The soil tester I do recommend for your indoor application: cheap simple and reliable (sorry for the low-quality picture, need to change my phone soon)

How many times you might have taken extreme care of your little green friend providing enough water (but not too much) and lots of sunlight but it suffered and eventually died? Indeed, even with the right amount of water and sunlight, your herb will suffer if the soil is in an unhealthy state as discussed in one of my previous articles here. So, how to check if this is the case? The market offers a large variety of quite inexpensive soil testers. The first type of soil tester you want to have at home is the 3-in-1. This device measures moisture, light, and pH. However, given the abundance in the market, which one to choose?

In my opinion, among the different choices in the market, the 3-in-1 is the one I would suggest (and I have as you can see in the photo below) to any of my friends willing to start an indoor garden adventure. You can check its price on Amazon here.

But why I choose this one against others, here my 2 cents on the topic.


The head with all the main circuitry it is quite a hard thick (green) plastic shell of 2.4 inches (6cm) wide, difficult to break, making an ideal companion for clumsy people like myself that drop things all the time.

Here an overview of the meter so that you notice its dimensions

The same applies or the transparent plastic window from where you can read the measurements. A bit more care should be taken for the probes (6.7 inches long, 17cm) that to me look a bit less difficult to break by pulling them apart. So I do recommend to keep this object far away from children.

Here a close look up at the sturdy “head” of the instruments where you can notice its small size (6m)

Cheap and Easy To Found

You can have it for less than 3 lattes in Costa (around $15) in the majority of online retailer platform such as Amazon. So you order it today and in a few days is at home. 

No Batteries No Pain

This device works without batteries. This is because to measure moisture and pH it utilizes chemical reactions based on some particles present in the soil (to be more precise hydrogen ions, but no worries if you are not familiar with this name, it is not vital). How many times you ended up with dead batteries on your TV remote and wasted hours trying to remember where you put the new ones (or even worse, you forget to buy them). This is not the case in this kind of devices.

You have to know that this is not the case for all 3-in-1 devices. Some of them might present a digital screen that requires batteries to work. Although fancier they do not add any functional value to the instrument that also gets less reliable (you broke the screen, and you are not able to use the soil meter anymore). So why I prefer analog instruments as the one that I suggest here.

Simple To Use

This advantage comes after trying other soil testers for pH. Indeed, some of them require you to mix soil, with some powder and water. This, although fun, it might take 10-15 minutes to mix the ingredients, take out the soil from your pot every and wait for the reaction to settle. However, with the 3-in-1 soil meter, you just stick the two long metal probes (called electrode) in the wet soil and job done! Moreover, you do not get dirty with any chemical.

Simple to use, just stick it in the soil. The moisture level is a bit low, my basil needs a bit of water soon

More than 140+ 5 Stars Review on Amazon

As you can check by yourself in Amazon the majority of the people (80%) were extremely satisfied with this tester providing (including me) a five-star review. The main benefits reported by those gardeners (using their own words) are:

  1. Simplicity – “Incredible easy to use: just plug (or well stick) and that’s it”
  2. Easier than other options – “It gives me a peace of mind without having to pull samples for testing”
  3. Robust – “Very well made meter, sturdy”
  4. Good Quality-Cost balance:  “for the cost and ease of use it is a great product”
  5. Ideal for a small garden and indoors applications – “Works perfectly for small gardens”
  6. Helped improve the health of the plants – “ In fact, I’ve discovered that I’ve been overwatering my tomato plants for years. This meter has also reassured me that the plants in our west-facing courtyard are in fact not going to die of thirst.”

Does It Really Work?

As always I tried to provide you with the best review I can, given my knowledge, can. Hence, I was wondering if this instrument is really reliable as it looks like. The answer is yes! 

This soil ph meter 3-1 is a quite reliable piece of equipment, especially considering for its low price (here on Amazon where you will find hundreds of great review)

Indeed, quite a few more experienced gardeners than myself, have compared the results of such an inexpensive device with more reliable (and way more expensive) laboratory tests. The results came out quite clear. Most of the time the 3-in-1 soil meter was able to provide results very close to the laboratory test as also discussed in a few videos from YouTube you can find.

Related Questions

Can the 3-in-1 tester be used to measure the pH of water? No, it is highly discouraged to do so as the instrument is not designed for the purpose of providing poor readings and, in addition, it might get severely damaged.

What materials are the probe? The two probes are metals. One aluminum and one of copper with special glass coating.

At what depth should the probes be placed? It is highly suggested to place the electrodes at the root level for more reliable measurements.

Further Readings