How to Calculate Moisture Content


The amount of moisture found in garden soil can vary depending on several factors. The type of soil, the climate and amount of organic material (humus) will all play a part in the moisture content of garden dirt. A gardener should be aware of the moisture content of the soil in order to take better care of his or her plants. There are tests and tools that gardeners can use to calculate the moisture content of the soil.

Hot plate test

Step 1

Take a sample of garden soil and place it in a coffee filter. Weight the sample on an accurate kitchen scale. Make a note of the weight. You may wish to add more soil to the sample until the weight reaches a number easy to work with, like five ounces.

Step 2

Place the sample on a hot plate and set to 225 degrees. Allow to dry undisturbed for 24 hours.

Step 3

After 24 hours, weigh the dried sample of soil on the kitchen scale. Compare the new dry weight to the old damp weight. Calculate the moisture content by dividing the dry weight by the damp weight to find the percentage weight of the soil. The percent missing is the moisture. For example: if the damp soil weighed 5oz and the dry soil weighed 3oz, divide 3 by 5, which equals 60 percent. This is the percent of weight of the SOIL. Subtract 60 percent from 100 to find the weight of the missing water, which is 40 percent.

Things You'll Need

  • Sample of garden soil
  • Coffee filter
  • Kitchen scale that measures in ounces
  • Hot plate
  • Calculator


  • Department of Sustainable Natural Resources
  • Colorado State University
  • Global Garden Project
Keywords: moisture content in garden soil, Test soil, Moisture meters

About this Author

Denise Bertacchi is a freelance writer with a degree in journalism from Southeast Missouri State University. She is a St. Louis suburbanite who has written for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Boys' Life, Wisconsin Trails, and Missouri Life.