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How to Use a Soil Moisture Meter

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

We frequently recommend purchasing a soil moisture meter to our consulting clients. Check out our blog post, "Why to Use a Moisture Meter" if you're wondering about questions like "How often should my trees and plants be watered?"

Need to know how to use a Soil Moisture Meter?

There are several styles of soil moisture meters on the market today. You can find them easily at your big box home supply store or your local hardware store. Look for a meter that you find easy to use. There's no need to spend a lot on a digital version that can cost hundreds of dollars. The analog inexpensive ones work just fine! Expect to pay between $6-$20. Pictured is a dial meter, just one of many on the market.

With this analog dial meter, the meter measures 0-10: 0 being dry to 10 being wet. An instruction sheet often comes with moisture meters and may provide a list of plant types and their water needs.

Once you know what type of soil moisture your plant likes, Wet, Moist, or Dry, you can use your meter to determine the amount of water your tree or plant currently needs. if you're not able to find the moisture level your tree or plant prefers, selecting "Moist" is always a good bet to start. Most plants like to be "Moist," and the interval length between watering is what varies. Regardless, if your tree or shrub reads "Dry," it's time to water.

A general rule for the typical home's trees and shrubs is to water if it has not rained in a week.

Knowing the moisture needs of your plant and with meter in hand, you are ready to start testing your soil moisture.

  • From the base of your plant in the yard, gently insert the probe into the soil starting at least 4-6 inches away from the stem for small plants and several feet for larger trees and shrubs.

  • The probe end should insert into the soil at a depth of half the probe or 6-8 inches. It is important to measure the moisture levels at the level of the roots within the earth (and not at the surface couple inches).

  • Document your readings, and test with the meter around the plant root area. This will give you an idea of how the soil moisture is around the entire plant.

  • Make sure to wipe off the soil and store your moisture meter indoors in a dry location.

Once you have your moisture meter readings, then you can choose to water or not.

When you need additional guidance, give the office a call at (678) 617-1223, or email , to schedule an onsite plant health care assessment.

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