Are you having problems deciding when it’s time to water? If so, you’re not alone. That’s where the best soil moisture meter comes into play. These useful devices help you decide when you should be hydrating your plants.
But there’s all kinds of them out there. They range from a few dollars to hundreds, and there’s a mix of types. Finding the best soil moisture meter can be a challenge.
Let me help you out with that!
Top Moisture Sensors:
- Analog, Standard Moisture-Only: XLUX T10 Meter
- Analog, Composter’s Moisture-Only: REOTEMP Meter
- Analog, Hybrid: Sonkir 3-in-1 Meter
- Digital, Standard Moisture-Only: Luster Leaf Digital Meter
- Digital, Composter’s Moisture-Only: A.M. Leonard Meter
- Digital, Precision Moisture-Only: General Tools DSMM500 Meter
- Digital, Hybrid: Luster Leaf Rapitest 1835 Meter
- Digital, Wicking: Blumat 50205 Meter
- Digital, App-Based: HHCC Xiaomi 4-in-1 Meter
- Wicking: Sustee Aquameter
What Is A Moisture Meter?
Sometimes referred to as a soil moisture sensor, these devices do exactly what you expect. They gauge the moisture in soil.
For gardeners, this is essential information. Most plants don’t like having “wet feet”. Soil that’s too soggy can promote root rot conditions from fusarium fungi or other fungi. And too dry is an issue as well.
Meters like this help estimate when it’s watering time. Some soils hold moisture for much longer than others. If you’ve got many types of soil in your garden, you’ll need one of these!
These can also be really effective for people who’re composting. A certain amount of moisture’s required to boost microbial growth. It can be hard to estimate based on the exterior of the compost pile. But with a probe, you don’t have to turn the pile or even touch it. All that’s required is looking at the meter.
Types Of Soil Moisture Meters
There’s some elaborate variations on these devices on the market. The average home gardener doesn’t need something with lots of frills, though. A basic one will do.
But there’s many different types available, even then. Let’s discuss some of the variations and see what sets them apart from one another.
Batteries aren’t included, because they’re not needed for an analog moisture meter. These devices are very simple in design, but surprisingly effective.
Most of these still work by conduction of electricity. However, that’s naturally-occurring electricity in the soil. The tips of the probe will have at least two forms of conductive metal. If water is present, any natural electrical current in the soil will be transmitted to the probe.
Water’s a natural conductor of energy. More water registers as a higher electrical charge on the meter. A soil moisture reader like this is relatively accurate in most cases.
Digital meters have many features which an analog meter might not. Typically, the probe portion isn’t subject to corrosion like an analog may be. The batteries in the device provide power to the screen. They also provide a tiny electromagnetic pulse that senses moisture. Probes are often on long cables, rather that directly secured into the device.
Both hybrid and basic soil moisture sensors are available as digital devices. Some also have the ability to be charged via USB cables. The USB-enabled ones may also be able to input data on the moisture to computer software.
A wicking soil moisture reader is an older style of device, but popular in indoor houseplants. A plant hydrometer like this absorbs moisture from the portion in the soil. The moisture is wicked upward to fabric which changes color if the soil is moist.
The less color change is visible, the dryer the soil is. Intended to be left in place, these indoor moisture readers can hint when it’s watering time with a glance. These don’t work well outside or in direct sunlight.
Hybrid moisture reader types are extremely common. These will provide you the most information for your money. But they’re not limited to solely plant hydration.
A garden moisture meter will be one of the key components. There may also be a sensor that reacts to light.
A pH meter may also be included. These usually aren’t as accurate as professional soil tests, but at least indicate if you have a problem.
Both digital and analog versions are available in these multi-faceted devices. Digital variations may also include the ambient temperature or testing time.
How To Use A Moisture Meter
Depending on whether you have a digital or analog model, how to read a moisture meter will vary.
Digital models have handy screens that give you an easy-to-read view. Most analog models are gauges, with colored marks denoting dry, moist, or wet soils. Wicking models are all based on the fabric band that changes color when the soil’s damp.
And these devices aren’t just for soil! If you have a version that has both moisture and pH readers, you’ll love using this in your worm bin. Since worms are less likely to prefer acidic soil, you can add agricultural lime to reduce the pH of your bin.
Compost piles are also greatly improved with one of these. Sure, we can check the moisture of our pile by turning it and feeling with our hands. But if it’s not your day to turn the pile, you can place a moisture sensor in the pile. If it needs more water, you can add it right away.
Use one of these before preparing a new garden bed to learn about your location’s needs. You can check it a few times during the day to see the status.
The Best Soil Moisture Meter Choices
There’s a couple variations I’m going to recommend here. One of them is meant for basic soil testing for potted plants or raised beds. The other type is fantastic for compost piles and deeper moisture checks.
