Salt in Soil from watering - Knowledgebase Question

Bullhead City, Ar
Question by chocolate
March 19, 2010
The water here in Bullhead City contains a lot of salt. Is there some way for us to check our own water or soil for the amount of salt?

Answer from NGA
March 19, 2010


A soil test will give you a reading of the soil's pH. You can have your soil tested by a private lab for concise readings. In general, the soils in Bullhead City is composed mainly of clay and has large deposits of calcium carbonate, making it very alkaline. The calcium carbonate also forms layers of concrete-hard caliche which can make it impossible to hand dig a hole in some locations. A jackhammer is the tool of choice in these cases. There is sufficient iron in the soil but it is often chemically unavailable to plants because of the high alkalinity. The water here is also fairly alkaline and salty which compounds the pH problem. Organic materials are lacking in the soil, which reduces the quality of the soil structure in general. To improve your soil, you simply need to work in large amounts of organic matter. The organic matter helps the soil drain well, which will help leach out the excess salt. Obviously, native plants are well adapted to your soils but exotic or imported plants may suffer from the high salinity. You can either grow plants that tolerate salinity or you can methodically improve your soil with organic matter to help neutralize the problem. Spreading 4-5 inches of compost, aged manure, shredded leaves, etc. over the top of the planting bed and digging it in to a depth of 8-10 inches will prepare your beds for planting. After planting spread another few inches of organic matter on the bare soil between the plants. This mulch will help suppress weeds but will also release nutrients as it decomposes. At the end of the growing season dig this mulch into the soil and replace with a fresh layer of mulch. A few years of this process will turn your native soil into rich garden loam. Best wishes with your landscape.

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