Tips For Winter Watering

winter watering

Most homeowners don’t think about watering their trees in the colder months but it’s actually one of the most important aspects of caring for a tree in winter. In fact, most of winter damage isn’t caused by low temperatures, it’s caused by a lack of water and it will affect the tree all year long. Lack of water during the winter months can cause winter burn in late winter, less growth in the spring, dieback in the summer, and increased susceptibility to insects and diseases throughout all the seasons. Read on to learn how winter watering can help your trees, when to water, and how to water during the winter months. 

Benefits On Winter Watering

Watering during the cold winter months can provide a lot of benefits to deciduous and coniferous trees keeping them healthy year-round. 

Prevents Root Damage: Long, dry periods without water can damage a tree’s root system but by watering your trees during the winter you can help prevent this. Evergreen trees should be given extra care and attention since they typically have shallow root systems which make them more susceptible to root damage from drought. 

Keep Soil Temperatures Warm: Water acts as an insulator. When soil is moist it will retain heat better allowing the soil to stay warm over the winter. This will help the tree and its root system from becoming damaged from cold temperatures. 

Winter Burn on Boxwoods
Winter Burn on Shrubs

Helps Prevent Winter Burn: A common issue with evergreens is winter burn which turns their needles a sickly brown/yellow color and often causes them to die and fall off. This is because the tree loses moisture through its needles and the root system can’t keep up with the demand for water. Watering your evergreens during the winter months will help prevent winter burn by giving them extra water so that they can better keep up. 

Reduce Stress: We’ve talked before about how stressed trees are more susceptible to insects and diseases and can become weaker overall. By providing your tree with water throughout the winter you can reduce the stress on your tree and help keep it strong all year long. 

When To Water Trees During Winter

40 Degrees: It’s important to water only when air temperatures are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily for our area, there are many days during the winter where temperatures will rise above 40 degrees. If you plan ahead you can use these warmer days to make sure your tree stays hydrated all winter long. 

Apply Mid-Day: It’s important to apply mid-day when the temperature is typically the highest. This will give the water time to soak in before temperatures drop in the evening. 

About Every 20 Days: The best rule of thumb for watering a tree in winter is to apply the same amount of water during the winter and summer but to water less frequently in winter. Watering properly about every 20 days will be enough to keep your trees hydrated throughout the winter months. If there is snow on the ground you can skip watering your trees as the snow will hydrate the tree as it melts. 

How To Water During The Winter

To get the benefits of winter watering it’s important to make sure you water your trees properly. Follow our winter watering tips below for the best results. 

  • Focus on the critical root zone when watering. Wetting foliage is a waste of water and can promote the spread of diseases.
  • DON’T use a sprinkler. This only wets the top layer of soil and doesn’t properly water the tree.
  • Water mid-day to give the water time to soak in before temperatures drop in the evening. 
  • Water deeply & thoroughly about every 20 days.
    • Put your normal hose somewhere in the critical root zone.
    • Turn hose on to a dribble
    • Leave for 2-3 hours
    • Move the hose to a different spot in the critical root zone and leave for 2-3 hours. Repeat this step 2-3 times.
  • If the weather is especially windy water twice a month inside of every 20 days. 
  • Soil should be moist but not soaking. You should NOT be able to make a mud ball out of the soil.
  • Some portions of the soil will be wet while others will be dry. This is okay.
  • 10 gallons per inch diameter of the tree. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the tree, the more water it will need, with the average amount equal to 10 gallons per inch of diameter of the tree. 
  • 5 gallons two times per month for a newly planted shrubs
  • 5 gallons every 20 days for small established shrubs (less than 3 feet tall)
  • 18 gallons every 20 days for Large established shrubs (more than 6 feet) tree.

Now that you know the importance of winter watering and how to properly water your trees in the winter you have the tools to keep your trees hydrated all winter long. 

Worried about other winter issues such as winter burn, deer management, and salt damage? We can help. Give us a call at 703-573-3029 or book an appointment with one of our Certified Arborists through our online scheduling system

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Samantha Huff

Samantha Huff is the marketing coordinator at RTEC Treecare. She enjoys learning about the technical aspects of trees and the insects and diseases that prey on them. She hopes that these articles can help homeowners gain control of their tree and shrub maintenance by being aware of the signs and symptoms of unhealthy trees.
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