Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Tools & Tips: Moisture Meter

Dear Folks,

Here is the low desert when summer temps can be in the 108+ range and the monsoon season (a change in winds which affects humidity--not necessarily a lot of rain) is in full swing, it is actually possible to over water the garden.

One of my all-time favorite garden tools is a moisture meter (I sometimes refer to it as a water meter) which instantly reads the moisture of the soil 6-8 inches down.

You can't always go by the way a plant looks unless you are observing it first thing in the morning. Drooping in the afternoon is the way many plants conserve moisture.

For most herbs, using the meter as a guide, water when the indicator is between 2-3 on the dry side. Water mint when it is 4-5 on the scale. Veggies and fruit plants should be watered at about the same range as mint. Trees should be watered less frequently once established.

The purpose of watering 'after' the surface soil dries is to encourage deep root growth. In the desert the soil surface temps, asphalt, concrete, and the sides of containers can be approximately 180 degrees F on a typical hot summer afternoon.

This year we are in a record-breaking string of 110+ degree days, and once the humidity rises the temps will fall back down, BUT, that is where the possibility of over watering is going to occur.

Meters come in simple -- just the moisture reader -- and more 'bells-and-whistles" -- adding a light and pH indicator. They cost from $7 to $12 bucks, can be found at most nursery stores and departments or on the Internet, and are worth their weight in gold and plants.

Use a meter and it will become one of your favorite garden tools, too!

Happy gardening!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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