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Old September 30, 2007   #1
Thawley
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Default Moisture Meter: Ideal Reading for Tomatoes???

I'm on my second crop and am taking it a little more seriously than the first. My neighbor and I planted the last crop on the same day, with the same plants from the same source. We have similar soil, though I tilled in some organic mulch. He did not. His crop was phenomenal. Mine just short of a disaster. Mike is botany major, now turned commercial landscape executive. He's got the feel for plants that I have always lacked.

The Moisture Meter seems to me to be a simple tool and something that might be an aid to the ignorant like me. You have a target or idea moisture range in mind and adjust watering to reach it, right? I'm using a drip irrigation system (now covered with paper mulch) that would seem to give me a fairly fine degree of fine tuning, so this should be a cinch. Shouldn't it?

My question is this: Is there one ideal moisture number? If so, what? Are there other variables that would make my ideal moisture level different than the nieghbor's?

The meter's instructions don't list an ideal level for Tomatoes. The lady I got the plants from mentioned such a low number that I was sure I'd never forget, but did. Most of the books suggest some level of restraint about watering. Yet the neighbor's outstanding crop got a thorough soaking 2-3 times a week that was FAR in excess of what I did and measured around 8-9 in my bed...

I am so confused.
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Old September 30, 2007   #2
dice
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I would aim for 5-6 most of the time, right in the middle
of the range on the meter. Figure it is going to be pegged
at the high end right after you water. The important question
is, how long does it take to get below 4?

One way to find out an ideal reading would be to find
someone with an earthbox with a healthy looking tomato
plant in it, wait until after they fill up the water reservoir,
then test it with the moisture meter when the water reservoir
in the earthbox is about half-full. Whatever it is, that is
probably perfect.
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Old September 30, 2007   #3
dcarch
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Moisture meter is highly inaccurate.

It depends on how deep into the soil you measure, where you measure, how compact/loose is your soil, how fresh is your meter's batteries, and salt/chemical contain of your soil.

It's much better just stick your figure into the soil and feel it.

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Old September 30, 2007   #4
Ruth_10
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If you can dig down an inch or so and feel moist soil, you're probably watering enough. In general, more damage is done by too much water than not enough.

Have you considered other factors? Were there other differences like amount of sunlight, windscreens, nearby lawn/trees/concrete sidewalks, etc.?

It might take some trial and error, but you WILL get yourself a good crop of tomatoes one day soon.
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Old October 1, 2007   #5
Tomatovator
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I agree with DC. I got one of those meters last year and quickly discarded it. I could move it around and get whatever reading I wanted. I'm still not sure how to know when to water but the meter I bought did no good for me.
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Old October 1, 2007   #6
dice
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I've used them on potted plants for years. No problems.

But there is an easy alternative: dig down about a shovel's
depth, take a handful of soil, and ball it up in your hand.
If it crumbles when you open your hand, plants need water.
If it sticks together, they don't need water yet.

This works best if your soil is of consistent composition for
a couple of feet deep. If you have a foot of loose sandy
loam above heavy clay loam, for example, a test on the
water content of the sandy loam does not tell you how wet the
heavy clay soil is down below.
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Old October 5, 2007   #7
Mantis
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this is why earthboxes work so well, the mix wicks up the moisture it needs and the aeration holes allow air movement. So I think that having a soil that allows for air to be drawn down after rain is perfect. Hard to do when you have a hard clay base like I have :-(
This is why I grow 95% of my plants in pots, SWT's etc.
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