Peter Sawchuk, Consumer Reports, says "Getting the proper ph for the soil in your lawn is really more important than putting seed on. Because when you have the proper ph, your fertilizer works better, it lasts longer, and you get much healthier grass."
Sawchuk evaluated six home soil-test kits designed to measure the ph level. "A ph scale consists of numbers from zero to fourteen, with seven being neutral. Lawns require a ph of approximately six-point-five to seven," says Sawchuk.
Testers took dozens of samples at seven different locations. They also sent soil samples to two outside laboratories to confirm the soil ph. Those results were then compared to the home test kits. "Unfortunately they weren't all that accurate. They were inconsistent. So they're not the best choice for determining your soil ph," says Sawchuk.
Instead, Consumer Reports says you can have testing done by your local cooperative extension, a private lab, or a lawn-care service.
Soil in many parts west of the Mississippi tends to be alkaline. To solve that problem, you'll need to put down sulfur, or its equivalent, to get your soil to the proper ph.