So, I wanted to do a second part to our ‘The Smart Way to Water Your Garden’ were we looked at the benefits of an automated irrigation system for your Smart Garden. This week’s episode is titled ‘Winning with Soil Moisture Content’, and we will look into soil moisture content and explain a bit further why this is vital to home gardening and can help you achieve incredible results.
We looked at the five main reasons that home gardens fail a few weeks ago and we put watering issues as the number one reason that many gardens do fail. I have been to many home gardens that have very little or no retained moisture level in the soil. The owners often decry the lack of performance of the garden, often citing things like poor yields and generally unhealthy plants.
A quick test I will do on any garden I’m visiting (and a quick test that you can easily do with your own garden) is to dig a small hole in your soil down to the ‘root zone’, which is about 25cm below the surface of the soil. If you grab a handful of soil from that point and squeeze it together, the soil should remain compacted together after you open your hand. The moisture already within the soil will lubricate the soil particles enough for them to meld together and form a ‘ball’ on your open palm. You shouldn’t be able to squeeze any moisture out of the soil, as that would indicate that it is too wet, but it should hold together in a relatively firm manner.
In more specific terms the ideal soil moisture content is about 40%. You want a soil moisture content suitable to the widest variety of vegetables that you are growing. Things like corn and some lettuces prefer a drier soil and a moisture content that’s probably more around the 20% mark. Still, other crops like celery prefer a high soil moisture content of about 60%. So, for us, 40% feels like the happy medium as we plant all of these things anywhere in our beds and they all perform really well.
A 40% moisture level means that 40% of the mass or weight of the soil is made up from water and for that to happen you need to have things in your soil that can absorb water and hold it. This is one of the many reasons that having a lot of decomposing organic material in your soil is so important.
This organic matter, be it compost, manures, pieces of rotting bark or wood, charcoal or whatever, all hold and retain water better than minerals can, particularly if you have fine silt based or sandy soils. Now I am never going to promote that you use existing soil from your yard or wherever to grow vegetables in. I know a lot of people do and I have in the past but for me it is just not worth the extra time and effort required to turn poor soil into good soil. You always run the risk of contaminants being in the soil like heavy metals or needing to perennially weed soil that already contains far too many nasty seeds for you ever to get on top of. So, for the sake of the exercise let’s assume your soil is a commercial ‘vege-mix’ variety from a local garden or council centre.
You will still need to be adding organic matter to the soil in either 6- or 12-month intervals. We do it 6 monthly as this allows us to really push the output of our garden, season after season while still maintaining really good soil health. This 40% moisture content then assists in the breaking down of that organic matter and the conversion of it into available nutrients for your vegetables. It also helps grow the populations of microbes within the soil as they need a moist environment to thrive and obviously worms find it far easier to get around in your soil if it has a good moisture content as well. There is also an array of technical chemical processes that happen far more easily in the soil if the moisture levels are right.
This is why topical watering can be so problematic. Often soil is hydrophobic which means it repels water rather than absorbing it. Often a large part of your daily hosing of the garden will simply run off your garden or pool in areas and just evaporate. A drip irrigation system applies water just as the name suggests, in tiny drips and this has a far better chance of being absorbed within the soil bed.
As your garden beds hold moisture all of the decomposing matter in your soil creates Humus. Humus is dark in colour, nutrient dense and highly water absorbent. Therefor you end up creating a positive cycle in your garden. When you water your garden with a drip system, the more organic matter is broken down, the more absorbent the soil becomes and the healthier your garden is.
And here’s the real bonus!
The more this happens, the more nutrients are made available to your plants. This helps them grow vibrant and beautiful, and you get to eat all this wonderful organic produce you have grown and then you also get to grow more vibrant and beautiful!
So that covers a bit about why we really feel that an automated watering system is a vital part of any Smart Garden.
Again, if you have any questions or would like more specific information, please shoot them down in the comments section ort drop us a line a email@example.com
I really do feel that with everything that is going on the world at this time that the ability to have a bit of a back up plan in how we feed ourselves or at least to offset some of the rising food prices we are seeing could be quite valuable. So, please like and share this with someone you might think could be helped with the information.
Next week we will look at our number two reason that most home gardens will fail and that is weeds and weeding and we will look at one simple way you can avoid ever having to weed your Smart Garden.
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Well, that’s it for today and until our next episode, please remember, its ‘our food, our responsibility’
Take care and bye.