Strap on your gardening tool belt, kick off shoes and socks and wriggle your toes in the grass and I do not mean artificial. Before our yard on the east side of the house was turned into a lath-shaded plant nursery area, the Bermuda grass and white clover lawn was a joy to run and tumble on. Little did I understand what lay beneath that green carpet and the reason my father had a small, yellow, four-armed sprinkler, running every day during the Summer. Ah, good old caliche (a zone of calcium carbonate impregnated with crystalline salts of sodium nitrate or sodium chloride, sprinkled with sand and clay). Plant roots grow down a very short distance and then turn left or right trying to find an exit point for more growing room.
The first thing in the feeding and irrigation of your yard is to know your soil. I am not into tasting soil, but you can get a good idea of a soil’s “condition” by using the ‘ol schnozzola. The ‘good’ is a fresh baked bread smell; the ‘bad’ is an undeniable chemical/alkali/sodic smell or even anaerobic (no soil oxygen). If the smell is ‘yeasty’ you are good to go. Even sandy-loam soils, with a healthy diversity of beneficial soil microbes, emit pleasing odors. The soil is a plant’s moisture reservoir. Reservoir capacity depends on soil texture (particle size) and depth. Sandy soils hold less water than fine-textured (clayey) soils. The harder and more shallow the soil profile is the less moisture holding capacity and the more that little yellow sprinkler will be used.
The obvious thing to consider next is your plant types. Root depths differ widely for each plant type. Shallow-rooted plants will require more frequent irrigation and deeper-rooted plants will require more water each time, but not as often. Effective root depths for different plants are as follows: trees – 60″, shrubs – 36″, grass – 24″ and flowers – 15″. Shallow soils or poorly managed irrigation can prevent effective root development to these depths. Any soil will benefit from an application of BioFlora Soil Source, a humic acid soil additive. This basic organic acid while contributing to improving the organic matter content of the soil, will also enable the soil to retain more water and nutrients. It is also a food source for beneficial soil microorganisms. Beneficial soil microbes help suppress soil-borne plant diseases. Mix 4-8 oz. with a gallon of water and use as a soil drench at the dripline of trees and shrubs or use a hose-end sprayer to foliar spray grass and flowers. Rinse off the flowers after application. All foliar applications should be done in the cooler hours of the morning or evening. And, a 2 oz. application of BioFlora Seaweed Crème to that same above, gallon mix will excite root growth and stimulate more crown (grass) and bud (flower) growth. When to irrigate can be as easy as just looking at your plants. Small areas of a lawn may show stress in the early morning, wilting, color change to darker, bluish green or gray and slower growth are all “needs water” signals. Check soil moisture with a soil probe. Check at different depths. When soil moisture fits the following description, it is time to irrigate: Sandy (coarse) soil – will stick together, slightly, but will not form a ball in hand; Silty (medium) soil – crumbly, but will form a ball: Clayey (fine) soil – Pliable, but to dry to form a ribbon, but will form a ball. Form a ball by firmly squeezing a handful of soil. A ribbon is made by pressing soil between a thumb and forefinger. A ‘general’ rule for soil or compost is if a ball can be formed and holds shape without crumbling, the percent moisture is about 35 percent. During hot weather the average days between irrigations, depending on both soil and plant types, may be as follows: grass at 5-10 days, shrubs at 5-10 days, flowers at 3-6 days and trees at 10-15 days. Extremes of hot weather may necessitate watering some grasses and flowers every day. BioFlora Soil Source and BioFlora Seaweed Crème applications will help mitigate heat-induced stress.
Inspect your irrigation system for leaks, etc.. It is important to apply water as evenly as possible to avoid runoff or ‘missed’ areas. Set an empty tuna can under the spray areas for lawns. Apply 3-4 inches (check moist soil depth), depending on soil type. Space out several cans to check uniformity of the sprinkler system. Keep equipment and/or foot traffic off wet areas for a day or two, if possible. This will reduce compaction which would eventually lead to less water intake capacity.
Use basins for trees, shrubs and flowers; mulch around trees and shrubs to conserve moisture and check water penetration with a soil probe. And, please do not over irrigate. Soil-borne plant diseases are always at the ready to capitalize on stress.
Remember to fertilize those well-hydrated grasses, flowers and shrubs with BioFlora Dry Crumbles 8-3-6 + 6% Ca. The care you put into your home-yard will explain the smiles on those pansy faces.