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Cut the cost of watering trees

Modifying soaker hoses can help reduce the cost of water, says K-State horticulture expert

July 28, 2022

By Taylor Jamison, K-State Research and Extension news service

MANHATTAN, Kan. – As the temperatures climb into the 90s and above, most trees require more water, but more water means more costs. Kansas State horticulture expert Ward Upham says modifying soaker hoses can help homeowners save a few dollars.

“Soaker hoses are notorious for non-uniform watering,” Upham said. “In other words, you often receive too much water from one part of the hose and not enough from the other part.”

Patchy water application may not affect smaller trees, as the soaker will circle the tree several times, but can affect larger trees. For more uniform watering, Upham suggests hooking the beginning and end of the hose to the y-adapter. The parts needed are just a y-adapter and a female-to-female connector.

“It is also helpful if the y-adapter has shut-off valves so the volume of flow can be controlled,” Upham said. “Too high a flow rate can allow water to run off rather than soak.”

The position of the hose can also make a difference. On larger trees, Upham said the soaker hose can circle the trunk at least half the distance to the dripline. On smaller trees, he said the hose can circle the tree several times so only the tree roots’ soil will be watered.

To check if the watering is effective, Upham said the soil should be wet at least 12 inches deep. A metal rod, wooden dowel, electric fence post, or something similar can be used to check.

“Dry soil is much harder to push through than wet and your probe will stop when it hits dry soil,” he said. “How long it takes water to reach a 12 inch depth varies depending on the rate of water flow and soil.”

As a test when first watering the tree, record the amount of time it takes to reach a 12 inch depth of dampness. The tree can then be watered for that amount of time in subsequent watering.

Upham and his colleageues in the K-State Department of Horticulture publish a weekly Horticulture Newsletter with tips for maintaining home landscapes. The newsletter is available to view online or can be delivered by email each week. 

Interested persons can also send their garden- and yard-related questions to Upham at wupham@ksu.edu, or contact your local K-State Research and Extension office.

At a glance

K-State horticulture expert Ward Upham shares tips on how to best water trees in the home landscape.


K-State Horticulture Newsletter

Notable quote

“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 the other part.”

-- Ward Upham, horticulture expert, K-State Research and Extension


Ward Upham

Written by

Taylor Jamison

For more information

Water Conservation in the Home Landscape

Kansas Garden Guide


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K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well‑being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan. For more information, visit www.ksre.ksu.edu. K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.