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Drought time to prioritize your plants
Alicia-Boor 0002-copy-2

With many areas of Kansas experiencing significant drought, plant triage may be in order. This may mean that you need to prioritize what plants are most important. Large, established trees should be first on your list as they are expensive to remove, expensive to replace and take years to become large enough to fulfill their purpose. Next would be trees planted in the last 2 to 3 years as their root systems are still not completely established. 

Normally, these trees would be first on our list as the larger, more mature trees are more drought resistant. However, sometimes a drought will be severe enough that even large trees may die or become so weakened that borers move in and take them out.

Next would be shrubs, then perennial flowers and finally lawns, annual flowers and vegetables. You probably see the pattern here. Start with what is most expensive to replace and move down from there.  

If you are planning on watering your trees, one of the more common means is the use of soaker hoses. Soaker hoses are notorious for non-uniform watering. In other words, you often receive too much water from one part of the hose and not enough from another. On small trees, circling the tree several times with the soaker hose will even out the amount of water applied but this isn’t practical for larger trees. On larger trees, hooking both the beginning and the end of the soaker hose to a Y-adapter helps equalize the pressure and therefore provide a more uniform watering. The soaker hose can circle the trunk at a distance within the dripline of the tree but at least ½ the distance to the dripline. 

The dripline of the tree is outermost reach of the branches. On smaller trees, you may circle the tree several times so that only soil which has tree roots will be watered. Soil should be wet at least 12 inches deep as 80% of a trees roots are in the top foot of soil. Use a metal rod, wooden dowel, electric fence post or something similar to check depth. Dry soil is much harder to push through than wet and your probe will stop when it hits dry soil. How long it takes water to reach a 12-inch depth varies depending on the rate of water flow and soil. Record the amount of time it takes to reach 12 inches the first time the tree is watered. After that, simply water for that same amount of time.

Alicia Boor is the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District. Contact her by email at or call 620-793-1910.