Consider using these tips to give lawns, plants, trees and shrubs a better chance of rebounding next spring. Not only will your landscape maintain its health, you will use less water in April and May attempting to bring it back.
Fertilize your lawn
- Fertilize in October before you turn your sprinklers off. Fertilizing in fall will help your lawn be more resilient over the winter, and it will green up in spring without the excess growth from early spring fertilization.
- Do not fertilize trees, shrubs or perennial flowers in fall. In late summer, they prepare to go into dormancy, moving their resources from the leaves into the trunk and root system. If you fertilize them in late summer, they’ll start to grow again, which can reduce their ability to make it through the winter.
Top off your mulch
- If you have areas of your yard with wood mulch, make sure the layer is three to four inches thick. This will ensure plants are fully insulated to make it through winter. In addition, the soil will retain more moisture, which increases plants’ chances of staying hydrated until spring.
Establishing new landscape
- If you’re consistent about winter watering, it’s OK to plant in fall. If you’re able to water once to twice per month through the winter, fall can be a great time to tuck a few more plants into your landscape.
Gain control of weeds
- With all the rain, weeds have grown more than usual. Prevent them from producing a bunch of troublesome new seeds by tackling them now.
Tend to sprinkler systems
- Drain your backflow prevention device or blow out your sprinkler system at the first sign of freezing weather.
- Fall is a good time to upgrade your sprinkler system with rebated products. Consider changing your nozzles to a multi-stream rotary option, installing sprinkler bodies with check valves or adding a rain sensor to your system. Rebate information is at csu.org.
- If you turn off your sprinkler system and we get a stretch of warm weather in October, hand water or use a hose sprinkler. Dehydrated plants are more susceptible to winter kill.
If you’ve ever experienced the discouragement of lawn winter kill or dead landscape plants in spring, you may want to try winter watering. Even though landscape plants are dormant and brown, they should be watered periodically. Dry winter months often kill plants through dehydration. By choosing to winter water, your lawn and landscape plants will have a much better chance of greening up beautifully when the warm weather of spring returns.
A word to the wise, too. Shrubs and trees that don't receive regular water will search for hydration on their own, oftentimes in your wastewater pipes. Roots are a common cause of pipe damage, and repairs can be messy and costly. Service lines are the homeowner's responsibility, so have pipes checked at least once a year or more if you live in a long-established, heavily-treed neighborhood.
Finally, keep in mind that your wastewater bill is calculated using the amount of water used Dec. 1 through the last day of February.
Consider these tips when winter watering.
When to water
- Choose a warm winter day with air temperature above 40 degrees F and unfrozen soil.
- Water one to two times per month from November to April.
- It is most critical to water in March and April when the new roots are forming.
- Water at mid-day so it can soak in before it freezes.
What to water
- It is most important to water newly planted lawns, trees, shrubs and flowers.
- Established lawn areas and trees, especially those in sunny, windy, or exposed areas should also be a high priority.
- Established shrubs, flowers, ornamental grasses and groundcovers will also benefit.
- Do not winter water cacti, succulents, buffalograss, blue grama and very xeric plants.
How to water
- Use a hose-end sprinkler or watering wand since automatic sprinkler systems are off during the winter.
- Remove the hose from the spigot after watering to prevent freeze damage.
- Water slowly so it can soak in.
- To figure out how long to water, put out cups to catch some of the water. Water until you can measure 0.5 to 1” deep in the cups.