We often hear the question; how often do I water during the winter? Whether it is a board of directors putting together a performance scope or a homeowner just adjusting their irrigation clock, what is the answer? There are several opinions ranging from not at all to 3 times a week. As you can imagine, several opinions can arise when asked this question so let’s dig a little deeper.
First of all, let’s look at what role water plays in plant growth. Water plays a vital role in photosynthesis which increases during the summer months and decreases during cooler months. Another important role water plays is in soil structure. Different types of soil ranging from sandy soils, to clay soils, to the perfect combination have different water needs to maintain their optimum state. Sandy soils will drain water much quicker requiring a higher need and clay will hold water decreasing the need. Another benefit of water in the soil during the winter months is that is can reduce damage from frost compared to plants in a dry soil.
The Root of The Matter
Second let’s look at plant water requirements during winter months. It is known that water requirements are greatly reduced during winter months as plants enter dormancy or just slow down due to decreased temperatures and amount of sunlight. We also know that different plants have different water requirements, and this is the same in the winter. Evergreens will slow their growth but are still actively growing and therefore need water for photosynthesis and food production. Perennials will require less water but will still require water as the underground environment is still active during these months in our area including root growth.
Let it Rain
Now let’s discuss our sources of water and how to manage them. Rainfall is a main source of water for landscape use. The amount of rainfall received in a given time and how often it rains will play a huge role in how much water is needed form other sources. Other sources of water to the landscape could be from wells, water catch basins, city water supplies, all delivered to the landscape through irrigation or supplemental watering. An important consideration when determining how much water to apply during the winter months is how much water you have received from rainfall as in any other month of the year.
So, knowing what role water has in plant growth and that it is essential at different amounts during differentmonths, how often do we water? The most fitting answer is, “It Depends.” It depends on the plant type, the soil it is in, the amount and frequency of rainfall during the winter, and how cold it actually gets. I know that isn’t a cut and dry answer, but neither is landscaping. In my opinion whether you are a homeowner, or a commercial property manager is to monitor these factors and decide or get advice based on them. We cannot predict how much rainfall we get so be prepared to adjust to assure your landscape gets the proper amount of supplemental water needed for the plant type.
As a general rule of thumb know that lawns, although brown, do still have active root growth and have the highest need for winter water, some trees and shrubs have similar water requirements depending on the plant, age of plant, and soil type. My suggestion is to see the landscape gets a 6-8” deep watering at least every two to three weeks. To account for rainfall for every ½” of rainfall you can account or a week of water and start the clock over. This will ensure plants have what they need, help protect them from freezing, and reduce the amount of water due to decreased plant needs.
Want to learn more about how landscape irrigation can be managed? Native Land Design can help. Contact us at 512-918-2270 or fill out our contact form online today.