Some people believe they don’t need to water their trees and plants during the winter. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Especially THIS winter.
Dry air, low precipitation, high winds, little soil moisture, and fluctuating temperatures are characteristics of this winter in many areas of West Texas. Midland is currently under exceptional drought conditions, the worst category on the Texas Drought Monitor. Trees, shrubs, perennials and lawns under these conditions may be damaged if they do not receive supplemental water.
The result of long, dry periods during winter can be injury to parts of plant root systems. Affected plants may appear perfectly normal and resume growth in the spring using stored food energy. But plants may be weakened and all or parts may die in late spring or summer when temperatures rise. Weakened plants also may be subject to insect and disease problems as plants are sensitive to drought injury.
Woody plants with shallow root systems require supplemental watering during extended dry fall and winter periods. Woody plants also benefit from mulch to conserve soil moisture.
Herbaceous perennials and ground covers in exposed sites are more subject to winter freezing and thawing. This opens cracks in soil that expose roots to cold and drying. Again, 3 to 4 inches of mulch is the best way to prevent this damage along with about half of the watering you do in the summer.
Lawns also are prone to winter damage. Newly established lawns, whether seeded or sodded, are especially susceptible. If it’s a particularly dry winter, water your lawn monthly,
Newly planted trees are most susceptible to winter drought injury. Trees generally take one year to establish for each inch of trunk diameter. For example, a two-inch diameter (caliper) tree takes a minimum of two years to establish under normal conditions.
Trees obtain water best when it can soak into the soil slowly to a depth of 12 inches. Apply water to many locations under the dripline and beyond if possible.
Newly planted shrubs require more water than established shrubs that have been planted for at least one year. Water within the dripline of the shrub and around the base.
Xeriscaping is a comprehensive approach to landscape design that accounts for microclimate and soil conditions on the site to create a sustainable solution. There are 7 basic principles to help you create a beautiful, sustainable landscape. To read more about how to apply these principles to your home, be sure to check out this article from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
A few small changes can make a huge difference. By changing our habits and tweaking our actions, we can use water more efficiently, lower our costs, and keep our environment happy. Even though we are in the Permian Basin, when we save water, we can help to reduce pollutant and contaminant runoff into the ground and extend the life of our sewer or septic system.
The greatest waste of water results from applying it too rapidly or too often to lawns and gardens. Water applied too rapidly is lost as runoff, which may carry polluting fertilizers and pesticides into streams and lakes. The cycle and soak method is best for reducing runoff and making sure your lawn and garden get the moisture it needs to thrive. For this method, water is applied in multiple shorter cycles. This allows the water to soak into the soil before running off, promoting deeper roots and healthier plants.