Q: When we first set up our garden maintenance and design service, we bought a pH soil test kit that consisted of a colour chart plus a large bottle of indicator solution. You just put some soil in a plant pot saucer, swirled the indicator around and discovered the pH. Having thrown it out some years ago as it was quite old and we thought not reliable any longer, we wish we'd made a note of the manufacturer. Do you know of a similar kit? It was much easier to use than fiddling around with little test tubes of powder.

Sally Drury considers the options for soil-testing kits that are quick and easy to use.

A: There are a lot of soil-testing kits on the market. A trip to your local garden centre should turn up some simple testing kits where the solution just turns yellow/orange for acid, green for neutral and a darker green for alkaline soil.

Have you thought about pH meters? They cost under £10 and can give an answer quickly - just stick the probe in the soil and watch the scale. To get a reasonably accurate reading, I would take several tests over the bed or border concerned.

Sally Drury has been reporting on product developments and testing kit for 29 years. The advice given in this helpline is independent.

Helpline feedback

Sally, about nine months or so ago, you recommended MO Bacter for the removal of moss from lawns. I thought you might be interested to know the results of my applications.

The application made at the end of March was a total failure and I thought it was a totally useless product. But I have since changed my mind and I can only put the initial failure down to the ground being too cold and, by the time the ground had warmed up, the product had leached out of the ground.

I received a partial replacement from the main distributor, DJ Turfcare in Dunsfold, Surrey, and made a second application. And now I can say the results have been quite spectacular.

It is an interesting product. It removed the moss and the grass thickened up dramatically. I did have a bit left over, so I applied a little more and I would suggest the minimum rate of application should be increased by 25 per cent.

Richard Cahn, Roundstone Nurseries.

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