This has been a pretty good year for natural rainfall. Currently, we are dry and need moisture. We want our garden and landscape plants going into fall conditions well hydrated. Rain would be welcomed.

An inch of water per week up to freezing is best. The garden hose or watering can may be the best solution. Newly planted plants and the evergreens need the most attention.

Probe the soil using a metal rod or long screwdriver. You will meet resistance when encountering dry soil. Plants will differ on rooting depth and need for moist soil. The most common denominator is 12 inches. When you can push a rod 12 inches easily into the soil, you will have happy plants.

My rain barrel serves as a welcome water source. That is as long as some moisture accumulates on the roof to keep it replenished. It will become a giant ice cube if there is extended below freezing conditions. The last few years that I have kept the rain barrel out, it hasn’t been a problem.

I like the fact that the rain water has a pH that is neutral. My well water and public water supply have a high pH. A pH reading is a measurement of the hydrogen ion concentration of a solution (how acidic or basic a solution is), and readings range from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most basic).

Most plants grow best in a soil that is slightly acidic with a pH of 6.5. Most nutrients needed by plants are readily available in that pH range. Availability of micronutrients such as iron, manganese, zinc, copper, and boron can be reduced severely by high pH caused by the irrigation water. Even with sufficient amount of nutrients in the soil, they are not accessible to the plant.

The water collected in the rain barrel is good for all plants. I particularly like to use it for watering my indoor plants. Nutrients in container plants are easily effected by high pH irrigation water.

Let it rain so we can spend time on other fall activities.

You can find out more information on this and other horticulture topics by going to the Riley County, K-State Research and Extension website at And you can contact Gregg Eyestone at the Riley County office of K-State Research and Extension at 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan by calling 785-537-6350 or e-mailing

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