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Winter Tips For A Greener Spring!

Yes, as the picture suggests, we are going to talk about watering......again......even though it is winter. At this time of the year, there are few things as important for the health of your lawn and landscape as understanding the importance of soil moisture. Lawn maintenance practices throughout the year are important, but we will talk about what we should be doing now!

Proper Winter Irrigation - The most overlooked practice to pay attention to

Even though it is winter, and your lawn and landscape may look like it is dead, it is still very much alive. In fact, as long as the soil temperatures are above freezing, your roots are still active. When your roots are active, that means those roots are also using and losing moisture as well. To keep your grass, shrub, and tree roots healthy during the winter, we may need to provide some supplemental watering to replace the moisture that is lost in the soil. This will help prevent your roots from drying out and dying (root desiccation) in the absence of rain or snow throughout the winter.

Root desiccation can occur in all types of plants, but evergreen varieties (such as the boxwood shown here) are especially prone to winter burn. The more green a plant is through the winter, the more the plant will transpire and lose moisture. The more a plant transpires, the more water it uses. The more water it uses, the more water we need to replace in the soil to keep the roots healthy.

If there are not any significant snow or rain events during the winter months, watering your lawn and your landscape is extremely important. The healthier your roots are coming out of the winter months, the healthier your lawn and landscape will be in the spring!

So, to reduce winter kill and prevent damage throughout the winter, pay attention to the amount of moisture available to your grass, shrubs, and trees. Doing so will allow your lawn to thrive in the spring instead of using up its limited, stored resources to repair the root damage it experienced from the winter months. Anytime the afternoon temperatures are 40 degrees or over for a few days, and there hasn't been any measurable precipitation, take advantage of these days to give your lawn a good, deep soaking when possible.

For our area, a good rule of thumb through the winter, is an inch every 1-2 weeks or so if possible. This is great for any type of grass, regardless if it is a warm-season or cool-season variety. For our trees, about 10 gallons of water per diameter of trunk, every 3-4 weeks. So, a tree with a diameter of 12 inches at breast height (DBH) would need approximately 120 gallons (10 gallons x 12") about once a month if possible. The younger the tree is the more important it is to pay attention to soil moisture. Trees younger than 5 years old are extremely vulnerable to winter damage. Be sure to put mulch around your young trees and shrubs to prevent moisture loss and to keep the soil temperatures insulated.

In closing, be cautious when planning your supplemental watering this winter to prevent damage to your irrigation system and avoid watering whenever the soil is frozen. If you are limited on what you can water, consider watering your trees first, shrubs and bushes next, then grass last. It's a lot easier to repair and replace grass than it is to repair or replace trees and shrubs. Here are a few more tips to remember and to consider when watering this winter!

  • Water only when temps rise above 40 degrees or above before a freeze.

  • Be sure your irrigation control or timer is turned off when a freeze is expected.

  • Irrigate earlier in the afternoon when temperatures are warmer.

  • Only water when there hasn’t been a recent rain, snow or sleet.

We hope this helps, and if you have any questions at all, please reach out. It would be our pleasure to assist you in anyway possible! Thank you and HAPPY HOLIDAYS! God Bless!


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