We all know that determining when a succulent needs a good drink of water is not easy, as there are times that the top portion of the soil feels dry, but the lower part of the roots might still be pretty moist. And since it's almost impossible to check the lower portion of the soil, most usually based their watering routine depending on the dryness of the topsoil, which is why succulents still end up being overwatered and eventually die due to root rot.
So to help you avoid overwatering your succulents, we strongly recommend using a soil moisture meter. And below are all the things you need to know on how to use it.
What is a Soil Moisture Meter?
A soil moisture meter or sensor is a small and simple tool that is designed to help you easily determine when your succulent is ready for a good drink of water. It provides a numerical or color-coded measure (or both) of the moisture level, making it more accurate than simply feeling the dryness of the soil using a finger (a method that gardeners mostly use). Plus, this tool is very easy to use and most don't even need batteries to work!
Different types of Soil Moisture Meter you can choose from
- 3-Way Meter (3-in-1 Soil Meter).This type of soil meter not only allows you to read the current moisture level of the soil but also gives you a pH reading between 3.5 to 8.0 and as well as if the available light level is anything from 0 LUX (very dark) to 2,000 LUX (sitting under a spotlight). In addition to that, this tool can go about 6-inches deep into the soil and doesn't need batteries to work. Works great for both indoors and outdoors usage.
- 4-in-1 Soil Moisture Tester. Unlike the 3-way meter, this tool will give you the soil temperature level in addition to the moisture, ph, and light readings, making it very helpful, especially when it comes to planting seeds.
- Smart Plant Monitor (Bluetooth-enabled Soil Monitor). Yes, you read that right! A Bluetooth-enabled soil moisture meter. It has a sensor that lets you know not only the moisture level of the soil, but also the light and temperature levels around your plant and whether the nutrient level of your soil is low, medium, or high. And since this tool is Bluetooth-enabled, you can conveniently control it with an app, which can be downloaded to your phone (either with an Android, iOS, or tablet).
- Analog type Soil Meter. A very affordable choice. However, this type of moisture meter can easily rust, which will most likely lead to inaccurate readings. So make sure to keep it clean after every use to maintain its condition and functionality.
Knowing what to choose out of the 4 soil moisture meters mentioned above largely depends on your actual needs to care for your succulents. For example, if you are a newbie gardener and are not yet that familiar with caring for succulents, we highly suggest getting one of the first 3 from the list above (3-way meter, 4-in-1 soil meter, and Bluetooth enabled). However, if you are just looking for something that would help you determine the right timing to water your succulents, then the Analog type Soil Meter should be enough to get the job done for you.
How to use a Moisture Meter?
Step 1:To begin, make sure to clean the probes of the meter with distilled water and wipe it with a clean cloth before using. This will keep your moisture meter (no matter which type you are using) to give you accurate readings.
Step 2: Insert the probe or pointed end of the moisture meter gently into the soil of your succulent (about 3 quarters deep into the pot). Make sure to be gentle and not to force the moisture meter into the soil, as it may cause damage to the roots or the probe of your tool.
Step 3: Wait about 60 seconds, then read the gauge and compare the reading to the water demands of the specific succulent.
- 1 to 1.5 or 1 to 3:Your potting medium is close to dry.
- 2 to 3.5 or 3.5 to 7.5:your potting medium is slightly dry to lightly moist.
- 4 to 5 or 8 to 10: Your potting medium is very wet.
Note: Most succulents and cacti need their soil to be at least 90-100% dry in between waterings, but it’s better to do some research first about what each of your succulents watering requirements. To get detailed information about watering succulents, click here.
Step 4: After you take each reading, remove the moisture meter, clean it, and put it in a safe place. DO NOT forget to do this step, as leaving the moisture meter constantly in the soil will most likely damage the sensor of the tool and may lead it to malfunction, or worse, not function at all!
Important Note: The steps above apply to all types of soil meters. However, in a 3-way, 4-in-1, and Bluetooth-enabled meter, the first reading to appear is usually the pH level (which is usually measured on a scale from 1 to 14, 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline). To change or view the moisture, light, or temperature level, all you have to do is press the button available on the meter or phone (if you are using the Bluetooth-enabled meter).
Can a Moisture Meter give Inaccurate Readings?
Yes, a soil moisture meter can sometimes give you a false reading. And below is a list of the most common reasons why:
1. Dropping your moisture meter. Although moisture meters are made from metal, they can still get damaged when dropped and may consistently tell you that your soil is dry when using it. With that in mind, it’s best to use your soil meter first in a recently watered succulent for testing, especially if dropped.
2. The salt level of your succulent’s soil. If you often feed or fertilize your succulents or live in a zone where tap water is mineral-heavy, there is a high chance of salt build-up in your succulent soil, which can lead to inaccurate readings on your moisture meter. To avoid this, water or soak the soil of your succulent every 3 months using distilled or low mineral water.
3. When the probe or pointed end of the meter snaps off. Forcing the moisture meter too hard into the soil may damage or snap the tip, which is why it's important to gently insert the probe into the potting medium and not to use any force, especially if resistance is felt.
4. Cold Temperature. Since soil moisture meters use electrical resistance to measure moisture, the accuracy of the tool can be affected (or worse, damage it), especially when exposed to extreme temperatures. To help keep the tool in good condition, it is highly recommended to protect it from the cold by putting it in a storage case if not in use.
A moisture meter is so helpful when it comes to determining when to water your succulents! So tell us, have you ever used a moisture meter before and how was the experience? Let us know in the comment section right below!
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