Quick Tip from Neil

Fall and winter watering is a confusing topic for many gardeners. It’s easy enough to put the sprinkler system on auto-pilot during the summer, but what can you do when it’s 83 one day and 38 the next? And, how can you tell if your plants are dry when they don’t have any leaves? Follow these guidelines.

The best rule of thumb for fall and winter watering will be to watch the soil. When it begins to be dry to the touch, and when it changes to a lighter color due to drying, that’s the time to run the sprinklers.

Leave the system in its “Manual” operational mode. When you feel things are getting a bit dry, turn it on manually and let it run through its stations. It will then wait patiently for you to turn it on again, whether that’s 5 days or 5 weeks later.

Morning waterings are usually best. They allow grass to dry more quickly, reducing the chance of late-fall diseases such as brown patch in St. Augustine. Be careful not to run the sprinklers when temperatures might be near freezing before surfaces can dry.

If you don’t have a sprinkler system you’ll want to hand-water occasionally during the winter. However, disconnect and drain your hoses between waterings. Freeze-proof faucets will rupture when hoses are left attached to them in really cold weather.

If you have container plants that you intend to leave outdoors over the winter, keep them deeply watered during cold spells. Remember that you lose about 20 degrees’ worth of winter hardiness when you leave a plant’s roots exposed to the cold. That’s about two hardiness zones on the USDA map, and that makes a significant difference for many of our shrubs that we might attempt to grow in containers (gardenias, camellias, etc.). Make provision to get them indoors during extreme cold.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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