Fall Moisture Crucial for Soil Year Round

The recent appearance of moisture-heavy clouds in our skies reminds us of the seasonal transition that we are about to experience.  The dog days of summer with their heat and dry spells are being replaced with the cooler days and (hopefully) ample moisture in the forms of rain and snow.

The precipitation that falls during this part of the year is sometimes undervalued for it’s timing and amounts.  Some assume that since this autumn moisture isn’t followed by a warm growing season that makes our valleys and foothills green again, then the rainy and snowy days are all for naught.

But this assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Plants are entering into their dormant period and the daily temperatures are mild, so water losses due to evapotranspiration (plant transpiration + evaporation) are low.  Because of this, rain that falls during the autumn months is often soaking into ground where it is “banked” for later times where it plays an important role in plant growth.

But is the bank account big enough?  A growing focus on soil health is illustrating that a few simple steps can actually increase the amount of storage available for this autumn precipitation.  By minimizing disturbance, keeping soil covered, allowing sufficient plant growth, and encouraging plant diversity, the “bank account” can expand to hold greater amounts of this valuable fall moisture.

While it may be tempting to begrudge the cool wet days that greet our mornings this fall, take a moment to remind yourself that every drop is contributing to a greener spring and summer.  For those who make a living from that bank account, consider expanding that storage by minding those 4 basic soil health principles whenever possible.