Quick Guide: Soil Type – Simplified

With so many irrigation systems managed from a distance these days “soil type” has become just another variable picked from a drop down menu in water management software. However, soil type is an extremely important aspect of watering efficiently and some simple background information may save you the headache of a schedule guessing game.


The densest soil, clay is going to require a longer run time to meet its saturation point but store water longer stretching out dry times between cycles. Because of the dense composition clay also holds plant nutrients better. The root depth of the plants being watered will help predict the total amount of run time for this station but the time will inevitably be chopped up into smaller applications due to the high possibility of run off with a more continuous application. Weather Note: A soil that balls up when wet will inevitably stay colder into the Spring than a less compacted soil so an ET based controller may back off watering to allow the soil around the roots to warm up before extended run times are set for the summer.

Clay Soil38% Field Capacity  5-9 ft Maximum Wetted Diameter         Less than 2 microns Particle Size               

Clay Loam

Loamy clay has a consistency that will crumble easy in your hand and stores water almost as well as its base matter, clay. The term “loam” simply means
there is a mixture of sand, silt and clay within the soils consistency. Clay loam in auto-schedule mode produces run times comparable to clay with
cycles closer together allowing efficient depletion replenishment.

Clay Loam Soil

30% Field Capacity            4-8 ft Maximum Wetted Diameter        2-50 Particle Size                                       


Watering in sandy soils can be difficult and very costly if water is not applied properly. Large soil particles allow water to slip deep quickly, passing
the plants root depth. To combat this software is going to produce shorter run times with cycles running throughout the water window.

Sandy Soil

9% Field Capacity                             2-4 ft Maximum Wetted Diameter                    150-300 Particle Size                            

Sandy Loam

Finer variations of sand will yield promising results when trying to keep water at the depths you want when managing from a distance. A soil with a fair
amount of each particle variation, sandy loam is going to produce realistic ” total” run times for each cycle. Variations in slope combined with sandy
loam will result in cycle and soak efforts from the controller.

Loamy Sand 

23% Field Capacity                              3-5.5 ft Maximum Wetted Diameter                     50-150 Particle Size                              

Here is a great way to do a jar test to determine soil type. Identifying soil type and then managing your water appropriately will make a difference in the health and look of your plants. Hopefully this gave you some good ideas of how to manage water better as a result of soil types.  If you enjoyed this article please consider following me on twitter @MDSavesWater


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