How To Choose And Install Soil Moisture Sensors Correctly

As a gardener, you should understand how important water is in your yard. And apart from the fact that you water your plants every day, if the soil cannot hold the water for long, your plants may not get enough water all day.

Some geographic areas are naturally less able to hold water than the others. For instance, you might be living in a place where the ground can’t hold water for long. So, you may need to be concerned about this issue.

Soil moisture sensors are effective ways of measuring the moisture-holding capacity of your field. With these devices, you can see how much water is in your soil, how much water it can hold, and how often it gets dry. Then, you can decide whether to use an irrigation system to water the ground or not.

What Are Soil Moisture Sensors?

A soil moisture sensor is a device designed to estimate the amount of moisture in the soil. These devices use different principles to calculate how much water is in the soil. 

Note: The kind of sensor you are using will determine how it calculates moisture levels.

If you were to see how much water is in your soil, you would probably touch it with your hands, squeeze it or check how wet it feels. This kind of manual test will only tell you if your soil is wet or dry. 

Soil moisture sensors use a special technique to determine how much water is in the soil. This technique is by checking the “dielectric constant” of the soil to know its capacity.

Benefits Of Using A Soil Moisture Sensor

Soil moisture sensors allow many gardeners to keep track of how much water their soils can hold. Below are some of the benefits of using these pieces.

  1. Farmers can save water, and therefore, increase the quality of their crops with soil moisture sensors.
  2. Soil moisture sensors are usually easy to use and calibrate
  3. They are affordable to acquire
  4. They provide relatively accurate results.

How To Choose The Right Soil Moisture Sensor

There are many different models of moisture sensors for soil testing. But, if you don’t know enough about these devices, you may need guidance before buying one for your lawn. While you browse through different options of soil moisture sensors, consider the following factors.

  1. Accuracy. A sensor might not get 100%-correct answers all the time, but you should check that the one you’re getting is relatively accurate. Compare its results to others so you can tell how functional it is.
  2. Amount of information the sensor provides. Some sensors only give information about your soil’s wetness. At the same time, others also indicate root activity, irrigation timing, etc. Look at how simple or complex the information is so that you can easily read the machine.
  3. Price. Don’t break the bank to get a sensor. It isn’t a primary need anyway. Ensure that any product you are getting is comfortably within your budget.
  4. Durability. Soil moisture sensors are made to do ‘dirty’ jobs, and you might need them often. So, your sensor should be sturdy enough to undergo several procedures and still last long enough.
  5. Compatibility with your garden. In this case, you need to consider your soil type and other yard-related factors affecting your sensor’s purchase.

Installing A Soil Moisture Sensor- How To Do It

Before you install a soil moisture sensor, read the manufacturer’s instructions to guide you. I recommend this because it gives you a more specific guide to using the devices. This moisture sensor from Amazon usually includes all the specifications and guidelines for usage.

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After you have checked the product and think it suits your project, you can install it. Your manufacturer’s guide should help you use it easily.

When you are done with burying the sensors, add about 5 gallons of water over the sensor and leave it for 24 hours. You should not add any more water so that the machine can calculate how fast the previous water drains. If rain falls overnight, start this procedure all over again.

After 24 hours, come back to observe the area. Does it look wet or scorched? Check the reading of the sensor and record it. This 24-hour value is called the “threshold” of the sensor, which indicates how much water your soil can hold. You will also use this result when you want to irrigate your lawn. So, whenever your soil moisture sensor records anything below this value, it will trigger the irrigation system to water the ground.

This technique is the basic method of using any soil moisture sensor. If you buy a specific product, read the manufacturer’s guide to see if it uses a different method.

Precautions For Installing A Soil Moisture Sensor

When installing your sensor, keep the following tips in mind.

  1. Bury the sensors closely with the soil you are testing. Leave no air gaps around the sensor and ensure that the soil is firmly gathered around the device but not choking it.
  2. If you want to use the same soil moisture sensor for two or more areas, start from the driest zone when irrigating. If you start from the moistest area, the device may not provide enough water for the dry places.
  3. Ensure your sensor is at least five feet or more away from your home and about three feet from your plants.
  4. Do not jam-pack your sensors so that they will not cause soil compaction.

Read Also: Indoor Hydroponics | How To Set Up | Everything You Need To Know

Conclusion

Most gardeners do not know that there are devices for checking how much water their soils can hold. Probably if everyone were aware, nobody would worry about having their garden drying out anymore.

Now that you know how soil moisture sensors work and how effective they are, you can consider buying yours too. Make sure to follow our buying guide to get a good product like this one on Amazon. And, check the manufacturer’s guide when installing, so you don’t make mistakes!

Reference

References

  1. Mary Shedd, Michael D. Dukes, and Bernard Cardenas-Lailhacar. EDIS. Smart Irrigation Controllers: How Do Soil Moisture Sensor (SMS) Irrigation Controllers Work? [https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/AE/AE43700.pdf] Accessed: 25th of November, 2020
  2. FR wireless world. Advantages of Moisture sensor | Disadvantages of Moisture sensor for soil.[https://www.rfwireless-world.com/Terminology/Advantages-and-Disadvantages-of-Moisture-Sensor.html]   
  3. Agriculture Victoria. Choosing the right soil moisture monitoring device. [https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/farm-management/soil/choosing-the-right-soil-moisture-monitoring-device]