Drought-stressed American Elm

I fear I’ve started to sound like a broken record these past few winters (“We’re having another DRY winter,” etc, etc). Yes, we’re having another very very dry winter, AND we’re having exceptionally warm temperatures. Usually I wait until early in January to send out a winter watering reminder, but this year, it feels really important to get the reminder out now. (I promise more on our current water situation will be coming soon.)

Local tree services are reporting big increases in calls about failing established trees and shrubs, including lilacs! Even I’ve never really worried too much about winter watering my established lilacs. I’m sure some of the problem stems from not-particularly-xeric plants that were not adequately watered the past few winters or during the summers (which have also been dry). But even drought-tolerant species need a minimal level moisture, and recently, they’ve been rather challenged to get it! So this is a bit of a wake-up call to not just focus on our new trees and shrubs when winter watering during these dry years. (Take a look at some of the downtown medians if you want to see what happens when we neglect big, established trees during drought.)

A good way to get in the habit of a winter watering routine is to give trees, shrubs, and turf (but NOT native grass turf) a good soaking around Thanksgiving, then again around Christmas, then once again in late January and late February. After that, we start to move into the regular watering season and it becomes a bit more intuitive to water when needed, given precipitation amounts.

For more details of the how, when, and why of winter watering, see the post I wrote this past January:

Contributed by Carey Harrington, Certified Colorado Gardener and Colorado Native Plant Master