Interpreting the dowel
The dowel method is a relatively new concept for me, as I'm sure it is with some of you. I've always struggled with interpreting the results, meaning how wet/dry is the soil, really. I came up with a benchmark, so to speak, and I thought that it might be useful for others.
The problem is that by the time your using the dowel on a particular planting....theres a plant in the pot!! (Duh!) You can't go digging around in there to figure out what the dowel results actually mean. Tonight, I did a simple comparison test that really solidified for me how to interpret those results.
I had some extra 5-1-1 in a 5 gallon bucket, it had been sitting for a while and was quite dry. I lightly moistened this mix, very slowly over about a half hour, to a point that I would not want the deepest reaches of my plantings to go past, and inserted the dowel. At the same time, a dowel of the same size and composition was placed into a pot who's moisture level I wanted to check. After the same duration in the test and control mixes, a very accurate comparision can be made.
As I said, this really drove home what the level of moisture on the dowel actually means. Being able to compare how the soil looks and feels in your hands, to how the dowel feels on your face is invaluable. If you have not tried this, I highly recommend it....very enlightening!