In the last blog, I covered how to retain more water in the soil, by increasing organic matter and mulching. This week I’m covering how to water different types of soil. Let us make sure that every drop of water is used!
A few ground rules. We’re all smart gardeners, so we know to check the soil’s moisture AND weather forecast before watering. Obvious, I know. But it’s surprising how often we water without checking. We also know to water early in morning or at least late afternoon to reduce soil water evaporation and to allow enough time for the leaves to dry out.
“It’s important to know your soil’s texture. It isn’t esoteric knowledge. Knowing your soil texture determines when, how much and how often to water.” Cristina da Silva
When testing for soil moisture, feeling wetness or dryness does have a margin of error depending on the type of soil you have. Clay soils can feel damp even when all available water has been used. Sandy soils can feel dry even if some water is available. So it is important to know your soil’s texture.
We need to match our watering strategies with the type of soil we have. Heavy clay soils allow less water infiltration and more runoff than sandy soils. So watering rates need to be different too.
- Water clay soils gradually to allow the moisture to slowly seep into the soil instead of running off the surface.
- Light sandy soils need watering more frequently than heavier soils (i.e. silt or clay), but less water can be applied at each watering.
Heavier, clay-based soils can be watered less frequently, but need more water at each watering than sandy soils, because clay soils hold more water within their structure. In the end, ironically, the same amount of water is used for sandy or clay soil. It’s how and when we water that changes.
Colorado Master Gardeners. Get to know your soil. DIY Soil texture test
Oregon State Extension. Soil texture also determines how much and how often to water.