The Q&A Archives: Soil/Water Problems

Question: I have some leaching from watering occurring in my soil. I have xeriscape, (desert landscaping), and the lime from watering seems to be coming to the surface and leaving white deposits on the top of my gravel and flagstone as well as on the block walls I have. Is there anything to stop and/or remove this from my yard?

Answer: Those white deposits are probably salts accumulating from incorrect watering. Desert soil and water both contain salts, which can accumulate in the root zone over time. This salt buildup forms where the water stops penetrating. If you ?sprinkle? plants lightly and frequently, or run a drip system for too short a time, salts will build up in the top layers of soil. Eventually they will damage or kill your plant. Deep watering?or leaching?prevents this by flushing the salts past the root zone. Scrape away the existing deposits. Let the water run slowly and deeply each time you irrigate. If you have a drip system with one-gallon emitters, this may mean you need to let it run for several hours or more. Once a month, let the water run for an extended period so that it will leach the salts below the root zone.

There are numerous variables involved for watering schedules, such as type of soil, how fast or slow it drains, sun and wind exposure at your site, temperature, age and condition of the plants and much more. As a general rule, water should penetrate about 1 foot deep for small plants, cactus, and succulents; 2 feet for shrubs; and 3 feet for trees. Use a soil probe (any long, pointed piece of metal or wood to poke into the soil) to check how far water has penetrated. The probe moves easily through moist soil, but stops when it hits hard dry soil.

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