How Often Should We Water Through Fall and Winter?

Where I live (DFW), we’ve had two of the Top 10 rainless periods in our history since June of this year.

The first one included most of July and August. The other was from right before Labor Day until this past weekend.

It’s been dreadful for our lawns, landscapes and gardens.

Winter watering is critical to plants’ survival and vigor.

So, the question for the rest of the fall and all of the winter: “How often should I water my plants?”

For all of my career I’ve always answered that question the same way. I ask a question back: “How often will you be taking a drink of water?”

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Presented with that question in return, most folks tell me it depends on a lot of different factors. They say the list might include physical activity, temperature, training and so forth.

There is a parallel list that would apply to your plants. Frequency of irrigation would depend on the type of plant, temperature, soil type, sunny or cloudy conditions, wind, current rate of growth, health and vigor of the plant currently, etc.

Since we are going into winter, and since our established plants have been subjected to so much abuse over the past two winters and this past summer, you really need to get them well hydrated before any cold extremes arrive. Fact is, you need to water them deeply now if the rains haven’t done that job for you.

You might assume (correctly), if your soil looks like this, that it’s time to water your plants.

There is no accurate answer to our original question that would apply to all plants. In fact, there is no one answer that would apply to any one given plant year ‘round.

If someone had just known to watch for the subtle change from deep green to dull olive drab in these Nellie R. Stevens hollies they could have been saved.

Really successful gardeners learn to “read” their plants. They learn to recognize early signs of drought. Those would include subtle wilting and perhaps slight changes in the color of the foliage.

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Successful gardeners probably don’t use moisture meters. Most have never owned one. They learn to feel the soil on their own. They learn the variations between dry soil and moist soil. It all comes with experience of gardening, and that experience is critical to ongoing success.

Stir in some common sense with that experience and you’ll know when it’s time to water.

As a side note, if it’s been 10-12 days since last you watered or since you had a meaningful rain, you’ll probably want to water this winter. You certainly won’t be over-watering your plants, and it might make a huge difference in their survival.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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