Should I Water My Trees And Shrubs During Winter
Ah, winter, the one season of the year the only yard work you have to worry about is shoveling the driveway. But is that true? Winter is definitely a season when trees and shrubs require less care, but can you ignore them completely from November to February?
The answer is no, and trust us, you are going to want to find out how to water your trees in winter to make sure they blossom in the spring. Our team has compiled the steps you can take now to prepare your shrubs and trees for winter, as well as tips for how to water your trees in the winter so you can enjoy your yard all year round.
Winter Tree and Shrub Care 101
Before we talk about how often to water a tree or shrub in winter, we need to understand what is happening to the plant as the winter approaches. As the days grow shorter, shrubs and trees start their preparation for winter. By the time the leaves are changing colors and dropping in the fall, trees and shrubs have already been changing on a cellular level to ensure the plant can survive the cold, dark months of winter. Cells in trees and shrubs change in several ways, including changes in their sugar concentration, water concentration, and size to help preserve energy and reduce the likelihood of dying.
This is a dormant state and gives the plant the best chance at survival through the winter. Because the plant is dormant, it doesn’t have the same water needs as it does in other months, which means your watering frequency should adjust. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to water at all during the winter months, in fact, giving your trees and shrubs a deep drink in the winter can help them bloom in the spring and survive the dry months of summer.
More importantly, some winters can be so dry that without watering the plants won’t survive the drought and freezing conditions. Regardless of the types of trees and shrubs, you have in your yard, if there hasn’t been precipitation in two or more weeks and there is no snow on the ground, your trees need a good, deep drink to keep them healthy. Don’t worry, your yard will come back to life in the spring, especially if you monitor water levels in the winter.
Winter Tips For Your Trees And Shrubs
Watering during winter months may seem counterintuitive, especially if you live in a colder climate that gets snow regularly throughout the winter. Don’t worry, you don’t have to guess at the best way to keep your shrubs and trees alive during winter with these five tips:
1. Prepare In The Fall
One of the best ways to keep your trees and shrubs healthy throughout the colder months is to spend some time preparing them in the fall. By simply adding an extra layer of mulch to the base and surrounding areas of your trees and plants you are insulating the trunks and roots of the plants, giving them an extra layer of protection from the frost and helping keep water in the plant. Additionally, give your plants one last, long drink before the front sets in. Make sure this watering is “deep” meaning you let the water soak through to the deeper parts of the soil, encouraging deep root growth.
2. Watch The Weather
When you notice that there hasn’t been any precipitation for two or more weeks, there isn’t any snow on the ground, and the daytime temperature is above 40 degrees, your trees and shrubs need a drink. Make sure that you water during the day at the hottest part of the day (around noon) and only on days that break 40 degrees. This gives your trees and shrubs enough time to absorb the water before freezing nighttime temperatures turn the water into ice, harming the roots and trunks of the plant.
3. Check The Soil
If you aren’t sure if your trees and shrubs need to be watered, check the soil. Grab a metal rod or long screwdriver and stick it in the soil around your plant. It should be able to penetrate at least 12-18 inches into the soil. If the metal rod can’t get past 12-18 inches, it means your soil is too dry and you need to water. If the rod easily moves through the soil, you don’t need to water and you can check back in a few days to see if the soil has dried out.
4. Water Deeply
Trees and shrubs need deep watering to help establish deep, strong root systems. If you water every other day and only give the plant a light sprinkle, the roots won’t grow deep in the ground as all the water is in the top layer of soil from the light and brief watering. So when you water your trees and shrubs opt for a longer watering time less frequently, especially in the winter. Generally speaking, trees need about 10 gallons of water for every inch of trunk thickness per watering and perennials require about 1 gallon of water per foot of plant height. Instead of a sprinkler, use a hose or watering can so the water can drip deep into the soil.
5. Don’t Overwater
Yes, you should water in the winter if the conditions require it, but overwatering can cause problems in the winter as it can in the summer. Overwatering can cause root rot and pest invasions, so carefully monitoring the soil and weather conditions is crucial for winter watering. The easiest way to avoid overwatering is to carefully check the soil to make sure it’s dry enough to warrant watering.
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