Make Sure Your Landscape Weathers the Winter Season
By Warren Tenney
The temperatures have cooled and as many of us plan to head outdoors and enjoy the winter weather, there are a few tips that can help you get your yard ready for you and your winter guests. Properly maintaining your desert-adapted yard during these cooler months will also make help make sure it is in prime condition come spring.
Water your trees and plants deeply but far less frequently during the winter months. Too much water isn’t healthy for desert-adapted trees and plants. The simplest rule is to water to a depth of three feet for trees, two feet for shrubs, one foot for ground cover, and a half-foot for winter rye grass. You can measure the depth by pushing a soil probe or use a dowel rod sharpened a bit on the end into the ground until it meets resistance.
It’s easy to know when to water your trees and plants. Text WHENTOWATER to 33222 and receive a text message on the first of each month that links you to a smart landscape watering page that shows you how often to water everything in your yard from month to month, including grass, cacti and succulents as well as annuals. The chart also includes watering instructions when plants with different watering needs, such as trees and shrubs, are on the same valve. If you want to learn more, the text message also provides a link to the popular guide Landscape Watering by the Numbers. Also remember that when we get a heavy rainstorm or two, turn off your irrigation timer to save water.
Irrigation System Check-Up
The weather is perfect for a little outdoor work, so now is the time to turn on your irrigation system and walk the yard to find and fix leaks. AMWUA’s Smart Home Water Guide can help. It’s also a good idea to still run your irrigation system for a couple minutes at least once a month to keep its mechanical parts in good shape.
It’s time to start paying attention to nighttime temperatures and have your frost cloth or sheets ready to protect your plants. Don’t tie a sheet or frost cloth around the trunk of a tree or shrub. Instead drape a plant with a cloth big enough to reach the ground. A sheet draped to the ground traps radiant heat still in the ground from the day’s sun and creates a pocket of warmer air. If possible, it’s best to remove the sheets during the day so the sun can heat the ground again. Also remember to protect and move your container plants to the patio, under an eve, or into the garage.
Cold nights and frost can turn parts of some trees, shrubs and groundcover brown. It’s tempting, but don’t clip the dead parts off the plant. Those dead parts create a shield that will help protect the plant’s tender interior from further damage. Trim the damaged parts in late February or early March when the danger of frost has passed. This is a good reason to keep frost sensitive plants in the back yard where they will not spoil your curb appeal.
Hold the Fertilizer
It is not a good time of year to fertilize, including potted plants, flowering vines and groundcover. It’s best to wait until winter is over. Fertilizing will force new growth that is particularly vulnerable to cold nights. If you want to be good to your plants then lay down mulch to hold moisture and discourage weeds that can compete with your plants for water and nutrients.
Prepare for Planting
When you are outside in your yard over the course of the winter, take note of areas that you may want to add some extra flower power, or add some desert-adapted plants. Then peruse the new Plants for the Arizona Desert website as it has all the valuable information and interactive tools needed to plan the perfect landscape filled with desert blooms and low water use plants.
We do understand that not everyone is a DIY type of homeowner. If you prefer to get someone else to do the yardwork while you sit in the sun and enjoy the fresh air, the Smartscape website is a great spot to start. It will provide you with a variety of info including tips on how to hire a landscape and irrigation professional to ensure you get a well-designed desert-adapted landscape that utilizes efficient irrigation to reduce water use and save you time and money.
For 50 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.
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