend it because their website is hard to navigate, you need to figure out your own postage, print and fill out your own forms, and they do not give any recommendations for amendments.

Professional Soil Kit

The RX Soil kit makes it so testing is both professionally done and easy! The RX Soil kit ships you a provided box, a prepaid shipping label, a bag for soil, and easy to follow instructions. 

Once the results are complete, an email is sent to you with your results. Before ordering any test kit, they ask what type of soil you’re testing, the size of the garden you are testing, and whether you would like your recommendations in conventional agriculture products or organic products. 

Another favorite part of the test is that when the results are received, they customize the fertilizer application rates to the size of the garden you have.

It is truly a great all around test, and I will explain step-by-step below how it works!

Here’s how it works:

#1. Go to the soil testing website HERE.

I also have a coupon code for you! Use  WEEKLY DIGS for 10% off your order!

After you go through the process of checking out and creating an account, if you are performing a nutrient test, they will ask you some basic questions about what type of soil you are sending. 

Here’s an example:

What are you testing? Choose from lawn, landscape, or garden.

Which type of garden? Fruit, flower, or vegetable

Approximate size of your garden?

And preference for recommended products? Conventional or Organic (FYI having an organic option is a game changer!!)

#2 Your soil test box is shipped straight to your address! 

#3 Collect your soil

Collecting soil is a simple process but here are some tips on how to do it correctly. 

  1. Use a soil probe or garden trowel to collect a sample of soil. Since I test my soil often, and have multiple gardens I test, I bought a soil probe. You can find the one I bought HERE. The key here is to get a sample that goes 6-8 inches deep. Place your collected soil in a bucket.
  2. Go to another area of the garden you are testing and get another sample. Then move to another area of the garden you are testing and collect another sample. Do this at least 4 or 5 times total. Place all your samples in the same bucket.
  3. Now mix them all together really well. 
  4. Remove any debris like grasses, rocks, and sticks. You want just soil.
Soil Probe Sample

Another tip: You want to make sure you actually have soil in the test. I’m embarrassed to say that the very first time I tested my soil, I had so much compost on the surface of the soil (the top six inches were compost) there was nothing to test! The place I had taken it to, sent me a note saying add more actual soil next time. Oops. Rookie mistake. 

#4 Place your soil sample in the provided bag up to the line.

If you have too much soil, put the excess back in the garden.

Sending in soil analysis test

#5 Zip up the bag, place it in the pre-labeled mailing box you received in the mail, then seal and place in your mailbox.

You don’t need anything else in the box other than your soil sample in the provided bag! You the actual cost of the soil test analysis fee is included in the purchase of the test kit.

#6 It usually takes a few business days until your soil arrives at the lab, and it will be tested and recorded by the next business day in most cases. 

I’ve found it takes about a week.

#7 You’ll receive an email with your results!

RX Soil gives you recommendations as to how to correct your soil and get it in the proper balance. 

Reading Results

Above, you’ll see the results for one of my garden tests from Rx Soil. The results here are easy to read, separated by color, green is optimum level, red is very low level, and the green, yellow, orange spectrum is everything in between.

The numbers are there for you to read, and the optimal range listed below each macro and micro nutrient. Honestly, you don’t need to be a soil scientist or have a horticulture degree to read this and understand it easily.

That is part of what makes Rx Soil so great. It’s easy to do, you get fast results, inexpensive, and very easy for even a beginning gardener to read. But at the same time gives you the professional results you need.

By the way, all test results are in one easy to find location on Rx Soil and can be compared year over year.

What’s CEC mean in Soil Testing?

And one last thing! I often wondered what (CEC) or cation exchange capacity really means. Rx Soil does a good job of explaining it in a few words, the soils “capacity to retain nutrients”. However, if you want a little more in depth lesson about CEC I absolutely love this video HERE. It made it so easy to understand.

Implementing Recommendations

It can be easy to micro analyze each nutrient, but it’s really not necessary. Everything you need to add to the soil is recommended below the results if you use a professional soil test kit like Rx Soil. For little deficiencies, they are easily corrected with organic matter like compost (more on that below)

After reading through the needed amendments, the most important step of all is add the fertilizers, nutrients, and minerals recommended. 

A soil test in and of itself doesn’t help your garden, it’s how you use and implement those recommendations that really matters.

Organic Additions

The nutrient recommendations are fantastic but also know that in order to build organic matter, you’ll need to add organic material like compost, shedded leaves, straw, or crop residues to name a few. Rx Soil does a great job of addressing major nutrient deficiencies and the small deficiencies will correct themselves with organic matter. 

Compost

Conclusion

A basic nutrient soil test helps you to see a snapshot of the health of your soil. In addition, it helps to view the main nutrients and minerals to see if any adjustments need to be made.  To do a soil test, Rx Soil is a great professional test kit option.

