How do I prepare my plants for the winter season?
- Mow your lawn to a height of 1-2 inches. Grass left too long over the winter can develop brown patches.
- Aerate the ground before it freezes. Aerating involves penetrating the lawn with small holes to allow air, water and nutrients to reach the roots over winter. Power aerators are available to rent at your local home and garden center, or you can try a strap-on shoe aerator.
- Remove fallen leaves from the lawn. These may cause damage to the grass if left over the winter.
All other plants:
- Add mulch to existing plants. Mulch helps retain moisture and keeps the soil a more consistent temperature in the winter. When mulching trees, be sure to leave space around the trunk.
Do I need to water my plants in the winter?
Yes! In our area we recommend you continue to water your plants over the winter. But you won’t need to water as often. During the winter, soil retains water for longer periods because of the colder nights and shorter days.
You’ll want to pay attention to how much rain and snow you get in your yard each month. If it has rained more than ½ inch (or snowed more than 6 inches) in the last 4 weeks, then no need to water. If we are having a dry winter (less than ½ inch of precipitation in a month), then your yard is thirsty! Give it a drink.
When watering during the winter, we recommend you water during the warmest part of the day. Below is a chart with watering recommendations.
How much do I water my plants during the winter?
|Plant Type||How often?||How deep?|
|Trees||1 time a month||24 inches|
|Shrubs||1 time a month||18 inches|
|Flowering plants||1 time a month||12 inches|
|Groundcover||1 time a month||12 inches|
|Grass: turf||2 times a month||6 inches|
|Grass: ornamental||1 time a month||12 inches|
|Vines||1 time a month||18 inches|
How do I know how deeply I’m watering my plants?
Use a soil probe or a long screwdriver to test soil moisture. Push the screwdriver into the soil about an hour after you’ve watered your plants. It will go easily into moist soil. Mark and measure how far it went into the ground. That will tell you how deep you have watered that plant. Every yard is different, but once you figure out how long it takes your watering system to water to certain depths, you’ll be set.
Winterize your irrigation system
In a climate where winter temperatures can get below freezing, it may be advisable to “winterize” your irrigation system in order to avoid damage. If water is left in pipes, valves and sprinkler heads during freezing temperatures, that water may expand. You can imagine the results.
The steps you should take to prepare your irrigation system for winter depend on a lot of factors, but the overall goals for winterizing are the same for most systems:
- Shut off the water supply to your irrigation system
- Locate your shut-off valve (often hidden in a 3” PVC pipe; sometimes this pipe has a white or yellow cap on it as shown in the photo) and turn it to the right to shut it off
2. Turn off the irrigation system controller (if you have one)
- Leave your controller plugged in to save programming information for next year
- Turn the controller dial to OFF.
3. Drain the water from all pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads
- There are several ways to drain your system. Manual drain valves, automatic drain valves, are blown out with compressed air. This should be left to trained professionals.
- Local irrigation specialists can be hired to help.
- If you have an irrigation system with drip hoses, we recommend you locate the end cap (flush cap) of the drip hose and drain out the water.
Don’t forget – hose bibs (or faucets located on the outside of your house) can also freeze. Make sure that water to your hose bibs is shut off. Remove any hoses that are connected to hose bibs, and turn on the faucet to allow any trapped water to drain out. On warm winter days, you may want to turn the water back ON in order to water with a hose.