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Set yourself up for landscaping success by building the best foundation in your soil structure. Photo: walkersalmanac/Pixabay

Take a Test to Determine Your Soil Type

If you put a shovel into the ground in San Diego County, you are likely to encounter the region’s impermeable soil structure. Impermeable soils are defined by poor infiltration areas. This means water doesn’t flow through the soil to replenish groundwater, because the soil is too dense.

Having impermeable soil also means water does not soak evenly into the ground or flow through living soil to plants in a healthy way. No matter where you plan your landscape, you should concentrate on improving your soil structure. That will help you irrigate more efficiently and cost-effectively, and your plants will receive the nutrients and water they need to flourish. It is relatively easy to improve your soil structure, but first you need to determine what kind of soil you have.

Particle size matters

The three basic types of soil are:

Clay: Soil made up of the smallest particles
Silt: Soil made up of a mixture of particle sizes
Sand: Soil made up of the largest particles

In general, sandy soils drain faster than clay soils, because there is more space between the larger particles. Soil structure also influences the quality of the soil. Lifeless, compacted, sandy soil will not absorb water, while healthy clay soil will be more sponge-like, holding and releasing water. The “best” soil – an even blend of sand, silt and clay – is called loam.

Find your soil structure by testing your soil

Some tests can be done onsite to figure out what kind of soil you have. Others might require lab analysis. Certain other conditions require specialized tests, such as soil used for food production or soil receiving a lot of storm water.

You can test your home landscaping soil yourself using a “Jar Test.” This is a fun project to do with kids or as a family.

Use this graphic as an example to compare your jar to. Aim to get the most even distribution, as shown with the loam jar. Image: Water Authority

Use this graphic as an example with which to compare your jar. Try to get the most even distribution, as shown with the loam jar. Image: San Diego County Water Authority

How to do the “Jar Test”

  • Use a one-quart glass container.
  • Add one cup of soil from the garden. You can select one area or take samples from several areas and blend them together.
  • Add three cups of distilled water.
  • Close the jar and shake it until all the soil solids are suspended in water. Put the jar on a shelf and wait 24 hours.
  • If the container is still cloudy, wait another 24 hours. After 48 hours, the soil layers should be settled on the bottom.
  • Measure the layers in proportion to each other, with the total adding up to 100%. Sand will be on the bottom, silt in the middle, and clay on top.
  • Refer to the graphic to determine your soil type, based on the proportions of sand, silt, and clay. Which jar does your home sample look most like?

Now you can work to improve your soil condition, providing the best possible foundation for your landscaping plants and the most efficient irrigation.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Trump Administration Unveils New Clean Water Act Rules. California Could See Big Impact

The Trump administration on Thursday revealed an overhaul of the Clean Water Act that could remove federal protections for waterways around the country, including as many as two-thirds of those in California.

The arid West, where intermittent rainfall often flows through arroyos and washes, could be especially impacted by the rollback of federal jurisdiction, as the new “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” will remove federal oversight from ephemeral waterways created by rain or snow.

About 66% of California’s waterways are ephemeral or intermittent, according to the government’s own reports that were used in formulating earlier Clean Water Act rules. That number rises to 81%  around the entire Southwest, including 94% of Arizona’s watercourses.

UC Merced Researchers Working on Innovative Way to Desalinate Ag Water

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) — A new project at UC Merced is focusing on irrigation water.
The work could have a significant impact on the crops that are grown throughout the Central Valley.

“We’re trying to take two problems and come up with one solution out of the two of them. We have an excess of drainage water which has excess salt in it, and we need cooling of agricultural greenhouses,” says assistant professor James Palko.

Water Authority Developing 2020 Urban Water Management Plan

January 23, 2020 – The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors on Thursday authorized work on the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan. The Board approved a contract with the firm Woodard & Curran to provide support services for preparation of the plan, which documents the region’s approach to ensuring a safe and reliable water supply.

For a video of how the Urban Water Management Plan works, go to: https://www.sdcwa.org/urban-water-management-plan-1