Re-Tool Time February 16, 2015 By Bob Vavrek, agronomist, Central Region

The stainless steel rods used to measure soil moisture are not indestructible, especially when they are frequently pushed into the abrasive media of a sand-based putting green root zone. Be sure to replace worn tines long before they exhibit this degree of wear and tear.

Winter is typically the time when everything from ball washers to mowers are refurbished for the upcoming season. Keep in mind that even the smallest item of high-use equipment will benefit from timely preventative maintenance.

For example, an ever-increasing number of golf facilities are using handheld moisture meters to conserve water by fine-tuning irrigation schedules. Some courses record as many as 50 soil moisture measurements per putting green per day during the peak months of irrigation water use. The abrasive action of pushing stainless steel rods into a sandy root zone will slowly, but surely, grind away metal and ultimately alter the diameter and length of the probes.

Moisture meters are calibrated at the factory using new tines. Taking measurements with rods that are significantly thinner or shorter than new tines will skew the soil moisture values. Have a new set of tines on hand to use for comparison throughout the season. When the old tines begin to show noticeable wear, simply switch to a new set of tines. Water is too precious of a resource to have your monitoring equipment in anything less than optimal working order.

Source: Bob Vavrek (