Helpful watering tips in drought conditions


As I was out on farms last week taking soil samples in corn and bean fields for the OSU Extension eFields Soil Health Survey, I was feeling stressed and saddened looking at the thirsty corn and soybeans that are in much need of a significant rain event. After walking through the fields, I was feeling dry and shriveled up myself and imagined what it must feel like to be a corn plant (if they had feelings).

Unfortunately, in non-irrigated cropland, we do not have the power to control moisture and must wait things out until the weather decides to become more agreeable and alleviate the stress on our crops and our farmers. But for homeowners with gardens, we typically can control moisture levels easily if we were proactive enough to have our gardens close enough to a water source. Sometimes gardeners will ask me what disease their plants have or what insect is feeding on them when the answer could be that they are not watering enough. In drought conditions, it can be challenging to monitor a watering schedule, and it’s easy to think you are watering sufficiently. I think you will find these watering tips helpful.

– Water when the soil is dry to the touch one to two inches below the soil surface.

– Make sure to water the roots of the plant and not the foliage; water is absorbed through the roots, and watering the foliage has no benefits. Wet foliage can also promote the growth of fungus, as fungi like a warm and wet environment.

– Water the plants less frequently and more deeply, this promotes deep root growth that helps the plant survive in drought conditions. Not only does deep root growth assist in drought conditions, but it helps hold the plant up and prevents lodging.

– Water in the morning so that water on the plant foliage has a chance to dry up, this will cut down on fungal diseases.

– Make sure to wet the entirety of the root zone, this should be five to six inches below the soil surface, after watering dig into the soil to see how deeply you have watered.

– Hanging baskets, container gardens, and raised beds require more frequent watering, check them daily.

So as there are ways to control water in our gardens, keep in mind that farmers do not always have this option. As you know, Clinton County is a largely agricultural county, with most producers growing agronomic crops. Farmers go through a lot to feed the country and the world. In these times of drought stress, not only are the crops under stress but more importantly, the men and women who planted them can also find themselves under stress. So, if you see a farmer today make sure to thank them for all that they do for us and pray for rain.

Brooks Warner is the Ag & Natural Resources Educator at OSU Extension Clinton County.

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