A Guide to Purchasing a Soil Meter
Whether you have a lawn, garden, or just some potted plants in your home, it’s a good idea to monitor their growing conditions on a regular basis. You’ll of course want to make sure that you water your plants sufficiently. Too much water can be as injurious as too little water. And if you’re dealing with houseplants, you may forget whether you watered the plants recently. Also, the pH level of your soil is important: certain plants need slightly alkaline soil, while others need slightly acidic soil. An accurate soil meter is a neat device that can help you keep track of all of these variables, for healthy, robust plants.
We’ll examine the products in the Best Reviews Guide’s list of the best soil meters. Many of them are capable of taking readings of moisture and pH without any batteries, while some have a battery-powered LCD readout that you can see even in poor lighting conditions. And most of them are small and portable so that you can make measurements in several areas of your lawn or yard, or check your potted plants one by one. Let’s examine the options!
What types of soil meters are there?
People use soil meters for measuring the amount of moisture in the soil, or for measuring the pH of the soil, the amount of light the plant receives, and soil temperature. All of these pieces of data should be matched to the variety of plants that you’re growing.
How does a soil meter measure moisture levels without using electricity?
Many of the soil meters are able to measure temperature, pH, and moisture levels without any batteries. Well, a thermometer also works without batteries, so that’s not so unusual. But, to measure moisture, a soil meter has a probe made of two metals that act like the plus and minus terminals of a battery. When you put the probe into moist soil, a current develops between the two metals, making the needle on the probe move. The more it moves, the more moisture the soil contains. This is also the reason why you shouldn’t place the soil meter probe in water or any other liquid, or leave it in the soil for too long. It will “use up” the property of the two metals to create a current when placed in a conducting liquid.
Types of Soil Meters
You can find soil meters that can measure up to four different parameters:
Moisture: These will tell you if the soil is dry, moist, or wet. It’s intended for plants that are sensitive to over- or under-watering. An example is the Gouevn Soil Moisture Meter. You insert the probe about 3-5 inches into the soil, to the level of the plant’s roots. It gives a reading practically as soon as you insert the probe. It comes with a list of 200 plants, and which moisture level is ideal for each plant.
Gouevn Soil Moisture Meter with a list of plants
Moisture and pH level: You can also find soil meters that measure two parameters: moisture level and the pH of the soil. Some plants grow best in acidic conditions, while others need soil to be slightly alkaline. An example is the Kensizer Soil Tester.
Kensizer Soil Tester
Moisture, pH, and Light: There are also soil meters that measure moisture, pH, and light, such as the Vivosun Soil Tester. It has a switch to allow you to toggle between the different parameters.
Vivosun Soil Tester
Moisture, pH, Light, and Temperature: You can also find soil meters that measure temperature as well. An example is the Vodeson 4-in-1 Soil Moisture Meter. It gives you readings in as little as 10 seconds. It requires 4 “AAA” batteries. But it also has an LCD screen that you can read even when the lighting is weak. (It comes with 20 colored plastic plant labels.)
Vodeson 4-in-1 Soil Moisture Meter
What reviewers say
Here are some impressions of customers regarding their choice of soil meter:
Don’t leave it in the soil forever: As we mentioned above, don’t leave the soil meter in the ground too long. The metals in the probe act like a mild battery, creating a current when put in contact with moisture. Leaving the probe in the soil would be like short-circuiting a battery: it will “use up” all of its potential energy more quickly.
Testing the meter: Some people try to test the moisture meter by putting the unit in water. The manufacturers explicitly say not to do this! Instead, place the probe in dry peat moss or potting soil, and take a reading. Then add some water to the soil, and check for a difference. That will verify if the meter is indeed working properly.
Helps to know if the soil is really dry: A person who was growing cactus was always wondering if they needed watering, especially when the soil seems to be dry. The soil meter helped verify that the cactus indeed had water near its roots.
Here are some tips and important features to look for when selecting a soil meter:
Helps you diagnose plant problems: If your lawn has brown spots, a good soil meter can help you diagnose the problem. You can easily check a few spots on your lawn, measuring light, pH, water, or temperature. That can help you pinpoint what’s causing the problem.
Take an average of the readings: It’s recommended to take a number of readings, and then average the results. This is especially true when assessing the watering of a lawn, or around a tree.
Time to get a readout: Take note of how long your soil meter needs to be in the soil to get an accurate reading. Some can give a reading in seconds, while others require leaving the probe in the soil for 5-10 minutes.
Avoid corrosion: For the soil meter to work properly, it’s important that the metal remains clean. You shouldn’t touch the probe with your fingers, because the oils on your skin can interfere with the meter’s functioning. Also, you should clean the probe after every use. And the manufacturers warn not to leave the probe in the soil for too long. It can cause the metal probe to corrode, also interfering with its ability to do an accurate reading.
Care when inserting the probe: The makers of these soil meters recommend being careful when inserting the probe into the soil. Make sure that the ground isn’t too hard. If it is, you should wet the soil first, wait for a half-hour, and then insert the probe. Also, make sure that you don’t hit any rocks when inserting the probe.
We went through some of the properties of soil meters, and their ability to measure moisture, pH, temperature, and even light, depending on the product. One thing is for sure: it can help take away a lot of the guesswork when taking care of potted plants or a lawn! You’ll know exactly what your plants need–whether it’s water, light, or a more acidic or alkaline soil–in a matter of minutes!