Darrell Blackwelder: It’s important to keep irrigating during fall and winter

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 24, 2021

October is one of the driest months of the year. Those with newly seeded lawns are faced with the problem of irrigating the grass to prevent it from dying. Once the small seedlings emerge, it is very important to keep them irrigated to maintain growth and allow root expansion. Those who choose to reduce irrigation or stop all together risk partial or total loss of their fall planting.

Valuable trees and shrubs also need water during the winter for survival. Trees and shrubs must also be irrigated during fall and winter drought periods. Trees and shrubs that are damaged by the drought usually do not show signs during dormancy as they do during the summer months. Many plants do not show damage until the spring.

The best time to irrigate during cold, dry weather is during the heat of the day. Even though supplying water may be a challenge during cold weather with stiff hoses and frozen nozzles, but the task is still very important. Dogwoods, rhododendron, azaleas and camellias have shallow root systems, easily drying out in dry weather. One to two inches of water during the week during an extended drought is sufficient amount for established trees and shrubs. Newly planted shrubs may need more water, however over watering kills trees and shrubs much quicker than a short drought. Three to six inches of organic mulch such as bark or pine needles conserves soil moisture in the landscape. With no appreciable rainfall in our future, now would be good time to add organic mulches.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.