It’s nice to see some snow. That’s not to say that we haven’t enjoyed the 60-degree days these past few weeks, but in the back of all our minds is the growing drought picture in Colorado. Currently El Paso county is considered to be in extreme drought. We are well below our average precipitation for the year. The threat of fires has risen and we’re starting to worry a little about our outdoor plants. So, even though the ground might be white right now, it’s time to begin winter watering. This is a weird concept for many of our newest residents. But it is a necessity lately to reduce the stress and prevent winter kill on our trees and shrubs.
It’s pretty simple. If we don’t receive any snow for 3-4 weeks, you need to water plants and trees through March. On days when temperatures are above 40 and the soil is not frozen, get out the hose and give all your trees and shrubs a good soaking. Water plants early in the day so the water can soak into the ground before freezing nighttime temperatures. This is especially important for newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials that haven’t established large root systems yet.
According to Colorado State University: “Trees obtain water best when it is allowed to soak into the soil slowly to a depth of 12 inches. Methods of watering trees include: sprinklers, soaker hose or soft spray wand. Apply water to many locations under the dripline and beyond if possible. As a general survival rule, apply 10 gallons of water for each diameter inch of the tree. For example, a two-inch diameter tree needs 20 gallons per watering. Use a ruler to measure your tree’s diameter at 6″ above ground level.
In dry winters, all shrubs benefit from winter watering from October through March. Apply 5 gallons two times per month for a newly planted shrub. Small established shrubs (less than 3 feet tall) should receive 5 gallons monthly. Large established shrubs (more than 6 feet) require 18 gallons on a monthly basis. Decrease amounts to account for precipitation. Water within the dripline of the shrub and around the base.
Winter watering is advisable with late planted perennials, bare root plants, and perennials located in windy or southwest exposures.
Why bother? Again, according to CSU, “the result of long, dry periods during fall and winter is injury or death to parts of plant root systems. Affected plants may appear perfectly normal and resume growth in the spring using stored food energy. Plants may be weakened and all or parts may die in late spring or summer when temperatures rise. Weakened plants also may be subject to insect and disease problems.”
So when in doubt, get out the hose on a sunny day and hit all your plants with a good dose of water. And don’t forget to undo the hose again before it freezes!