Wintertime; it’s a time of rest and slumber for most landscape plants. But even though your trees may be bare and your grass may be brown, they still need water. Even through the most ferocious, bitter-cold winters, plants need water.
So even though your landscape watering system may be (and should be!) shut down for the winter, don’t put thoughts of watering completely out of your mind. If you wait until green starts showing again before you give a thought to watering – you might not see as much green as you’re expecting come springtime.
Moist Soil Helps Protect Vulnerable Roots
Even though most plants are dormant during winter, that doesn’t mean that they are completely inactive. Roots remain active, and may even grow some during the winter. And that’s why roots are susceptible to damage from severe plunges of temperature.
When dry soil freezes, water can be pulled from tender roots. It’s a problem known as desiccation, and it’s a primary cause of winter-kill. So it’s best not to let the soil in your landscape become too dried out during winter.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast. If a severe cold front is approaching, you can help your plants weather the weather better by assuring that the ground is moist prior to the arrival of the front. Best-case scenario is to water your landscape a day or two ahead of the temperature drop. But be sure to water only during daylight hours, and only when the temperature is well above freezing.
Some Plants Need Extra Attention
Plants that are growing in raised beds will be more susceptible to becoming too dry, so you’ll want to check the moisture level in the soil around these plants a little more frequently.
And broadleaf evergreens such as hollies and live oaks will need water more often than dormant plants. A thorough watering once per month is a good rule-of-thumb for broadleaf evergreens.
Remember, too, that plants sheltered from precipitation need extra attention from you to make sure they don’t become too dry. Plants protected by eaves, for example, or potted plants sheltered on a porch will need more frequent watering.
Don’t Go Overboard…
Soil that is too wet can also be damaging to your landscape plants during winter. Soil that stays wet and cold for a long period can promote the rotting of roots. Keeping soils too wet can also promote an invasion of wintertime weeds.
At the most, your landscape soil will need watering only roughly once per month during winter – and that’s only during a prolonged deficiency of natural precipitation.
In general, you want to supply your landscape with enough water to keep the top 6 inches of your soil moist, not wet. Do that, and you’ll help to avoid occurrences of winter-kill. And you’ll have happier, healthier plants going into the next growing season.