Winter Water

The weather the past few days in the Omaha Metro area has been fantastic!  If you had a chance to get out this past weekend I am sure you saw people taking full advantage of the weather.  Many of us went for a walk or took down Christmas decorations on the house.  But how many of you took time to water your landscape?

Check to see if the ground is frozen by using a screwdriver.

We seldom think that we need to water during the winter because it is usually cold.  Moisture is still lost to the atmosphere when the ground is not frozen and this can impact the overall health of the root system of plants.  Birch, linden, maples, perennials, ground covers, pines and other evergreens are all susceptible to  damage from the lack of moisture during the fall and winter.  Frost heaving is another issue that we have to deal with with perennials.  This is when newly planted perennials can be ejected from the soil from the freeze/thaw cycle of the soil.

So what can you do?  Water – of course.  But before you drag out the hose make sure that the ground is not frozen.  Use a long screwdriver and see if you can get it into the ground with relative ease.  We want to avoid watering frozen soils because the water will just sit on top of the ground and could potentially do more damage than good.  We also want to water by using a hose or a watering can and not the lawn sprinkler system and the day time temp should be 40°F or warmer.

So where should you start?  Trees and shrubs that have been planted within the last two

Circle Diagram

or three years and perennials that are less than a year in the ground should get first priority.  After those move to more established areas of the landscape then end by watering the lawn.  Recommendations from the Colorado State Extension service suggest that trees should receive about 10 gallons of water for every inch of diameter.

Yes math is involved.  To figure out the diameter of the tree measure the circumference and divide by 3.14159 or D = C/π.  For shrubs that are less than 3 feet tall should get about 5 gallons of water and perennials should receive about a half gallon each.  It isn’t easy to figure out how much water comes out of the hose but do your best.  However, start at the base of the plant and move out on all sides to make sure that all roots are receiving water and not just some.  Another method is to turn on the water on a low setting and water until it starts to run off or move away from the target location.

Watering should be done one or twice a month depending on weather conditions.  Also, make sure that you drain your hose after use and disconnect it from the spigot.

You can find more information about making your landscape weather ready here:

And further reading on Fall/Winter Watering from Colorado here:


Scott Evans
Scott Evans is a horticulture assistant with Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties. A certified arborist through International Society of Arboirculture and Nebraska Arborist Association. Scott is also Tree Risk Assessment Qualified through ISA. Scott co-leads the Master Gardener program in Douglas & Sarpy counties. Along with volunteer management he provides his expertise with disease and insect identification, lawn and landscape weed management, plant health, and I.P.M. practices. He also enjoys growing many houseplants ranging from African violets to cacti and succulents. Scott has two Bachelors of Science, one in Biology (emphasis in Botany, Ecology and Environmental Science) and second in Environmental Geology from Northwest Missouri State University. He earned his Master of Agriculture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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