Five minute fixes – water repellant soil

Five minute fixes – water repellant soil

How do you know the time and money you spend watering is worthwhile?

Canberra soils will often become water repellant in a dry spell so try this five minute check to see if you have a problem.

Scrape back the mulch and expose the soil underneath. Slowly pour a large watering can of water (around 10lt) onto a small area of soil (30cm2) and watch what happens. If the water beads and runs off the surface take out your spade, break up the soil to the depth of the spade and water again. If the soil will now absorb the water you have a compact surface layer and you just need to dig over the soil to alleviate the problem. If you don’t have a lot of time, break the task up into small 1m2 areas and improve the garden over weeks or months. Bear in mind the type of soil can change within metres so before you set about digging up the whole garden, re-test as you go.

If after breaking up the surface the soil is still physically water repellant you may want to add a wetting agent to the soil. These come in granular and liquid form and can be dug into the soil as you go. While you are digging you may want to add some organic matter like compost or cow manure and a bit of gypsum. See our soil improvement articles for more information.

No matter what you find make sure you maintain the mulch level at around 75mm thick to prevent the problem occurring again. Then adapt your watering regime to suit – you should get a much better result with less water.

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