The ins and outs of irrigation

By Gregg Eyestone

The rainfall pendulum has swung back the other way. Four years ago we were 10 inches above average for rainfall. We were close to normal last season. The challenge last year was that the timing wasn’t always when the plants needed it the most. In my opinion, the timing and amount is off completely this season.

Seeded plants need to be kept moist through germination. It is nice when rainfall aids in this process. Perhaps, I’m just lazy and expect too much.

Many of us planted trees, shrubs and perennials that were grown in a container. The growing media that these plants have learned to grow in differs from our planting site soil. There can be the situation where the surrounding soil is wet but the roots are still only in the drier container media. Check the plant roots and not just the surrounding soil for moisture.

A temporary berm of soil raised just outside of the root ball is suggested. It will create a basin for water to soak into where the roots are.

An alternative method to getting water to the root ball is by bucket. Put a 1/8 inch hole or two in the bucket near the bottom. The bucket of water will slowly drip getting it to the roots. Little water is wasted and the plant gets what it needs.

Plants signal when they need watered. Wilting is the visual sign that it is time to provide water. If you have just watered, wilting is also a sign of too much water. Probe the soil if there is a question of too much water.

Water management is the most important human factor in plant growth. It requires effort to water properly. Watering too much or not enough is probably more common than the right amount. K-State Research and Extension has many resources to help get closer to the proper amount. Videos and publications can be viewed at

I hope this article spurs on a desire to water correctly if not at least make it rain.

If you would like additional information on a horticulture topic, please contact Gregg Eyestone at the Riley County office of K-State Research and Extension. Gregg may be contacted by calling 537-6350 or stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or e-mail: and at

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