A garden is not a successful endeavor without good soil. A healthy, thriving plant starts with the right kind of nutrients, pH balance, and adequate water in its soil to give life force throughout its roots. There are many types of soil in our gardens, i.e., clay, silt, and sand.
Each type has its peculiarities and qualities, but here we will discuss “what type of soil holds the most water.” Right water quantity is crucial to promote plants’ healthy growth and avoiding soggy/ waterlogged soil. So, let’s see what soil type does the most to hold water and nutrients.
Water Holding Capacity And Field Capacity Of Soil
Both these terms are discussed below in detail.
1. Water Holding Capacity (WHC)
The Water Holding Capacity (WHC) of soil is the ability of soil texture to hold against gravity physically. It does this by having particles containing many molecules in cohesion that are tightly bound together and resist forces imposed on them.
2. Field Capacity
Field capacity is the saturation point of the soil, i.e., the point where the water holding capacity of soil has reached its maximum. Maintaining a high level of water holding capacity will increase crop yields and improve profitability. So, it’s important not just one but all fields remain well-watered throughout their growing season.
Clay Soil Holds the Most Water
The way soil retain water is determined by the size and number of pores present in it. Clay, silt, and sand are the three primary soil types, and loamy soil is a blend of all three soil types. Clay soil tends towards having larger pores from which it can absorb water more easily than other types.
It means it has a greater total storage capacity for water. Also, it makes an excellent potting mix because clays hold moisture better than other materials without adding too much bulk when wet (which will save valuable gardening space).
Although of all the soil types, clay soil holds the most water, it runs the risk of becoming waterlogged, which makes it unsuitable for growing certain plants.
Soil Water Holding Capacity Is Determined By Organic Matter and Soil Texture
Soil is composed of sand, silt, and clay, and their proportion identifies soil texture. Soil texture, composition, and organic matter all play important roles in determining how much water a specific soil type can hold. The two main factors which greatly affect soil’s Water Holding Capacity (WHC) are soil texture and organic matter in the soil.
Soil Organic Matter
The presence of soil organic matter (SOM) can help increase water holding capacity. Clay soil is full of negatively and positively charged particles which means that it has an attractive force towards the dirt. It makes plants grow well in this environment even if they’re not regularly given enough nutrients or watering. Soil organic matter (SOM) contains:
Soil microorganisms play an essential role in decomposing detritus and plant residues, cycling nutrients, and fertilizing the soil. Thus, they are important for the development of healthy soil structures.
2. Active Organic Matter
Detritus, also known as active organic matter, comprises leaves and other plant parts, animal remains, waste products, and organic debris. In addition, there are various organisms like earthworms and millipedes that shred detritus in pieces for their living.
The bacteria and fungi in the soil abstract the energy and nutrients they require growing from detritus as they break it down. As a result, it results in the formation of organic matter called humus.
Its organic matter determines the texture of the soil. Therefore, soil with adequate levels of natural materials will have more organisms and create better quality crops.
- In general, silt soil and loamy soil have moderate organic matter.
- Sandy soil tends not to hold onto moisture very well as it lacks organic matter.
- Clay soil may seem like great bets since its composition includes lots of organic matter and agriculture-friendly goodies.
How To Increase Soil Water Holding Capacity (WHC)
Soil is made up of a variety of different compositions that affect its absorption capacity. You can improve this with certain techniques like adding organic matter or wetting down plants before planting them deep enough. In turn, it makes the plants secure against drought conditions.
Maintained soil moisture levels have been shown to avoid $1 billion worth of losses from droughts each year. The following are the ways to increase soil’s water retention capacity.
1. Add Compost
Compost is a mixture of components used to fertilize and improve the soil. It has a great water holding capacity, giving fertility and organic matter to the soil. Choose the best compost such as Compressed Organic Potting-Soil for Garden & Plants to fit soil needs.
2. Add Manure
Manure is organic matter used as organic fertilizer to provide plants with nutrients. Some examples of manure are wastes from cattle, urine, dung, and liquid mix or slurry from biogas plants. It keeps the soil porous, which helps improve its water retention capacity.
3. Minimize Bare Soil
Exposure of soil to the sun evaporates its moisture which leads to bare soil. When the bare-sloped soil surface is exposed to rainfall, soil erosion occurs, leading to soil-surface runoff. You can minimize bare soil by:
- Maintaining a perennial plant cover
- Changing to conservation tillage practices
- Using cover crops
- Placing crushed stone, wood chips in highly used areas where vegetation is hard to maintain
- Using erosion controls
In general, clay soil is the best type for holding water because it’s rich in organic matter and provides a large surface area. Maintaining a high level of water holding capacity will increase crop yields and improve profitability. So, it’s important that all fields remain well-watered throughout their growing season.
- Clay soil has the greatest Water Holding Capacity (WHC)
- Other soil types, i.e., loamy or sandy soils, have low WHC, but compost/manure can help improve this rate.
If you have any questions about soil texture, organic matter, and their relation to water retention capacity, please feel free to comment below.