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Shrubs and Trees need Extra Water During Dry Winter

Garry Knight
Flickr - Creative Commons

Even though its winter, outdoor trees and shrubs still need to be watered in Colorado’s dry climate. KUNC Gardener Tom Throgmorton has more.

Folks in the mountains will think this sounds crazy, but it’s time to water.  Along the Front Range and out on the plains we’ve had very little moisture in the past few months.

We had a dry late summer and autumn.  Then a couple of heavy tree damaging snows.  But we haven’t had much moisture in late autumn and early winter.

Above seasonal temperatures combined with the wind has drawn the moisture out of the ground.  This winter has been pleasant, even with the few days of wind.  If we don’t get any significant precipitation soon, plants will start to suffer.

Prioritize your watering.  Start with new plantings first.  Perennials, shrubs and trees planted in the past few years are new.  They're still adjusting to being transplanted.  They have limited root systems.  They’re the first plants I’d choose to water.  Heavy mulch won’t hurt either.

Evergreen plants like pine, spruce, or holly are my next priority.  On these warm days give them some water.  I like to use a sprinkler.  Set the water so it bubbles out.  Let it run until the water puddles up on the surface.  Then wait and let the water soak in.  Repeat the trickle watering to force the moisture deep into the soil.  

Don't forget the grass.  Newly sodded or seeded lawns have only surface roots.  They need watered regularly throughout the first year.  Established lawns will also benefit from watering.  Use the same watering method of wetting an area, letting the water soak in and then repeating.

The best time to water is when temperatures are above forty degrees.  Set sprinklers during the warmest part of the day.  Wait until the sun has warmed the soil in the morning.  Turn the water off by late afternoon.  Once the sun sets it gets chilly in a hurry.

Remember to drain your hoses.  It’s frustrating to get ready to water on a warm day only to find the hose filled with ice.  It takes a long time for that ice to melt even on a warm sunny day.  Disconnect the hose.  Work from one end lifting the hose to drain water out the opposite end.


Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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