Customer Reviews: Luster Leaf 1818 Rapitest Mini 4-in-1 Soil Tester
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on September 22, 2008
I've only owned this product a few weeks, but so far, so good. I HAVE noticed that it seems to need to be in SOIL to accurately read (Anecdotally, I have read other reviews for similar products where people complained it wouldn't read for moisture when stuck in water, and so I curiously tried placing this one in a glass of water. It's true. It doesn't always ping to the far end for moisture when you do this, but who cares? It DOES when you place it in heavily saturated soil). I DO recommend pushing the leads deeply in your soil, and to move it around a plant you suspect is not responding well to either its environment or your watering habits. I have noticed, by using this item, that areas around a few of my plants seem to have isolated patches of soil compaction, where they are holding more water. If I'd only done one reading per plant, I would not have gotten a fully accurate reading.

I don't really use the "light" measure, and the fertilizer and pH measure seem to work well. I suspect I will use meter this quite a bit.

***Ammended review***: After having this for some time, I've noticed some issues with it. First, the metal tines are not built for long-term use. In a short period of time, they began to bend every-which-way and now any time I try to insert the device in soil (not even compacted, at that!) they bend in different directions, which makes it quite difficult to get readings!

Also, if you were interested in keeping it inserted in an individual "sick plant" to gauge its progress--or even aid in diagnosis--think again. I've found that, over time, the tines also begin to react to the moisture and minerals in the soil and stop rendering accurate readings. However, I've had other moisture gauges, and as this particular type of gauge goes, this is probably the better one on the market. Hope this helps!
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on August 23, 2009
I initially purchased this product to test the soil's pH. It does a very good job of giving you a general idea of the soil's pH as long as you follow the instructions.

Per a previous review, you must completely submerge the meter into wet soil. If you try to use it on dry soil, or not fully submerged, it won't give you an accurate pH reading. Plus, let it sit in the soil for a few minutes so it has time to adjust.

The other three functions ~ water, light, and fertilize, seem to work OK. They weren't my major focus for purchasing this product. Plus, the instructions were poor and too generalized. That's why I gave this product four out of five stars.

Once again, this is a good product for general pH soil readings. You can get a good idea if your soil is too acidic or alkaline.

I was able to verify the soil's pH, the reading the product was displaying, because I have soil test stripes to confirm the pH level. I want to stop using test strips because they're expensive, and I can't reuse them. With this product, there's nothing to replace, such as batteries, or repurchase, such as test stripes.
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on May 29, 2009
We got this gauge to check the pH of our vegetable garden, but have found that it does so much more. It does check for moisture, it works well for pH, it works good for fertilizer too ... light sensor seems to be the weakest link of this product.

I must also agree about the metal probes bending when inserting it into the ground, so I take some of the soil and mix it up in a tall cup with some water until I get a mud like consistency, that keeps the probes from bending. I realize that is not always possible but it works better for us.

Good value if you are looking to check the basics at a basic price.
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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
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on June 7, 2010
For less than 12 bucks (at the time this review was written) you get a compact soil tester that measures pH, fertilizer levels, light and moisture - sounds like the kind of thing that is broken right out of the box or works once and then never again, right? Not in this case - the rapitest unit is relatively sturdy and appears to be made with some regard for quality.

Of course, you should not expect it to survive many nights outside in the rain, nor will you get the kind of results that NASA would require for a zero-g botany experiment, but for a casual gardener with a few temperamental indoor plants this is a perfect little tool. It will give you a rough idea of how your little patch of soil is doing and can assist you in diagnosing why specific plants seem to be struggling. The most useful setting is the pH tester which gives a acidity/alkalinity reading without using testing strips or dyes. The fertility setting is calibrated for a specific set of ppm for N, K and Phosphorous (these are listed in the instructions) - also useful if you know the mineral requirements of your individual plants.

The instructions included with the unit are printed on a single sheet of paper and are easy to follow. Step by step directions for using each setting are given.

On a side note: I'm not going to risk cracking my unit open but my guess is that this device works by measuring the flow of electric current and bases the results on pre-calibrated resistances. This means there is a battery in there somewhere that will eventually conk out.
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on January 11, 2011
PH meter plain doesnt work, followed instructions to the letter.... and ALWAYS gave me the same rating no matter the soil/ ph'd water used. Moisture meter works I guess however is very erratic depending on place and depth inserted... Fertility is useless.. no rhyme or reason to those readings... Light meter works the best out of all... unfortunatly thats the one function I didn't care about in the purchase. Avoid if possible
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on March 25, 2011
Though the dial is impressive, this is not a push in the ground, plug and play multimeter with precision accuracy. The light meter is straightforward and correlates to my $300 photometer and the moisture meter is soil type dependent - repeatable but YOU have figure out the relationships to your soil. The PH meter didn't work at first - I tried the activiation trick as it requires generating a static charge to start and found that using the nylon wool side of a common dish sponge with the glass of soil worked fine and correlated to my PH strips and liquid.

I would have spent $15 more to have less quirky, more accurate meter. (haven't tested the nutrient function)
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on July 17, 2010
The Luster Leaf 1818 Rapitest Mini soil tester works great. But, I had to epoxy the probes to keep them from pushing into the case when you insert the probes into dense soil. I had read that other users experienced this problem, so I knew to expect this. The product works great otherwise.
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on June 27, 2016
This does work well and makes taking care of plants easier...however...the lettering is very small which could make it difficult for some to read. This was perfect for us and stores easier---which is why we purchased the 'smaller' version instead of the full size. Recommend
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on August 2, 2013
This soil tester takes all the guess work out of watering. It will tell you if water is needed. Great for houseplants which are often OVER watered. I even use it to check the moisture level in my compost pile.
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