Monday, December 8, 2014

Winter Watering by Donna Duffy

Baby, it’s dry out there! It’s been weeks since we’ve had measurable moisture in the lower elevations of Jefferson County, and our landscapes are thirsty. The lack of soil moisture and atmospheric humidity can damage plant root systems unless they receive supplemental water. Affected plants may appear normal in the spring only to weaken or die later because the amount of new growth produced is greater than the weakened root system can support.

So, drag out the garden hoses (remember to unhook them at night) and follow these suggestions from Dr. James Feucht, CSU Extension Landscape Plant Specialist.

Most woody plants, which have shallow root systems, require supplemental watering during extended winter dry periods. Trees at risk include European white birch, Norway and soft (or silver) maples, lindens and Colorado spruce. Evergreen shrubs (e.g., junipers), especially those growing near a house, may also suffer root system damage during dry spells. Even your turf is prone to winter damage, especially newly established lawns and turf with southern exposure. Winter watering is also advisable with late planted perennials, bare root plants and perennials located in windy or southwest exposures. 

Water early in the day when the air temperature is above freezing. Don’t allow water to stand around the base of trees, it can damage the bark when it freezes. To apply water to young trees, use a soil needle (root feeder) attachment to your garden hose. The watering depth depends on the type of plant or tree. For most junipers, about 18” is sufficient. For shallow-rooted trees, 9-12” is correct. Use a zigzag pattern to apply water around the tree, leaving the needle in the ground for one minute per spot, moving it every six to eight inches. For large, established trees, sprinklers are more efficient and the turf can be watered at the same time.
Photo courtesy Gulley Greenhouse
A little effort on your part now will pay off in the spring! For more information, take a look at CSU Extension Fact Sheet 7.211, Fall and Winter Watering.