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Watering Colorado soils

Colorado has soil extremes: clays and sands on the East and West Slopes and well-drained soils in mountain areas. Knowing how to water a specific soil type helps plants grow better on any of these soils.

It's best to water heavy clay soils slowly and infrequently. Because clay-type soils take in water slowly, applying too much water at once causes run-off. Once clays are wet, they hold water for relatively long periods.

Sandy soils absorb water quickly and drain quickly. Applying large amounts of water to sandy soil causes it to drain into subsoil layers beyond the reach of plant roots. Sandy soils don't store much moisture for plant growth, so they require light, frequent watering.

Well-drained mountain soils act very much like sandy soils, so water lightly and frequently.

Note that soils often are a mix of different types and may not exactly follow these general guidelines. For example, a sandy soil that contains some clay will hold more water than a pure sand.


Get to know your soil by touching and squeezing it to determine whether it contains sand, which feels gritty; clay, which feels smooth; or both. Water accordingly for successful plant growth.

For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).

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Updated Thursday, February 06, 2014