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Winter Watering

Muhammad Mahdi Karim
Wikimedia Commons

Despite the recent light snowfall, your garden needs more moisture. KUNC’s Gardener Tom Throgmorton offers these suggestions when it comes to prioritizing your watering.

According to the weather service we finished 2012 almost five inches below our normal precipitation along the Front Range. The storm this week is the only moisture we’ve had in months. Mountain gardeners will think this is crazy, but along the Front Range it’s time to water.

Above seasonal temperatures have drawn the moisture out of the ground. These days have been pleasant. If we don’t get any significant precipitation soon, plants will start to suffer. And we hope to get a lot of moisture in the mountains to replenish our reservoirs.

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 manzanita are my next priority. On these warm days give them some water. I like to use a frog-eye sprinkler. Set the water so it bubbles out. Let it run until the water puddles up on the surface. Let the water soak in. Repeat the trickle watering to force the moisture deep into the soil.   

Don't forget the grass. It isn’t time to turn the sprinkler system back on but lawns need water, too. Newly sodded or seeded lawns have only surface roots. They need watered regularly throughout the first year. Established lawns will also benefit from winter watering. Use the same watering method of wetting an area, letting the water soak in and then repeating.

The best time to water is on a day when temperatures are above forty degrees.  Set sprinklers during the warmest part of the day. This time of year the warm temperatures last only a few hours. 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. 

The soil in parts of our yard is still frozen. Water won’t penetrate the frozen soil. We’ll water those areas another day. Now concentrate on thawed parts of the landscape.

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 in a hose. Disconnect the hose. Work from one end to siphon the water out of the hose. 


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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