There are four reasons why water may not soak quickly into

your soil.

The most common reason is soil compaction. Soil compaction in the Antelope Valley is normally caused when your home was built. The lot your home was built on is packed to prevent your home from settling and cracking. Typically soil has about 50% solid matter and 50% air or water space, allowing the water to move into and through the soil. After your soil was compacted to build a house, your soil is around 85% solid with only 15% air or

water space.

The second soil problem that causes poor water penetration is poor soil structure. Poor soil structure is where the three soil particles — sand, silt and clay — separate in the soil. Under ideal conditions, these three particles stick together and form a soil structure called a ped. If enough peds stick together you form clods. If the particles do not stick together, and separate, clay comes to the surface.

Just below the clay is the silt and everything below that is sand. With a soil surface of clay, water does not penetrate the soil very quickly. Organic matter is the key to good structure, the organic matter ties the different soil particles together to form peds.

Poor soil structure can be improved with addition of organic matter. Some improvement should be seen in a year, but it will take several years for any major soil structure

improvement.

Another problem with poor soil structure is too much sodium in the soil. Excess sodium in the soil destroys the effectiveness of organic matter to hold the soil particles together. Even with a lot of organic matter in the soil, if there is excess sodium you will still have a soil structure problem.

If your soil problem is excess sodium, you can cure the problem by adding gypsum (or gypsite). Gypsum replaces the sodium in the soil with calcium leaving the excess sodium to be leached out of your soil. Leaching is adding a lot of water to wash the sodium out of the root zone.

The third problem that causes poor water penetration is impermeable layers in your soil. Impervious layers can be hardpans or calcium layers in your soil preventing the water from soaking through. The most common is a caliche or calcium carbonate (limestone) layer in the soil.

The cure for this problem is to punch or drill hole through the impermeable layers. Over time, and with water these holes should increase in size and water movement will improve. This may seem simple and in some cases it is, but in some cases it will be very difficult. At Antelope Valley College and the surrounding neighborhood, the limestone layer is up to

24 feet thick.

As for the many products that say they increase water penetration and movement, read the label. First determine what is causing your water problem. If it is just compacted soil, none of the products are going to help as much as a deep rototilling of the soil. Gypsum has always been the cure-all, but works only if the soil has excess sodium.

As for many of the products, they contain glycerin, which causes the water not to stick to surfaces or loose its tension. They let the water run through the soil without being affected by the soil particles. Yes it makes the water penetrate your soil quickly, but does nothing to solve the

problem.

A clay soil is the last reason that water may slowly soak into the soil. Clay soils have small pore spaces and the water takes longer to be absorbed. A lot of people feel that they have clay soils, but most have very sandy soils. The problem is usually compaction or poor soil structure.

A good test for poor water absorption is to dig a small depression in the soil and add water. If the soil digs easier after the water, the problem is compaction or soil structure. If it is harder to dig and sticks to the shovel, the problem is clay.

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