How to water Organic Living Soil

When I started farming, organic of course, I always wondered how much water I should give, and how often. Whether I was farming in containers or pots, or in the ground I always thought I was watering too much.  I was right. This blog will focus on container watering as its the most common issue I see in grows.

Watering is something that takes time and patience and you should try to understand your plants and your soils.  The plant will tell you when it needs water (wilting), but you should never get to that point.  Letting your soil dry out is like a human not drinking water for a week.  Its not going to kill you but you will not function properly.  Once peat based mixes dry out they become very water repellent, and as it may seem as if your watering alot, its just running right out the bottome.  You want your soil to stay perfectly moist without being too wet or too dry.  This can only be achieved if you understand how soil works.  Now, there are other factors like mulch, or type of container, like fabric pots that dry faster, but to start, you should always have a mulch.  Whether it be a plastic mulch or a regular shredded bark mulch you should always have one.  Best option for living soil is to use dynamic accumulators like comfrey, stinging nettle, and just chop them up and make a layer on top of your soil.  They will break down slowly and feed the soil valuable nutrients and minerals. You can mix them up with kashi or worm castings, or compost to speed up the process.  If you dont have those plants just make sure you cover the top of your soil with something. Its very important.  

Now, lets get to watering.  When you first plant a plant into a fresh container of soil you should always make sure the soil that the plant is already in, is wet.  This is big. If the soil it is in is dry, most likely it will stay that way.  So if transplanting, always water the plants before they are transplanted.  Then make ur hole in the soil, add about a cup of water into the hole. This gives the roots the idea that the water is below it. Then take your already watered plant, dust it with your mycorrhizae innoculant and plant into the hole. Then fill in hole with dirt and take a cup or two of water and water around stem of the transplant. This removes any air gaps in soil and helps fresh roots grow. That water you use should have a mycorrhizae innoculant in it for better overall plant health. You can use a product like photo plus or our myco innoculant blend.

This is the good part, after that cup or two at the base of your plant, you now can focus on bottom watering.  Get yourself a saucer and place your container in the saucer. Then depending on size of container add water into saucer to fill about an inch up the bottom of your container. Then wait 1/2 hour to an hour and then lift contianer and feel the weight of it.  If its heavy, you know your soil has wicked the water and is now watered and ready to grow. You should then discard the extra water in the saucer and return plant to saucer.   You shouldnt let the containter sit in the saucer full of water for more than an hour, but well made soils will only wick so much water and then stop.  

Now that container should have enough water for a week or two as your trying to get your plants roots to search for water. The bottom watering helps ensure your roots grow down. If you constantly topwater, your roots may actualy grow up which can cause alot of issues later on in the plants life.  

As your plant grows check the container for weight. If it feels like the container is now lighter, then repeat process of filliing saucer waiting and hour and discard extra water. At a certain point you will realize how much water your plant likes to drink and will not be discarding too much. This also helps save runoff. You use less water more effeciently, and with better results.  Also, you will never get dry spots in your soil since the soil will always be moist.  This creates an amazing habitat for microbes which are the workhorse of your soil.  Once your plant gets bigger it will get harder to move things around so try to feel out how much water your plant takes up per watering. usually its around 1/2 gal per 10 gal pot depending on size of saucer and whatnot.

If you make special teas, or use microbial innoculants, you can always topwater once the roots have grown into the container completley, but try not to do that on a regular basis, you can still water the teas from the bottom, but I always water my compost teas in from the top.  Now when watering from the top, you want it to be slow, dont just pour it all on top an watch it go down. Pour it on one or two cups at a time forcing the water to go different routes throughtout the soil to the bottom maximizing coverage.

I hope this helps everyone as I have tried many different ways of watering and this has always been the most effecient. 

I will post another blog on using innoculants and homemade bacterial solutions that you can use with this method.

 

Thanks for reading !!


3 comments

  • thesoilmaker

    you can either let it sit out in an open bucket for 24-48 hours or add a tbls of molasses of cup of vermicompost and let it sit overnight. we are adding a refillable water filter to our site soon!

  • Hi T

    What I find missing from the conversation is the water itself. It is my understanding that chlorinated water has a negative effect on living soil, killing mycos, etc. If you are using city water (not your own well water), in order to avoid that, one would want to leave water in an open container so that the chlorine evaporates (24 hours or so). Or you can add a filter to your hose. I am curious what you suggest.

  • L.A.B.

    Nice write up. I think I am going to be getting some new saucers so I can start a smart bottom watering routine. Thanks!

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