General Tools is one of those companies that works quietly in the background, a bit like the tools they produce. They aren’t flashy, and when they put out a tool, they don’t come out with a fancy new model very often. Their logo hasn’t changed in…ever? The spartan yellow and black packaging just sort of hangs on the wall, like the geeky kid at the school dance wearing the shirt his mom picked out, being upstaged by the popular kids. But just like the geeky kid, General Tools are smart, precise and reliable. I have General measuring tools in my toolbox that have served me for over 20 years. Scribes, plumb bobs, bevel squares, micrometers, stair gages… these things are one-time purchases, the kind of tools that you can pass down to the kids. I own a few of their digital test instruments as well, a moisture meter and an infrared thermometer, which also have served me well, but again, nothing flashy. So, I am cautiously optimistic when it comes to my first experience with one of their agricultural products, the new “4-in-1 Soil Condition Meter” which was provided to us by General for this review.
Despite my aversion to impossible-to-open clamshell packaging (wrap rage, look it up!), my first impression of this instrument is that it offers some really nice features that will appeal to professional horticulturalists while offering them at a price (under 25 beans) within reach of the backyard gardener. It is sturdy, ergonomic and the readout is big and bright enough for even us old timers to read without getting out the readers.
General DSMM600 Soil Condition Meter Spec’s
Soil-quality measurements are achieved via the meter’s 7.9 in.-long, sensor-tipped probe and displayed on a 1.8 in. (46mm) backlit LCD. The DSMM600’s pH level measurement feature enables users to determine whether the acidity of the soil is suitable for particular plants. The pH measurement range is 3.5 to 9.0. The temperature, moisture and sunlight intensity measurement features help to pinpoint bad spots in gardens and lawns by identifying such issues as poor drainage, and inadequate or excessive wetness and sunlight. These parameters also impact ongoing indoor and outdoor plant maintenance and care. The instrument’s temperature measurement range is 16° to 122°F (-9° to 50°C), and readings can be displayed in Fahrenheit or Celsius via the °F/°C switch. Moisture content is measured within five levels, ranging from less than 5% (Dry+) to more than 30% (Wet+). Sunlight intensity is measured within nine levels, ranging from less than 500 Lux to more than 120,000 Lux.
The 4-in-1 has performed really well for me in all of my initial tests. The temp and pH readings are accurate against my other test equipment, and it is very easy to operate. The pH readings are very handy when compared to the inconvenience of having your soil tested off-site. Like most General tools, it does its job, and does it well. It has a few bells and whistles: The moisture sensor reads “dry”,”norm” or “wet” (meh) and the sunlight intensity readout registers “low”, “norm” or “high.” Really? Do I need a sensor to tell me that a plant is in the sun or shade? As the literature states, they use “+” or “-” to add a range to these readings, but I would rather have a measurement in percent for moisture and light in Lux. For 25 bucks, I can live with the more general descriptors. There is nothing wrong with these features, but a couple of them seem a little extraneous and a bit of an afterthought.
In general (sorry) I must say that this instrument performs well and will take it’s place alongside my other time tested and reliable General measuring tools. For weekend gardeners and professional growers alike, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to shed a little light on your soil conditions. The unit operates off a 9v battery (not included), so be sure you have one of those handy. At just under $25, it’s quite a bargain at Amazon!