How to fight drought conditions in winter

Marcia Tatroe,  – October 30, 2004

As winter approaches, many communities in Colorado continue to experience drought conditions that have stressed plants and led to outdoor watering restrictions. Wherever you live, here’s what you can do to help your plants make it through the cold, dry weather.

Irrigate landscape plants where allowed. If local water-use ordinances permit, continue to deep-water your valuable trees and shrubs. Set a sprinkler under the drip line of trees and apply enough water to soak the soil 1 foot deep (use a trowel or screwdriver to check). Or use a bubbler attachment on the hose, moving it as needed.

Mulch with organic matter. To help conserve soil moisture, spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic matter over bulb beds, around perennials, and under trees and shrubs. Shredded leaves, pine needles, hay, and straw all work well as winter mulch. Keep mulch 12 inches away from the base of trees and shrubs.

Mulch with snow. In addition to insulating roots from subfreezing cold, snow helps replenish soil moisture as it melts. When snow accumulates, shovel it off driveways and sidewalks and pile it onto perennial beds, around roses, and beneath trees and shrubs. If you’ve already spread organic mulch, pile the snow on top.

Spray evergreens with antitranspirant. Dwarf conifers and broadleaf evergreens such as holly and rhododendrons are susceptible to dehydration and windburn in winter. To protect them, spray the foliage with an antitranspirant product like Wilt-Pruf, following label instructions.