The #1 Way to Measure Soil Moisture

A few years back, a well-meaning friend gave me a gift they thought I would love. Now, I absolutely love getting gifts, but this person clearly didn’t know me that well.  She gave me a gift that I didn’t need—as my fingers could do a much better job.

It was an electronic gadget to measure soil moisture. It had these long prongs and a meter, which looked impressive, but it needed batteries, which of course is a big “no no” for any prepper. Batteries will be very precious once collapse is underway.

I don’t know why people are afraid of touching their soil, but please let me embolden you. So many people want to water on a schedule, and yes, having a routine is very good. But both before and after you water, stick your finger at least 2 inches down near the plants in a couple of places and feel what the moisture level actually is.

With established plants, if it’s just a bit dry on top and fairly moist about an inch down, you probably don’t need to water. Let it go for another day. Of course, for new transplants or newly seeded plots, you need to keep that moist all the time until the plants mature a bit.

Do be sure to check the corners of the bed and the edges—these areas tend to dry out first. Usually the center is more moist than the edges. There is an old gardener saying: “Water the edges, and the center will take care of itself.” If you’ve purchased the “Grow Your Own Groceries” crash course in backyard food production, then you’ve heard me say that in the gardening module.

Another quick tip about watering is that you’ve probably watered enough if the surface is “shiny” for about 4 seconds or so. Count seconds by saying “1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi” until you get to 4.

The survival and preparedness space is filled with stuff to buy, but an electronic moisture meter is clearly one thing you just don’t need. Especially when it is so much more fun to get dirty.

Isn’t that nice to know?


(This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on May 3, 2013.)

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This post was written by Marjory Wildcraft


  • Leslie Parsons says:

    This article is PURE GOLD! While working the information desk at The Natural Gardener I get to see a huge sampling of the issues that gardeners are struggling with. Water caused problems are probably at the top of the list – on average at all times of the year!!! We tested these watering devices, with the idea that we might sell them to help our customers with this tricky issue, and found that they flat out DON’T WORK. Yes Marjory, nothing can substitute for the human hand.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Leslie,

      Yes I too used a variety of those testers.

      Also soils testers… I was sorely disappointed in the various soil tests that are out there. But that is another topic!

  • Dan says:

    I’ve been told Epsom salts are a good source of calcium. Cheap and available at your neighborhood drug store — or almost anywhere.

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