Keep an eye on moisture level

By Gregg Eyestone

Watering was the one thing I was hoping to not have to write much about this year.

Last year, my focus was on the best watering practices. We ended last year about on target for moisture and had a decent growing season.

The projection for the spring was for average rainfall. That was comforting. Presently, Manhattan is 3.21 inches behind for the year. I hope that rebounds by the time this is printed.

Spring rain is important to help get plants growing. Frequent moisture is best for seedlings. Vegetable and flower seeds need frequent and light rain to get them started. Deep and less frequent moisture is best for plants as the roots develop. Established plants need to stretch their roots and some moisture stress is good.

Mulch is good at holding moisture in the soil. This is great in late spring and summer. Right now, we need the soil to continue to warm up. Organic mulches slow the warming of the soil. My grass clippings, wood chips or straw goes on in June. Until then, I will need to make sure the plants have their needed moisture.

Watching the plants and probing the soil are my best watering guides. An inch of water a week is another guide. One can look at the K-State Research and Extension’s weather data site for the evaporation and transpiration loss rate. That guide indicates water loss as ET data. That site is at

Soil moisture sensors are becoming used more with in-ground lawn irrigation systems. The sensor tells the valve to open when the soil becomes dry. I believe this is the best way to irrigate the lawn when using an in-ground system that you want to run on its own.

The only drawback is that it can’t predict if it is going to rain and wouldn’t need to run.

But who or what can?

Our gardening season is here. Looks like our watering season is as well.

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