Homeowners know how important it is to water their plants, shrubs and trees during the warm summer months. However, many do not realize that their trees also need to be watered during winter. In the agricultural community, winter is the months between October and March. In fact, watering trees in winter is vital to help maintain the health of your trees throughout the year.
Winter tree care involves making sure your trees are able to retain life-giving water. Both deciduous and evergreen trees should be watered up to twice a month between October and March. During the fall and winter, the roots of your trees continue to develop. Many people do not realize that the roots of a tree can grow up to two to three times wider than the height of your tree. The roots in the top foot of soil are where most of the roots that absorb water are located. Watering during the winter ensures these roots get the water they need to maintain your tree’s health.
In addition to twice monthly watering, you need to ensure that your trees (especially evergreens) can retain water. Evergreens continue to grow throughout the year. An anti-transpiration treatment slows the movement of water through the needles, which helps it to retain water.
Watering and ensuring that your trees retain moisture throughout the winter months helps to prevent drought stress from occurring. Drought-stressed trees are vulnerable to insect infestations and disease. If you notice anything out of the ordinary going on with your trees, it is important to act quickly. Some of the symptoms to look for, including dry needles and browning.
Although deciduous trees are dormant during the winter months, the root system of the tree still requires water. Lack of watering during the winter months will show during the Spring. If the tree is damaged due to lack of winter watering, branches could die or the entire tree could die in the Spring.
How to Water Your Trees in the Winter
Water should be applied only within the drip line of your trees. The drip line is where the outer area of the tree branches extend to.
To water effectively during the winter months, you need to water slowly and deeply. A soaker hose or a deep root feeder will ensure that enough water reaches the root system of the tree. If you are using a deep root feeder, insert the feeder two to eight inches into the soil and water slowly.
You should give each tree ten gallons of water for each one-inch diameter of the tree. This means a two-inch diameter tree will require twenty gallons of water.
When you think about winter watering, think of a Christmas tree. If you do not water a living Christmas tree, it will soon dry up and die. This same principle applies to the trees in your yard. Winter watering helps to ensure beautiful, healthy trees in the Spring and Summer.
For more information on watering your trees in winter, read the Colorado State University page on fall and winter watering.