25September 8, 2016

Your trees and shrubs really need your help if they are going to survive the winter. In the fall, most trees and shrubs take up water and store that water in the twigs and branches. Your plants do this to prepare for the dry winds of winter. These dry winds pull the moisture out of the twigs and branches. Plants that keep their leaves in the winter are most susceptible to this drying effect of the winter winds. This group would include rhododendrons, azaleas, boxwood and hollies to name a few. Shrubs with a thin bark can easily dry out and die from the winter winds. This would include rose bushes and hydrangeas. Many of your flowering ornamental trees are easily affected by the winter winds. At a minimum, the flower buds are killed by the dry winter winds.

The biggest issue affecting the survival of these plants is the lack of water in the soil. I won’t be surprising anyone when I say that we have had very little rain this year. If you think back to the winter, we had very little snow. The soil is bone dry. If we don’t start getting rain, then your plants may die during the winter.

With many cities and towns imposing partial or total watering bans on outside watering, what can you do if the plants need water? There is a lot of water that you use that goes down the drain. The water is reasonably clean and could be used to water your plants if you catch the water before it goes down the drain. This type of water is referred to as gray water. For instance, when you take a shower, you could stop up the drain and collect that water that has accumulated, scoop it out and use it to water your plants. At home, we have a dehumidifier in the cellar. Every day or so, it collects 8 gallons of water. I take the container of water and use that water to water the shrubs in the yard. If you wash dishes by hand, you could have a pan that you use to rinse off the dishes. That water could then be used to water plants when you are done.

If you are lucky enough to be able to water your plants with well water or municipal water, you would be wise to install soaker hoses around your shrubs and trees. This type of hose weeps droplets of water onto the soil. This water slowly enters the ground and can effectively water the soil in a three-foot band. If you could do this once a week, your trees and shrubs would have a much better chance of surviving the winter.

Your plants need water now. You may have to get creative at using sources of water that goes down the drain. If you can do outdoor watering, you need to use the water efficiently. Your plants are counting on you this year to help them to survive the winter.

Next week, I will tell you about the protective measures you can do later this fall to create a barrier around your plants to help to protect the plants from the winter winds.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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