One of the most common questions we get in the winter is whether homeowners should be watering their trees during the colder months. While many trees go dormant during the winter and lose all of their leaves, many important processes are happening within the tree and belowground to make sure the tree stays alive.
Trees require both water and oxygen to make sure these processes keep happening throughout the winter months. However, it is important to keep an eye on the weather, temperature, and other factors to make sure you are watering it at the best times.
Why is winter watering necessary?
During the winter, the soil around your trees gets dry and cold which reduces its ability to insulate the roots and provide them with nutrients. If the dry soil freezes, it can kill roots that are close to the surface. Decomposing is also slowed down in dry soil, which means less organic matter is broken down into nutrients for the tree. Therefore, it is essential to keep the soil around your trees moist during the colder months.
Does snow provide water for trees?
Snow and ice can provide water for your trees, but only after it melts. When snow first falls or sits on the surface of the soil for long periods of time, it is not providing any moisture for the important roots of your tree.
When snow does melt, it does not actually result in that much water entering the soil. In general, ten inches of snow will melt to become one inch of water. This can vary depending on how wet the snow is, but there is much less water making it into the soil than you may imagine when the snow finally melts down.
Which types of trees should be watered in the winter?
All types of trees need water throughout the winter months, but some need more attention than others. If you have newly planted or young trees on your property, winter watering is extremely important. If not watered properly, the root system of young trees will not properly expand within the soil and will have reduced growth during the spring season. If the soil around a young tree is too dry and freezes, it can easily die due to its limited root volume and inability to recover.
On the other hand, older trees with a more established root system will be less affected by dry soil during the winter because they have more access. Similarly, coniferous trees are able to hold water within their needles during the winter and have evolved to need a very small amount of water during the winter to stay alive. That does not, however, mean they should be completely ignored.
When should I water my trees during the winter?
The winter months may vary depending on where you live, but you should be providing your trees with extra water from October to March. If you live in an area where temperatures don’t drop too far and it is regularly raining, you do not need to worry about additional winter watering.
The ideal time to water your trees during the winter is when the temperature is above 40° F, and there is no snow on the ground around your trees. Try to water during the daytime when the sun is out so that the soil is warm and can absorb the most water.
How should I water my trees during the winter?
When you are watering trees during the winter, it is important to water slowly to give the soil time to absorb the water fully. Water away from the trunk of the tree where the surface roots are growing.
Larger trees should receive more water but be sure to avoid overwatering. Too much water can cause fungus and bacteria, which will eventually rot the roots of your tree and cause detrimental damage.