By Paul James
Although it may seem somewhat counterintuitive, it’s crucial that you water landscape plants during the winter months. The combination of dry soil and cold air temperatures can be especially tough on even the hardiest plants, both deciduous and evergreen. So keep these basic watering tips in mind.
First, realize that I’m not suggesting you water all that often during the winter months. Typically once a month will do the trick, although if it’s bone dry in December and January you may need to water twice a month. Pick a day when the temperature is above freezing and the overnight low is forecasted to be above freezing as well. Those conditions happen more often than you might imagine, and on those days you should seize the opportunity to deep soak everything.
Evergreens and conifers need more water than their deciduous counterparts because they continue to grow, albeit ever so slowly, during the winter. And many of them, including azaleas, arborvitaes, pines, spruces, junipers, Euonymus, and Oregon grape have shallow roots and are therefore more susceptible to drying out. But even deciduous plants need water in the winter to prevent their roots from becoming desiccated.
The same is true of cool-season turf grasses such as fescue and rye, both of which continue to grow in winter. Dormant perennials should be watered as well to keep their roots hydrated. And spring-flowering bulbs, which store lots of water in advance of blooming, absolutely must be watered during dry winters.
Of course, if we get plenty of rain this winter you can skip watering altogether, but the extended forecast looks pretty dry. There is rain in the forecast for tomorrow night, but it’s anybody’s guess just how much we’ll get. And if it doesn’t amount to at least a half-inch total, I’m going to water this weekend. You should too.