Looking Deeper at Soil Biology

Something to consider is that a nutrient soil test not completely comprehensive since as we now know, there is a world of microbiology also teeming beneath the soil as well! Once the main nutrients in the soil are addressed and adjusted to correct levels, it’s also important to focus on practices that increase soil biology and life. 

Soil biology increases not only with organic recommendations, but also by low soil disturbance, keeping the soil planted as much as possible, and keeping the soil covered as much as possible.

If you want to do a little more advanced testing of soil biology, Rx Soil offers testing for that and myriad of other things like presence of lead, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, fungicide, and texture as well. You can check all that out HERE.

To watch step by step how I test my soil, check out my video here:

YouTube video

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10 comments

The Weekly Digs #197 - The Seasonal Homestead March 5, 2023 - 5:23 am

[…] Full video with all the details on how I did it is HERE. I also did a blog post with lots of details about my favorite soil test kit HERE. […]

Reply
Bruce Glasscock May 27, 2024 - 9:59 pm

Hi Becky-great information, thank you! I hope you can provide an answer before I order the test kit: I have sections of lawn in front and backyard that I’d like to get analyzed. Do I sample the soil from areas both separately or mix together? I also have another section that I’d like to plant tomatoes in-would that soil also be mixed in or a separate test? Thank you!!!!

Reply
Becky May 28, 2024 - 5:32 pm

Likely the lawn is all similar and you could mix those into one test. If you want really exact results, you could try two separate tests, one for the front lawn and one for the back lawn.

You’ll want to test the soil for the tomatoes separately because one of the nice things about RX Soil is they give recommendations for what to do to prepare your soil properly. In this case you are planting tomatoes so the preparation and soil recommendations are likely going to be different than if you wanted to grow really good grass for your lawn in that spot. I hope that makes sense!

So get one test for the lawn and one for the tomato area!

Reply
Karen March 8, 2023 - 4:41 pm

Hi there,
We have been vegetable gardening for a few years but have never had our soil tested. After reading your article above, I do have a question regarding the collection of soil. We have 3 separate garden beds. Do we do 3 separate tests, or do we collect soil from all of the garden beds and then put the soil in one bag to be tested? I appreciate the clarification. Thank you!

Reply
theseasonalhomestead March 8, 2023 - 5:15 pm

If you’re soil from the three garden beds is similar, you could collect samples from all three beds and combine them in one test. Especially if the garden beds are small. When I had raised beds, I filled them all with the same material so they were similar enough in soil structure and I usually did one test for all of them.

On the other hand. You certainly could separate them out too, with the benefit of separating into different tests being it will give you a very accurate look at each of your garden beds and you could adjust them perfectly. If they end up being almost the same results, you would know in future years that they could be combined. It’s up to you.

The times when you really want separate tests are for different areas, like if you were testing soil in an orchard, or blueberries, or fruits, or the vegetable garden.

Hope that helps! – Becky

Reply
Terry January 13, 2024 - 4:08 pm

What about houseplants testing? Fertilizer spikes,are they a danger to ones health? Having problems and narrowed it down to this? Please help find answers…

Reply
Cliff March 11, 2024 - 2:02 am

Hey Becky,
I came across your site when researching an affordable, yet accurate soil test for my raised bed garden. I’m assuming since I have 15 – 42”x42”x18” raised beds, that I need to soil test each bed, correct? Also I read where you mentioned when you first had your garden soil tested, that the sample you sent had mostly compost and was advised by the company you sent your sample to, to include more soil in your subsequent soil samples. My question is, since my raised bed medium is primary sphagnum peat moss, cow manure compost (Black Kow), and vermiculite, plus whatever soil amendments I may have added, will any of these soil testing kits be of any use to me? Thanks, Cliff

Reply
Becky March 17, 2024 - 4:02 am

Hi Cliff,

Since it sounds like all your garden beds are made of similar materials, I would only do one test for starters. Just take a couple samples from each bed and put it all in the same bucket and mix it together. To answer your second question, you’re right, it generally isn’t worth it to test a garden that is primarily organic materials. However, you may consider it if you garden beds are open to the soil below them (no plastic or barrier underneath the peat, cow manure, and vermiculite) AND if you are seeing issues with plants. If that is the case, then you could take a soil probe stick it down deep enough that you get actual soil in your sample and have it tested. The soil test will not be useful unless there is soil in it 🙂

Reply
Tony Wayne May 10, 2024 - 8:52 pm

I am interested in doing many soil samples for various clients. This method seems to be just one test, and what does that one test cost?

Reply
Becky May 12, 2024 - 4:52 am

Yes, it’s one test. But if needed you can buy many. You can build your own package, meaning if you purchase more than one test you get a better deal. Click any of the links in the post and it will lead you to the site. Cost for one nutrient analysis test is $49.95 but with my coupon code WEEKLY DIGS you can get 10% off your order. Cost for 5 nutrient analysis tests is $170 or $34.00 per sample plus if you use the 10% off that takes it down to about $30 a sample. All shipping is included in the cost of the test.

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