Contrary to popular belief during the colder months of the year, it’s usually not the cold that kills your landscape and garden plants; it’s dehydration. For this reason, it’s highly recommended that you water your plants regularly in the winter season to give them the best chance of springing back to life once their hibernation period is over. However, winter watering can be tricky business. If you don’t water at the right time, deeply enough, or in the right places, you may end up harming more than helping.
Here are some tips on watering your Colorado garden and landscape during the winter months:
Take Advantage of Warmer Days
Do not attempt to water your plants, trees, or lawn when temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or in the late afternoon. If the water doesn’t have the chance to fully absorb into the roots, it will freeze around them or form a solid layer of ice over the ground. This can lead to suffocation if the temperatures don’t rise soon enough to melt it. Choose a warm (enough) day to water, when there’s no snow on the ground, and stick to morning or midday watering.
Some Plants Need More Water Than Others
Just as in summer, plants that need shade absorb more water in the winter than sun-loving varieties. Also watch out for light reflected onto plants from windows or metal objects, as it can cause plants to dry out faster. Windy conditions can have the same effect.
Water Your Trees Thoroughly
Often, roots will spread two to three times wider than the height of the tree, with their most absorptive parts in the top foot of the soil. It takes saturating the ground for the water to reach the twelve inches, using ten gallons of water per diameter inch of tree. Water around the tree, instead of hitting the trunk. Experts recommend using a deep root fork or needle, as they can penetrate the soil deeper more quickly and efficiently, but a soaker hose or soft spray wand is also effective. If you choose to use a deep root fork or needle, keep it from delving more than eight inches into the ground.
Water Less Often
Because the sun is less harsh in the winter, it isn’t necessary to water plants as often as in the summer. If it’s a particularly wet season, with a good amount of snowfall, it’s probably only necessary to water everything once. For dry winters, though, water at least twice. If you have any newly planted trees or saplings, it’s important to water those at least twice, as well, since they’re more vulnerable to dehydration than older trees.
If you haven’t already laid mulch down around your trees and plants, it’s actually not too late to do so. Mulching in the winter helps to protect trees and plants from the alternation of freeze and thaw that weakens and damages them, precluding them from getting the protection and moisture they need from the soil. That said, it’s important not to pile the mulch up too high, or else you’re inviting a ton of pests, as well as rot and disease, to wreak havoc on your plants.
Watering is vital to the survival of your landscape and/or garden through dry winter months. While plants may look inactive, they require moisture to stay strong and healthy. Without adequate water, root systems weaken and become susceptible to disease, insect attacks, and other maladies, which may lead to their eventual death.