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Economical, No Fuss, Instant Readings (5- stars),
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This review is from: Luster Leaf 1818 Rapitest Mini 4-in-1 Soil Tester (Lawn & Patio)As an avid gardener whose soil pH varies across her property, I really needed a convenient and quick way to test pH to ensure that the soil was properly adjusted. I tried those little vials with the test strips (economical but required a production to test more than one area) and an electronic gauge that required all sorts of solutions (accurate but a pain to use). With the Luster Leaf Rapitest mini soil tester, I finally found my perfect tester -- inexpensive, instant, and incredibly easy to use. All you do is select the type of reading you want (pH, fertility, moisture, and light), and insert the three-prong base into the soil. Right away, the needle sweeps over the gauge. You'll get the most accurate readings when the soil is moist and when you've left it in for at least thirty seconds to make sure the reading has stabilized, although most times a fairly accurate reading takes mere seconds.
The fertility meter works fairly well; I planted some annuals in a pot of new Miracle Gro soil, and the gauge read on the high end of ideal, exactly what I expected. My vegetable garden, which I haven't yet prepared for this season, registered low, having been depleted of nutrients last year and over the winter. The fertility setting is good if you want a quick spot test to see whether you need to fertilize, although it's not plant-specific; different plants thrive on different levels of fertilizer, so you'll need to do your research. The moisture test is good for seeing if you need to water, but I assume that the probe measures only the moisture at the bottom, so, for shallow-rooted plants, take care that you measure at the lowest level of the root system, never below it. Deep-rooted plants might be suffering if just the top few inches of the soil are moist. The light meter is the least useful because it will only measure what is happening at the very second, something most people can tell for themselves.
This device is not built for long-term use or for leaving in the dirt for more than a few minutes. The prongs are easily bent and should not be forced into rocky or compacted/hard soil (use a garden trowel to loosen the soil first.) For a more complete view of your plants/soil. minus pH readings, try EasyBloom Plus Plant Sensor. The Easy Bloom uploads long-term readings to your computer and provides plant-specific details; that device is not instant but instead takes readings over a minimum of 24 hours. I use the Luster Leaf primarily for pH and quick moisture tests, and the Easy Bloom for everything else.
-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann