What are your thoughts on this idea for a new GROW service?

General Discussion(Last edited )

GROW is looking into creating an online service that would help growers answer a number of questions about the water content of their soil, specific to their local area. Below are the questions you could get answers to.

  • During which months will there be a shortage or excess of water in my soil?
  • How much extra water would I need to cover the water requirements of the plants?
  • Is it possible to grow a specific vegetable without irrigation?
  • When is the best part of the year to plant and grow a specific vegetable?
  • Does the water requirement pattern change with different years?

We are interested to know if you currently feel a need to know the answers to these questions. Perhaps you already have a way to answer them. Let us know your thoughts.

5 comments

Those are all good questions, Sarah -the most important one for me (here in S.Portugal, i.e. Hot Summer Mediterranean climate zone) being the 2nd. This has everything to do with the water-retaining qualities of the soil in any particular patch -the monitoring of & responding to which is my primary motivation for deploying all these soil sensors around my farm.

To develop a more nuanced understanding about this question, it seems to me that there are additional factors to take into account. Time is of course an important one -not only time of year and year-to-year variance, as you suggest, but also time of day, and elapsed time between hydration events (i.e. irrigation or natural rainfall). Since our aim here is to increase our rate of effective precipitation (total rainfall minus evapo-transpiration & runoff combined), i would also like to know:

  • How are those latter two factors affected by local environmental factors such as solar luminosity, soil temperature and wind (important data to correlate with data from soil sensors). And what can we do to minimize such effects?
  • What effect do different plantation and soil treatment (i.e. mulching and composting) strategies have on soil moisture retention? and
  • How does infiltration factor into this equation?

That's my €0.02 worth off the top of my head, Sarah; dunno if it helps, but i'm happy to hear that you are working to develop a service along such important lines!

It is a good idea but I am puzzled about how you can make it appropriate for a local area. In coventry we have a local weather station with records going back to the 1870's. I like reading the averages but find using them real world irrelevant. Check out http://www.bablakeweather.co.uk/rainfall-extremes-from-1870

I have 3 adjoining half plots and they are very different. It is unlikely someone further afield will regularly identify with my experience on a given day. Shade and water table play a large part in determining how much moisure is avilable. This year I am watering the lids used by the birds and pond before crops. There is certainly nowhere near enough water or physical strength to water everything. So a compilation of tips and a checklist of ways of measuring the water table would be useful.

I already have an idea of which frequently grown crops need plenty of water (and nutrient), which crops tend to rot and when to mulch. I would still find it useful to have a table indicating the water requirements for each crop and the depth at which the tap roots will seek moisture. OK not easy for carrot (paris market v long red) but that coupled with options like comfrey tea 3xpw for fruiting tomatoes v compost mulch and no feed would be interesting and I think helpful.

Definitely the first 2 in the list. I share an allotment on a very free draining site, in usually rainy Lancaster (NW England), but this summer some of our unmulched areas dried out so much that cracks developed - unusual for here. Once the water butts ran dry, we had to make tough decisions about allocation of watering as it all had to be carried some distance from the tap, and we also chose curtail /delay some further plantings until there had been some rain.

I think all these questions would be very useful to me as I am new to my area. Being able to source veg varieties that handle drought, mild frosts, soil temp needed for germination of various veg varieties. Where in the country autumn planting of garlic, broad beans etc would be successful. Seed packets give sowing/harvesting dates for the whole country but the south is so different from the north. Maybe linking sowing dates to flowering times of well known trees or other easily identified natural occurrences would be useful. Maybe you could link to such as Nature Watch data eg 1st elder flowers, horse chestnut in bloom etc Varieties of veg adapted to specific areas. More unusual veg data eg red russian kale is amazing in Yorkshire

Thank you for your responses so far. Other growers are welcome to keep adding their thoughts.