Watering in Winter
Wow-what unbelievable weather we’ve had! The warm, dry weather has been great for our cattle producers but hopefully we get some spring rains to recharge our soil profile for the crops and pastures. Today feels more like winter!
With the warm weather last weekend, I spent some time watering shrubs and evergreen trees since I planted several shrubs this fall and it’s been dry. If feasible, it is fine to water during winter, particularly if you have fall-planted trees, shrubs, or perennials or evergreens in windy locations or along the south sides of homes. If established plants were well watered during summer and fall, most should be fine since they are dormant and temperatures are cool. If we do not get much winter moisture, early spring watering will be important.
Kelly Feehan, UNL Extension Educator, says that some precautions are needed when watering during winter. She says to only water when the soil is not frozen and when air temperatures are around 45 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Water early enough in the day for water to soak into the soil so it does not pool and freeze around plants overnight. Ice forming on or around plant crowns can cause damage. If you decide to water, keep in mind plants are dormant and not using much, if any, water so while it is a good idea to moisten the soil six to eight inches deep, heavy or frequent watering is not needed.
The roots of plants are not as hardy as the above ground portions. If there is an open winter with little snow cover and temperatures turn quite cold, roots can be killed by cold temperatures. Cracks in soil allow colder air to penetrate and increase this risk. Moist soils do not develop cracks and remain warmer than dry soils. Ultimately, we’ll just have to see what the remainder of the winter and the spring will hold.