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Measuring Moisture in the Soil

The Importance of Measuring Moisture in the Soil

Growing up in a house with a big backyard and lots of big trees, flower and veggie gardens I have watched my parents obsess over their garden. So when I moved out I wanted to create my own garden. I wasn’t going to let living in an apartment without a backyard stop me. So I went and bought my first three plant babies and started my journey with indoor plants. I learned the importance of measuring moisture in the soil, and designed a guide to share the important tip.
While I knew the plants were all different and needed different level of watering, I just couldn’t workout when I should be watering them. So I’ve spent hours reading articles on the internet, reading various books and speaking to people in garden centres. To me, a newbie, it just seemed like everyone already knew when a plant needs water. Majority of the advice revolved around touching the soil and feeling how dry the soil is then water the plant. I couldn’t tell how dry the soil should feel before I have to water them. I also couldn’t tell if the soil was dry or simply just cold. I even bought a soil moisture meter that measures water content in the soil. I was still getting it wrong as the leaves were either turning brown cause I didn’t water them enough or I was watering them too much leading to fungus gnats.
After many many attempts, I found measuring moisture in the soil with a thin piece of wood that’s not treated or stained like a chopstick/Popsicle stick/skewers most effective.
image of using a chopstick to measure the moisture in soil in a potted plant

It’s also important to understand how much of the soil to check for moisture level as it varies depending on the size of the pot plants. If the pot size is 10-15 cm, then check 2 inches of soil and if it’s 20-25cm (and larger), check ½ inch to 1 inch of the soil. You can use a permanent marker or nail polish (in my case) to mark the wood so you know how much of it should go into the soil. Insert the wood in the soil between the edge of the pot to the main stem of the plant and set a timer for 10 minutes. This will allow the wood to absorb water from the soil. If the wood changes colour or has water marks mean there is moisture in the soil. If the colour doesn’t change means the soil is dry. The colour change can be dark to very light indicating the level of moisture. Depending on the type plant and the level of moisture required, the changes in wood colour helps to understand when watering in needed. Make sure you wash the wood and let it dry prior to reusing it again. Using a permanent marker or nail polish means you won’t need to measure the wood again. Also, using different wood pieces for each of your plants would allow you to do multiple plants at the same time. This is a great way to learn about your plants and the soil and when watering is needed. I still sometime use this method when I have a new plant or when I don’t want my fingernails to get dirty.

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