Drought means more water is needed, but don’t overdo it

By Chad Koenen


Drought—it’s a seven letter word that is almost forbidden to be spoken in farming and gardening circles. Yet, a dry winter with little snow and a spring and summer in which rain is as scarce as a Dodo bird, has more than just farmers on edge this year. 

Yet, local gardeners and greenhouse owners are offering a word of reassurance that with a little extra watering, fertilizer and know-how, this summer’s heat can be turned from a negative to a positive.

With the dry and warm conditions earlier this year, Tom Meinhover of Grass Roots in rural Ottertail, said residents can take advantage of that heat by finding the right mixture of water and fertilizer to make the plants really grow this year. He said with the right mixture, trees can grow quickly this summer with the added heat. 

“You have your chance to pretend you are in Houston, Texas because our weather is like Houston right now,” he said recently. “They can have it be the best growing year they have ever had if they feed and water it, or they can let it go dormant.”

As far as plants, Meinhover and Alan Linda said it was important for people to know what kind of plants they have. For example, some plants will simply wilt due to the heat and not necessarily a lack of water. Others will wilt if they get too dry or wet and are more resilient to the overall heat. 

Meinhover said water and fertilizer are important to a plants health, but they are just two of up to 12 factors for growing healthy plants.

For those people who are in more sandy soil, he said it is important to water up to two times a day for lesser periods of time, rather than dumping water on the trees all at once. 

Linda said his apple trees are looking really good this year, but he has also spent quite a bit of time watching how much he waters his trees. 

“This year I paid more attention to watering and I have some healthy looking apple trees,” he said. 

Of course the amount of water a plant, tree or grass will need is as dependent on the soil and type of plant. 

Meinhover used a sponge wiping off the counter to compare the right amount of water that is needed by a plant. For example, if a person doesn’t put any water on a sponge, it can become hard and doesn’t do the job. By the same token, just soaking a sponge in water will have the adverse effect of not cleaning a counter and just spreading water from one edge to the other. 

However, if a person squeezes out a sponge and doesn’t get it quite so wet, it can clean off the counter and do the correct job. In fact, while plants need additional water and fertilizer this year due to a lack of rain, Meinhover said people can actually do more harm than good by over watering plants. 

“If you over water they get limp and die. If you underwater they wilt and at least you got a chance to bring them back,” he said. 

Regardless of how the year has started, both Meinhover and Linda said it isn’t too late to take advantage of the warm temperatures. Even if grass or plants look dry due to a lack of moisture, proper watering and fertilizer can bring those plants back to life and looking like brand new for the remainder of the year.