Roots Need Air

Now that I am back in the field I am hearing that more people are starting to get the message about air.  Roots need to breathe.  If they don't get air in the soil they will grow close to the surface to "keep there head above water."  When plants are over watered, pore space in the soil is filled with water suffocating roots.  Those pore spaces should have both air and water. 
 
As the soil dries out water evaporates.  The space once occupied by water is now filled with air.  Then, when it rains or we irrigate water comes rushing in and replaces the air.  Think of it as a natural respiration cycle; water comes in, air goes out, water evaporates, air comes in.  Think about your own breathing habits.  Slow deep breathing or rapid quick breaths? 
 
For years horticulturists have been teaching us to water deep and less frequently.  This is why.
 
Plant Care includes the need to know your root zone. Do you know how deep to water your lawns?To teach this principle I often use the gold fish bowl analogy.  When you buy your kids a gold fish they have lots of fun for the first couple days.  They tap on the glass, stick their fingers in the water, and rearrange the rocks.  But the fish ignores them.  Kids love to change the water because they can get out the net and catch the fish.  But, soon the fun fades away and the poor fish is ignored.  A week later you look at the gold fish bowl.  The water is cloudy.  What are the fish doing?  They are swimming right at the top of the water.  The fish are on an angle and their mouths are pulsing for air.  They are trying to breathe.  Plants do the same thing; roots stay shallow in order breath.  When we water too much, roots come to the surface to get air.
 
There is often a misconception.  People think their roots are shallow because of soil conditions, most of the time they are shallow because of over watering.  Plant fatality is most often because of too much water.
 
This all sounds good and easy, but is it not easy.  If it was easy everyone one would be doing it.  Automatic sprinkler systems are set and forgotten and people struggle to know how to manage watering schedules.
 
Weather Reach climate controlled irrigation products know when to water.  They wait for water to evaporate before watering again.  This is the right way to water.