People frequently see dying plants and look to solve the problem with more water. Unfortunately,
that’s not always the right solution and sometimes can make the situation even worse. Here are
four common underlying symptoms that indicate a much more pervasive problem than a lack of
- Yellowing turf does not indicate a lack of water. You’ll often see leaves yellowing
regardless of the amount of available water when the soil lacks the necessary nutrients to
sustain plants. Plants use water for photosynthesis, transportation of nutrients and
transpiration. It’s this relationship between nutrients and water that elicits many of the
- Insect infestation is another cause of wilting. Sucking insects such as chinch bugs will
damage the leaf surface and rob the plant of water and nutrients. Cutting insects such as
army worms will eat the plant base and roots, preventing water and nutrients from
reaching the leaf. In each case, adding additional water can stress the plant while it is
already under attack from the insect infestation, causing even further degradation.
- Saturated soil will cause the plant to show the same symptoms as drought stress. This is
because the roots also consume oxygen through the root system. If there is a lack of
oxygen in the soil due to saturation, the plant will start to wilt. Excess water uptake will
cause leaf yellowing and leaf drop in some plant types.
- Finally, poor soil structure lacks moisture-holding capacity. The soil’s structure and
composition affects its ability to accept and retain water. For example, clay soils hold a lot
of water but accept water slowly. This means that long irrigation run times will cause run-
off and don’t transport water where it’s most needed. Clay needs proper irrigation
schedules to go through shorter cycles with soak times in between to effectively
penetrate and percolate to the roots. Conversely,, sandy soils hold little water but accept
water quickly. Irrigation will percolate through the soil past the effective root zone. This
soil type requires frequent schedules (every couple days) with shorter run times.
Look for these issues when considering your water usage. Proper diagnosis of insect activity and
disease, regular fertilizer and amendment applications and irrigation based on the soil’s moisture
will keep your plants looking healthy and happy.