The pros and cons of using pH testing strips for growing

For most growers, tending plants for pests and weeds is a common exercise that is usually done on a regular basis. But did you know that measuring the pH (potential Hydrogen) of your soil or hydroponic solution is just as important? 

Measuring pH (potential Hydrogen) is important to help you maintain optimal nutrient availability to your plants, which ultimately supports healthier plant growth. If you’re serious about growing a healthy crop, pH should be one of the four plant health checks you should do daily.

The nutrient or element will have its preferred pH range to be fully dissolved and soluble. Only when they are in this state do they become available for uptake by your plants. When the nutrients are outside of their preferred pH range, they will be locked out from your plants which could lead your plants down the costly and time- consuming path of potential nutrient deficiency. For growing, a general target soil pH of 6.5 is usually applied. There is a sweet spot for optimal nutrient availability which sits between pH 5.8 – 6.5 for hydroponics and 6.5 - 7.0 for soil. 

Aside from maximizing nutrient availability for your plants, certain plants will also have their own preference of pH environment. Some like a more acidic environment and some tending towards a more alkaline one.

The most commonly known method for measuring soil pH or nutrient solution is with pH testing strips. These work on a simple method of dipping the paper into a solution made from your soil sample. It will change colour according to the pH of your solution. This is then compared and matched to the manufacturer’s color chart to determine the pH of your test sample. 

These pH test strips are accessible, simple to use and affordable. With that in mind, these little strips of paper seem like a pretty good option to go with to get those pH readings. pH testing strips can be fairly cheap to buy, making them an affordable option for most. Besides, the pH testing strips should immediately change color to indicate the pH once it is dipped into your test sample solution.

However, most pH test strips that are available for purchase are for general pH testing purposes, which means the paper will be for the purpose of testing the full pH range from 0-14. With the broad testable pH range, it does mean you won’t get an accurate reading.  

pH testing strips are designed for single use only so you can not retest using the same one. A fresh new strip must be used each and every time you make a test measure. This is probably not really an issue if you are only doing the occasional pH test. However, if you are going to establish regular pH testing as part of your gardening monitoring routine, then you could potentially end up using quite a number of these pH test strips which start to  add up in cost over time. 

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