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Watering... why, how much, how often, how to determine all of the above...

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by JDUtah, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    Hey guys,

    I wanted to dive into this for a little while now and think it is about time to do so. There are a few good threads on watering already but they are scattered. Lets dive in shall we?

    First, let's tackle 'why we water(irrigate)'. There seem to be two motives when it comes to watering. First is to give the plant the water it needs to survive/grow. Second is to give soil microbes the moisture they need to thrive so they can actively release nutrients found in the soil.

    The first questions to investigate are...

    Do the moisture requirements of plants (turfgrass) differ from that of soil microbes?

    If they do differ, in an organic program (nutrient cycling using mineralization) what one do we need to focus on? Plant life or microbe life?

    I will study a bit and post what I find/feel, but I wanted to get you started on your thoughts... if you are so inclined.

    Thanks in advance for any input!
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Good post. I had wondered about that myself but it was difficult to get anyone to think it through with me.

    It seems that if the plant is triggering microbe activity that the plant needs to have moisture available.
    It also seems that f the plant is to have moisture available that, soil structure for adequate perculation is necessary. This is largely the function of microbes, above and beyond the optimum mixture of clay, sand and om/silt.

    I am currently drying out the surface of the lawns that have plenty of thatch and keepin the soil moist of the lawns that have little thatch and more sand.

    Perpetually wet thatch doesn't have the aerobic activity it should [IMO] and dry sand wouldn't have much activity at all. Both efforts are to increase the root depth along with the associated microherd.

    I think a good wet/dry relationship is good for all plantlife of which fungi falls into the category and bacteria/archaea is close.
  3. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,372

    do the microbes feed the water to the plants? I have always been told that plants take up the water... but then again I have also been told that plants eat their own food rather than being fed(?) by microbes.

    From what I have learned things seem to point to microbes feeding the plant water and therefore I would think adjust watering to the microbes needs? which in turn would be the same as the plants needs?

    Notice all the "?"s...
  4. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Symbiosis is an interesting phenomenon. :)
  5. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    well some recent events have better ilistrated the ways of water and how wasteful lawns really are. we have transplanted a large amount of palms out of my personal yard. areas that normally only needed a few gallons of water to stay moist now that they don't have the shade from trees it is drying the soil faster, worms hate it, microbes are dying and going dormant, and it takes lots more water than it did before, how to determine the water needed, that's a good one, it all has to do with the type of plant and its needs, some need more than others, but in general(no science) i think it works like this. water falls from above, or condensates, then makes its way to the ground, after it hits the ground there is a relationship between the soil and the water, elements exchange and dissolve, air is pulled into the soil with a capillary action( tell me if I got this part wrong) sort of like a siphon tube??? some of the water is absorbed in some of the soil, other excess water is driven down or runs off(not good) the part or amount that stays is basically the amount that the soil will allow to displace in and amongst it self. after that there is evaporation and draining, should a soil stay wet all the time, I dont think so(some exceptions )my Ideal are that the soil should go through some sort of cycling from a wetter state to a dryer state, to exchange gasses, and also to help nutrient transfer. how wet should it be? thats a long road to walk down, dry is not good, wet is not good, so how do we go about easily gaging water needs? observation and monitoring!!! if the plant take more effort to get the water into its cells than it can get it will wilt, so the real question is how how much soil water tension can a plant really over come, and the other side of the coin is how much water will cause the soil to no longer exchange gasses, and become anaerobic, and whats the fate of the nutrients in that amount of water.
  6. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    A little off subject but, right plant in the right place

    Yucca's don't grow in rice paddies and rice doesn't grow in the desert, it depends on the circumstances and the plant involved

    the microherd selects its environment, turns to biomass or goes dormant

    what was once eden can turn to desert in the blink of an eye, think harvest in a farm field (an open system)

    "water" is relevant but in what perspective, as a microbe in glacier ice from 100,000 years ago

    In closed systems like turf it depends, if roots are 18 or 20 inches in the soil, not as much or rye that can go down 4 feet
  7. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    Turf in the context of this thread... I'll post more tomorrow
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    The exchange of gases in the soil that TG had mentioned -I believe is key - to proper soil structure and plant health. And yes - for turf - in this context.
  9. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    ok jd ya hit my funny nerve again, don't take this the wrong way, but what is wrong with you, turf only??? is that a joke, other than the bull mire standard lawn on a postage stamp( that i will re-landscape or pass on!!, yes I can be that kind of jerk) most landscapes, IMO strongly!, need to have a larger percentage of plants and trees than lawn, thats just a given, yes kids and pets need a run, funny thing is that most times when the kids are turned free to play in a yard they find the tree and shrub to play under!! same with dogs and cats, yes they may sun themselves some of the time but 70% or more of there day is shade dwelling. we are now talking about an ecosystem and not a monoculture. if you want to start to talk about a sports field then there is very little chance of ever sustaining something like. so can it be done organic, yes it can. I do it, Bill does it, so from a to z it can be done. the water and other factors change very little.

    you also did not say what type of "turf" my Bahia is about as little water as the Sahara and it stays green and lush, type 3 e floratam( that is illegal here, now) takes almost 40 X the water to stay alive. I think that you started wanting to under stand the water need of plants and now are just back to asking for a spread sheet formula to use. maybe I am wrong, I thought I new it all about water and soil, until Kiril posted some new ideas and tools that I had never seen before, started studying some as I have just started to install a 5 acre irrigation system on another new venture I got into, water is just the most important factor, and has so many variables to it that a better understanding of its soil to water interactions are more important than what type of grass or turf is planted.
  10. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    lol Tree,

    I don't mean to hit your funny nerve. I was replying to Bill's post. Just trying to learn what I need to learn... for me... right now. I decided lawn care is enough for me for now. I will tackle the native landscaping mountain later. (remember you have more time undernaeth your belt with this than I do) I live in Utah so the type of turf? KBG and Fescue...

    I understand there is SOOOOO much to consider about water, soil, microbes, and plants.. and that is why I only posted 3 basic STARTING questions... and let's get back to them...

    When deciding watering practices for a system relying on mineralization should we target the plant or the soil microbes, or are their watering requirments similar enough that it doesn't matter?

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