Did you know that the roots of your trees, shrubs and other perennial plants can easily sustain damage throughout the cold, windy and dry winters we experience here in Colorado? When this damage occurs, it is permanent, and can compromise the health of the plant. So, the real question is, how do we help our plants avoid this damage in the first place? That is where the importance of winter watering comes in.
Although your trees and shrubs are in a state of dormancy throughout the colder months, they are far from dead, and are still putting energy into staying alive despite the harsh weather. In cold and dry conditions like ours, roots are very prone to drying out, especially if there isn’t snow on the ground throughout the whole season. When roots dry out, this is when the damage happens, killing the roots and making it even more difficult for your plants to gather the nutrients they need to stay healthy and strong throughout the winter.
Many people hear this and think, “Really?? Water my plants in the winter, just so the ground can then freeze and do even more damage to my plants?” This reaction makes sense, however it is not entirely true. Yes, watering your plants on a windy, 20 degree day will definitely do damage, however it is unlikely you will even be able to get water to flow through your hose in this case. To make sure you are helping your plants instead of harming them, here are a few rules of thumb that are easy to follow and rather fool proof.
When and Where to Water
Generally, you will know if your plants need water if the ground around them is dry to the touch. For trees and shrubs, water near the base of the trunk. Smaller perennials can be watered anywhere near the crown of the plant.
Warm Days are Best
Try to water on days where the temperature is above 40 degrees with no snow cover. This will ensure that the water will not freeze before the plant has been able to soak it up and put it to use. Also try to avoid windy days. Although it may not seem like such a big deal, winter winds are very dry, and can carry off or evaporate much of the water you are attempting to give to your plants.
Watering early in the day helps protect your plants, as the water traps heat in the soil, keeping your plants just a little bit warmer throughout the night. Watering mid-day is perfect, as temperatures have had a chance to warm up enough by this point to not cause damage to the plant, while also giving the plants a few hours before temperatures start to cool off again.
Don’t Drown Them
Your plants need water, yes. But they do not need as much as they would in the summer when they are in their active state. Dormant plants like to be watered deeply a couple times a month. You will know when it is time to stop watering when the water stops soaking into the soil. Ideally, you want all the water to be soaked into the soil around the plant, and for there not to be puddles of water sticking around above the surface of the soil, as soggy ground or standing water can suffocate the roots or cause root rot.
There you have it, simple and easy! If you have any questions or are concerned about any of your plants throughout the chilly months, feel free to reach out to us. We are always happy to answer any questions and help in and way we can!
Klett, E.J. and Cox, R. “Fall and Winter Watering.” Colorado State University. March 2013. Web. Date Accessed: 9 December 2020. https://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/garden/07211.pdf