Manitoba Story: Water for winter

It is heartbreaking to drive down the street in springtime and see dead evergreens, especially, cedars lining driveways. Homeowners planted these trees with such hope and now all that is left is a bunch of brown sticks. So how do we water in winter?

While trees go dormant in winter, all evergreens continue to expire little bits of moisture throughout the cold months. Knowing this, it is easy to understand that without a good store of water to draw from in winter, they are in danger of dying by spring time.

But it is not just evergreens and cedars that need a good cool drink of water before bed as winter approaches. All trees and perennials will benefit from being watered before freeze-up. Water will help protect their roots if we are talking about perennials, and it will protect the trunks, branches and twigs if we are speaking about trees and shrubs. Moist soil is warmer that dry soil. Plant cells filled with water and better insulated against the cold. Some farmers even spray their crops with water before a winter freeze up. If frost threatens your garden, watering is one of the strategies to protect the plants.

This is not to say to drown plants in water. Evenly moist, not wet, soil is the best.

Not only does watering protect mature plants, even in winter, it can give self sowers a head start in spring. Seeds shed by wanted perennial such as lupins and annuals such as delphiniums and poppies will germinate faster if they have had this stratification period of alternating freeze and thaw which help break down their seed coats.

How much to water before winter? Water with a sprinkler and place a can or some sort of water capturing vessel on the ground. Run the sprinkler until two inches of water has fallen into your measuring device. That will be enough to reach the feeder roots of most plants.

Lawns, too, benefit from fall watering.

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