Q: I have seen people watering their lawns even though it is November! Aren’t we supposed to stop watering once temperatures go below freezing?
A: When it comes to gardening Colorado has a lot of challenges – especially in winter. Dry air, low precipitation, desiccating winds, little soil moisture, and fluctuating temperatures are the norm. Our driest months occur during winter, and many woody plants have shallow root systems which cannot tap into the underground water supply.
Landscaping is a major investment and in order to protect that investment, watering in winter is a must. Trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials can be damaged if they do not receive supplemental water. Newly established lawns are especially susceptible. Plants that receive reflected heat from buildings, walls and fences are also vulnerable to damage. And, windy sites require additional watering.
Sprinkler systems need to be turned off during colder months so you’ll need to water with a garden hose and a hose-end sprinkler head. A wide variety of sprinkler heads are available. Some will have multiple settings from a narrow rectangle to a wide circle. The small, straightforward, ‘frog’s eye’ sprinkler is favored by many who like the simplicity of its design.
Ideally, water one to two times each month during any extended dry spell.
Only water when temperatures are above 40 degrees. Apply water at mid-day so it will have time to soak in before nightfall and possible freezing.
Don’t water if the ground is frozen.
Trees benefit most when water is allowed to soak slowly into the soil to a depth of 12 inches.
Newly planted shrubs require more water than established shrubs. One to two inches of mulch will help retain moisture.
Lastly, remember to disconnect and drain hoses after use.
Contributed by Eileen Tully, Certified Colorado Gardener