Problems With Soil Moisture

Why is Soil Moisture Important?

Soil moisture plays a major factor in how plants grow and stay healthy. It is measured by the amount of water in held by soil particles or in a thin layer on top of the soil.

If the soil is unable to retain much moisture, you may need to switch out your plants for something that can live temporarily without it. If the soil contains too much moisture, only plants that can thrive in high-moisture environments will survive.

Soil moisture also affects which techniques you use in lawn and plant care. Fast-draining soil, which is soil that dries out quickly, will need more frequent watering in order to retain moisture. It also may mean you'll need to feed more often, as nutrients and fertilizer content tend to dry out with the soil. Sand and clay are common fast-draining soil materials.

For slow-draining soil, that is soil that better retains moisture, plants run the risk of fungal infestations and bacterial pathogens. Slow-draining soil also contains a lower oxygen capacity, which means the roots are forced to find alternatives for growth. A lack of oxygen may end up causing roots to rot, causing plants to die more quickly. In these cases, watering should be kept at a minimum and left to dry when possible.

Factors Affecting Soil Moisture

Soil moisture isn't just about how much water is in the ground. It's also how the soil particles are shaped and formed, as well as the other contents that exist in the soil.

The weather and seasons play a huge factor in how soil absorbs moisture. Generally speaking, the warmer it is the faster plants take up moisture. Rain in the spring typically has lower levels of nitrogen, a valuable plant nutrient. As the weather becomes hotter, the soil receives less water and may dry out two inches at a time from the surface down to the roots.

Soil structure is also another factor. Sandy soil contains larger particles and larger pore spaces between particles that give them a structure more susceptible to losing water faster. Conversely, if the soil is too compact, it makes water and oxygen difficult to travel through. It leaves little room for the water molecules to move around and the water ends up sitting on top of the soil, creating runoff and a lack of nutrients to the roots.

Nutrients and minerals are also an important factor. Clay, for examples, tends to hold water more tightly than sand particles. This enables water to stay longer in the clay soil, but it makes it more difficult to plants to move on from the soil particles when the water levels decrease.

Naturally, soil moisture interactions will vary from plant to plant. Plants that sprouts lots of roots, especially within smaller spaces, will inevitably extract more water and at faster rates.

Most grass types tend to grow numerous roots and consequently, extract high volumes of moisture. However, they still do not acquire as many roots as vegetables and other crops, which need constant watering in order to grow.

Changing the Moisture Level

There are several solutions to adjusting the moisture level of your lawn.

Water is the most obvious way to bring moisture back to your lawn. Consistent watering helps it to reach the roots, which provide the grass with the nutrients it needs to grow. The more frequently you water the grass, the deeper in the soil it goes and stays when water above is unavailable. However, depending on your soil type, the amount and frequency may need to be adjusted so that runoff doesn't occur.

Compost is a common way to add long-lasting moisture to soil. Adding compost to sandy soil helps it retain more moisture through natural and organic ingredients. It can also function as a fertilizer that helps grass grow.

You can also add compost to clay soil so that it drains faster. Because of its utility in lawn care, compost is sometimes considered the "duct tape of gardening", as it fixes nearly any soil problem regarding moisture and growth.

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