What does a soil moisture meter do? Should I use one?

Soil Moisture Meter

What does a soil moisture meter do? Should I use one?


Wow – it has been dry this year! If like me, you love your garden, you will have been panicking over the amount of rainfall and working out a plan to make sure that your garden is kept well watered. In the circle of my gardening friends, there has been a lot of talk about whether watering our gardens can actually be over done. Is there such thing as over watering? Well, I say ‘yes’! I want to do the best for my garden, but I wasn’t really sure how to gauge whether I was watering enough, or too much. Then I came across moisture meters. What does a soil moisture meter do, though?


The best way to test soil moisture?

  • Feel it! Does it feel dry and crumbly to the touch? Give it a water!
  • Use a trowel – push the blade of the trowel in to the soil and lift a little
  • Use a dry, bare piece of wood – a piece of doweling would be perfect. If it comes out dry then the soil is dry.


What does a soil moisture meter do?

There are a range of soil moisture meters on the market, and they are widely available in garden centres; most are suitable for checking the moisture of the soil for house plants, outdoor pots, and the ground soil.


What are the options?

If you want to know: what does a soil moisture meter do? There are a few different answers depending on the tool that you use.


  • Electrical Resistance Blocks

How does this sensor work? Water conducts electricity, therefore soil with a higher moisture level will have a lower electrical resistance.


  • Thermal Dissipation Blocks

This sensor works on the basis that wet objects heat up slower than dry objects. These blocks are made from porous ceramic blocks. They contain temperature sensors and small heaters. The porous ceramic blocks are buried beneath the soil’s surface in a compact manner. The results are read on hand held meters.


  • Tensiometers

Tensiometers are, very simply, tubes that are filled with water. They  have porous ceramic tips that are inserted into the soil. Tensiometers measure soil water tension. The guage relies on a vaccum and the water tension is measured and displayed in centibars. Tensiometers are simple to use but need maintenance to fill the tube with water.


So :

  1. What does a soil moisture meter do? It measures the amount of moisture in the soil! What a great tool for the dry weather when you are trying to work out whether you really need to get the hosepipe again.
  2. Should I use one? Yes!

When I first looked into using a water meter, there was a lot of information to wade through. If you are thinking about purchasing one, I hope I have made the question: “what does a soil moisture meter do?” a little simpler for you.

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