wet soil - Knowledgebase Question

Lindon, Ut
Question by jmmartin22
October 26, 2008
I have clay soil. We amended it before we planted then covered it with fabric and bark. Some plants started to droop and appear to need water, others looked worse after I watered. I pulled up the fabric at one point thinking I had a break in the sprinkler line only to find my soil has held so much moisture the soil was completelt saturated. Can droopy crispy leaves be a sign of too much AND not enough water?
Will I need to uncover my entire yard and start over with my soil? If so what do you recommend?

Answer from NGA
October 26, 2008


As you've discovered, clay soils hold water for long periods of time. And, mulch materials such as your weed barrier fabric and your bark not only suppress weeds but also slow evaporation. So the key here is not removing the mulch but monitoring the soil moisture so you'll know when to water. Yes, plants that are getting too little or too much water can exhibit the same droopy symptoms. Saturated soils do not have the oxygen required by the plant roots to maintain good health. The plants droop because the roots are suffocating from lack of oxygen. So, until you get a feel for exactly how much water your plants need, you'd be wise in peeling back the fabric to check the soil moisture before watering your plants. Now that the soil is saturated, wait 3-4 days and peel back the fabric, then dig down into the soil with your finger or a hand trowel. If the soil is still damp 2-3" beneath the soil surface, you don't need to water for a few more days; if it is dry, it's time to water. Check every 3-4 days until you get some idea of how many days between waterings it takes for the soil to dry out slightly. Obviously you'll need to water more frequently when the weather is hot and the plants are actively growing, and less frequently when the weather is cool and the plants have slowed their growth. In my experience, clay soils will hold ample moisture for 7-10 days after watering but your mileage may vary. Just keep digging near the roots of your plants until you get a good idea of how often to water. Since your plants are on a watering system you should be able to cycle the system in the bed to suit the plant's needs. Best wishes with your garden!

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