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JenREES 12/26/21

Upcoming Farm Bill Webinar: As you consider 2022 farm bill decisions, there is an upcoming webinar from UNL on Jan. 20th at Noon. You will need to register to obtain the Zoom link and can do so at:

End of Year Reporting for Extension is here. If you would please consider sharing ways that information I shared helped you this past year, I’d appreciate it. Thanks!

Evergreen Trees and Perennial Plants: The weather has been incredible overall for December which has allowed for additional things to get done. However, the fact that we’re experiencing temperature extremes and warmer weather is difficult for plants which prefer steady and colder temperatures than we’ve experienced prior to this coming week. Kelly Feehan, Extension horticultural educator, shares some thoughts below on helping alleviate winter stress to evergreens.

“Warm, sunny winter days increase the risk of winter drying and sunscald injury. A lack of soil moisture and snow cover greatly increases the risk of winter dessication. Winter dessication results in evergreens turning brown during spring. Just because an evergreen looks fine now does not mean it is not stressed. It can take an evergreen months to turn brown after a fatal injury. Just think of Christmas trees. They remain green a long time after being cut down.

Evergreens most at risk are newly planted evergreens but even established Arborvitae, Japanese Yew and some Junipers are quite susceptible. Evergreens planted in the last year or two and those planted near south facing walls of light colored homes or pavement are even more at risk.

While we may not see a lot of dessication on established spruce and pines, this does not mean they are not stressed. Especially with spruce, we continue to see an increase in diseases that are tied to moisture stress. 

Winter watering is becoming increasingly important to help reduce winter drying. While adequate summer and fall watering is most beneficial, winter watering would be wise this year.

Winter watering needs to be done when temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit and early in the day for water to soak into the soil before nightfall. Water should not pool against a tree trunk and plant stems to freeze over night as this can cause damage.

When soils are dry and not frozen, apply water slowly with a slow running hose or by punching holes near the bottom of a five gallon bucket. Place the bucket over tree roots and fill it with water, allowing the water to slowly trickle out of the small holes.

About once a month, if needed, moisten the soil to about an eight inch depth from the trunk to just beyond branch tips. Placing a four inch layer of wood chip mulch over the roots of evergreens will help conserve soil moisture during the growing season and throughout winter. Mulch layers should not be too deep or piled against tree trunks.

And if you have a real Christmas tree, consider cutting off the branches and using them to protect tender perennials and young shrubs. By placing the branches over the tops of perennial plants or inserting them into young shrubs, the branches will act like a winter mulch, protecting plants from drying winds, bright sun and temperature extremes.”

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.

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