Don’t put that hose away yet! With temperatures in the Chicago area expected to reach the upper 40’s this week, watering is still crucial to the landscape. Although many trees and shrubs appear dormant, they still continue to require our attention. To minimize winter water loss and winter burn, ensure your landscape is receiving adequate moisture. Additional watering during dry weather periods is necessary during winter months, as long as the ground hasn’t frozen. Cold days do not necessarily guarantee the ground has frozen. Frozen soil is dense and rigid and does not give way under foot. Before watering, test the soil to determine if it is frozen. Once the ground has frozen, moisture is no longer taken up from the soil. Although the amount of water lost during the winter slows, it does not stop completely. Therefore it’s important that your trees and shrubs start the winter season with plenty of soil moisture. Dry soils tend to freeze more deeply, which increases the risk of winter damage in the landscape.
There are a few guidelines for successfully watering and retaining moisture during cold weather:
- Water early in the day to prevent it from collecting around the trunk. Water that hasn’t evaporated by the evening may freeze and damage the tree or shrub.
- Most trees and shrubs require moisture at least 18” deep in the soil.
- Mulching around the base of the trees and shrubs will insulate the soil and conserve moisture.
- Remember to detach your hose from the house after the ground has frozen and watering is no longer an option. A frozen hose may damage your home, if left attached.
Evergreen trees and shrubs have special needs separate from their deciduous counterparts. Evergreens located in areas unprotected from winter winds may experience more severe winter water loss symptoms due to moisture lost through needles and foliage. It is especially important that evergreen trees and shrubs are watered thoroughly before the ground freezes.
Following these practical watering tips now will help promote landscape health in the seasons to come!