First up in this segment, we have the XLUX T10 Soil Moisture Meter. This device is very basic in design, but works for the task. Its readout rates the soil’s ambient moisture on a scale from 1-10. Levels 1-3 are considered dry. 4-7 are moist, and 8-10 are wet.
With the XLUX model, you won’t get pinpoint accuracy. For the average home gardener, high levels of accuracy aren’t required, though. It’ll help you gauge when it’s next time to water.
Looking for something with more length? The REOTEMP Garden and Compost Moisture Meter can deliver. Lengths ranging from 15″-48″ are available. The longer options are phenomenal at gauging the dampness of the interior of your compost pile. They’re also helpful at checking deep moisture for fruit trees.
Like the XLUX, the REOTEMP model has a scale of 1-10. Lower numbers indicate drier soil. With this model, it’s best to aim at 50% moisture for most compost piles. A range of 40-60% is good for the majority of plants.
There are no-batteries-required models which are hybrids. Typically pairing a pH or sunlight meter with moisture-sensing capabilities, these can be just as effective as a standalone.
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Here, I’m going to recommend an old standard. The Sonkir 3-in-1 unit has a dual probe. One of the stems tests soil pH, the other tests moisture. As long as it’s cleaned between tests, it will give a good range. Again, you won’t have pinpoint accuracy here, but it’s a good baseline.
It also has a light detecting sensor. Place it in your garden and give it a couple minutes, and it’ll tell you an estimated level of the current sunlight. This can help you determine where to plant those plants that prefer partial sun or indirect bright lighting.
I actually have three items I’m going to recommend here. All three are for different purposes!
First up is what the average home gardener will want. Luster Leaf moisture sensors are brand-name models that work well. It’s not fancy, and it doesn’t provide exact accuracy. But to be honest, you can’t go wrong with a Luster Leaf.
Composters will find the 24″ length of the A.M. Leonard soil probe to be sufficient for their needs. Its display is laid out like an analog model, and should be read like one. It qualifies as digital due to the battery required. Tiny pulses of electricity go out from the probe, and the device registers the moisture content of the soil that way.
But what if you want something that can pinpoint your exact moisture level? People who grow finicky plants might. And for that purpose, we’ve got the General Tools DSMM500. It’s expensive, but can give you a very accurate measurement from 0-50% soil moisture. It stores some data as well. Be forewarned, though, it’s not as accurate in heavy clay soils!
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Here again, Luster Leaf wins out. The 1835 Rapitest Digital model checks for not just moisture, but pH level. It also checks the average soil fertility, and can provide an indication if you need to fertilize.
Again, like most other home models, this is not super-accurate. But if you’re just looking for an estimate, this is fantastic. For pH and soil fertility, sending a soil sample to a lab will give you accuracy… but this warns you when you need to do that.
- Know the moisture level near plant roots
- Easy to add on and use
- Digital sensor tells you of over-watered soil
Are you looking for something which can remain in the soil at all times like a wicking model? Do you want the convenience of a digital reading? This strange little device can provide both.
The Blumat 50205 is an unusual little meter. It works like a wicking model, sensing the moisture in the soil by absorption. However, thanks to its inner chamber which you’ll fill with water, it provides slightly more detail than just a color change.
For people who have indoor plants that they want to monitor closely, a device like this is perfect. I wouldn’t recommend this for outdoor use, but houseplant afficianados will love it.
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Have you ever been sitting at work, wondering if you should run home on your lunch break to see if the plants need to be watered?
If so, and you have a Bluetooth hub at home, you might be interested in this model. Most people will find that its Bluetooth signal is a bit weak and that they’ll need to be home to use it. But for the lucky few, the HHCC Xiaomi is a blessing.
While it doesn’t offer perfection, you can do a quick check via a phone app to see the moisture level where the sensor is placed. Like the Blumat, this device is best used indoors, especially on hot days.
It’s a little geeky, I admit it. But if you’re into your tech gadgets, this is the start of the app-based moisture sensing revolution. Now, if only it worked with standard wireless…
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And finally we reach this wicking aquameter. Sustee’s aquameter can be tucked into the soil at the base of your plant. After it’s had time to absorb a small amount of moisture, you’ll be able to tell at a glance whether your plant needs to be watered.
When the soil moisture is right, the white panel on the aquameter turns blue. As the soil moisture drops, it slowly turns back to white. But if you have multiple potted plants, you’ll need more of these. If you’ve got an indoor jungle, it might be easiest to pick up a different meter and check the plants regularly.
There’s a great perk to these, though. If you’ve got a plant in the office that’s always overwatered because your coworkers are trying to help, this device is foolproof. Just tell your coworkers to leave it alone when it shows blue!
In the end, the goal is always to make sure you’re not watering too much or too little. If a simple device like this can help you gauge that, what’s not to love? There’s not just one best soil moisture meter on the market, but they all have uses. It should be an essential part of your gardening tools!
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Last update on 2020-01-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API