Home Map and Hours Classes and Events Employment

Welcome to Tagawa's Blog

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tired of snow? Your landscape isn't...

Okay, so I've never been to Minnesota. I'm sure it's lovely. But I'm just not in the mood for what feels like a Minnesota winter.... where you can't see the grass from fall to spring 'cause there's always snow on the ground, and it just won't melt!

I'm spoiled. Colorado winters frequently give us blue-skies and sunshine breaks between storms, so the snow actually has a chance to disappear.

But I'll stop whining now, and look on the bright side, and there definitely is one! Moisture!! And lots of it out of this last storm. Officially, snowfall is measured near DIA, which reported 15 inches of snow from last weekend's storm. The National Weather folks say there was .8" of moisture in those 15 inches of snow.

So those of us who were shoveling out 22 inches and more must have recieved over an inch of moisture, right? Just knowing that makes me feel better about my three hours of shoveling and snowblowing. (And truth be told, I'm still not done.)

Winter water is a big deal?

You bet! (spoken with an adorable Minnesota accent.) Water in winter is a very big deal if you're a landscape plant in a semi-arid place like Colorado.

A lot of people seem to think that when plants go dormant in the fall, they basically take a full "time out!" Not so. The visible portions of the tree or shrub may seem to be frozen in time. But the parts of the plant you can't see, the roots, are still on duty, collecting whatever moisture they can find
and "delivering" it up into the plant on warm days.

So when we get a nice, soaking snow like this past storm gave us, I should be doing more cartwheels than complaining. Then again, you haven't seen my cartwheels

Those tricky trees

I'm convinced that trees have a vindictive streak. If a tree doesn't get enough water during winter, some (or all) of the roots will die. This is especially true of younger trees, those planted during the past few seasons. But the damage to the roots may not show up right away.

Spring rolls around and the tree leafs out and looks vigorous and healthy, using food and energy stored up last season. But it's a trick! When the heat of summer moves in, and the tree is calling for more water, the root system can't deliver. Too much of it dried out and died last winter. The tree's leaves may suddenly discolor or start to dry up and fall off. "Winter dessication" is the technical name for it. I'm cutting to the chase, and just saying the roots dried up and died.

Roots don't have to die!

The general rule of thumb for winter watering is this: If your landscape hasn't received about an inch of moisture in the past four weeks, get ready to drag around some hoses on a warm winter day when the ground isn't frozen. (Don't use the sprinkler system unless you want to blow it out again.)

For young trees and shrubs, set the sprinkler or hose over the outer edges of the root system. The root ball will still be fairly small. Don't water right at the very base of the tree or shrub. That's not where the roots are.

For older trees and shrubs, put the water down in a zig-zag pattern just inside the outermost point of the branches, what's called the "dripline."

Make sure you finish that day's watering in time for the moisture to soak in before freezing termperatures return. We're not trying to make a skating rink.

If trees or shrubs do show winter damage once summer's heat sets in, begin to water them appropriately for their type of tree or shurb, its age, size, and location. Over-watering at that point will only make things worse. The Garden Experts and Tagawa's can help you if you have specific questions.

Don't cheat the lawn!

Lawns routinely show winter damage once spring rolls around. Turf on south and southwest exposures, and turf grown on a slope, can be especially challenging. Again, a hose.... a sprinkler...a warm morning... You get the idea.

If you do this one thing....

If you can push yourself (or your kids) to winter water during dry spells, it can be one of the best things you can do for your landscape. Really!
If it helps, think of it in terms of dollars: trees and shrubs that go into spring strong and healthy, thanks to winter watering, are trees and shrubs you won't have to pay to replace.

No comments: