What an awful day – beautiful blue sky, with not a cloud to be seen. Warm temperatures in the upper 60’s. No breeze. This is early February; the weather should be cool and moist, keeping our trees, shrubs and plants dormant for a little while longer. But because Mother Nature has been feeling warm and giving, our crocus are blooming, the hellebores are awake and buds are swelling on fruit trees.
This has catastrophe written all over it. If you live along the Front Range you know this mid-winter thaw has an evil twin that lurks around the corner, waiting to freeze our buds off.
The only thing we can do is pamper the plants by giving them water, and hope that the secondary buds survive until spring. Woody plants have several sets of buds for such a disaster, and as long as their roots are given water, they’ll be fine in the spring.
- When: Water once per month now through March if we don’t get an inch of water thorough snow or rain.
Make it easy: Measure snowfall at your house with a ruler – don’t rely on total accumulation listed in the news. Write each storm’s amount on your calendar and add it up every four weeks. If it’s less than 12 inches of snow, it’s time to water.
- How: Warm days when temperatures are above 40 are best for watering. Choose days when no snow is on the ground and the soil isn’t frozen. In cold weather, water should be trickled slowly into the soil.
Make it easy: Coil a soaker hose so that it spirals out from around the tree and leave it there for use over the next few months. Long hoses can be used to water several trees of the same size at the same time. Have an inexpensive timer on the faucet automatically shut off the hoses, or set timers in the house to remind you to turn off water.
- Where: The dripline of the tree is the best place to water, which is the area directly under the tips of the branches. The place to soak is two to three feet on either side of the dripline, to a depth of 12 inches.
Tip for success: Soil needles work best if the ground is soft, and be sure to insert it only eight inches deep. The roots taking up water are shallow, in the top 12 inches of the soil.
- How much: Researchers are still working on this, but a good rule of thumb is to give your trees 10 gallons of water per diameter inch of trunk for them to survive.