Unless you are a skier, you probably enjoyed the sunny weather we had so late in the year. The temperatures were warm for late fall and there was little rain or snow. The weather was perfect for working in the yard, going for walks, biking and other outdoor activities. However, dry sunny weather means trees and shrubs are thirsty, particularly since most folks shut down their irrigation systems in October.
Although I turned off my outside water, every weekend or two while the weather was nice, I turned it back on and thoroughly watered my trees, roses and newly transplanted perennials. The sun and wind had been drying out the soil and plants needed water, especially those that were newly planted this past year. Even though the cold weather has finally begun, soils haven't frozen deeply yet and roots still require moisture. I will continue to drag out hoses and water through the winter, if the weather stays dry and water will soak in.
What does "thoroughly water" mean? It means watering the entire dripline of the tree from the trunk out to the tips of the branches to a depth of 15 or more inches. How long this takes is influenced by the soil type. Sandy soils absorb water quickly and water may soak into the soil in one application. Clay soils absorb water slowly. Water usually needs to be applied until it starts to puddle and then turned off so that it can penetrate. Then, more water can be applied until the moisture reaches the optimum depth. You can check the depth of moisture penetration with a long screwdriver, piece of pipe or a shovel.
If we are really lucky, we will have a wet winter with enough snow or rain to water our plants for us. Being that it is Nevada, we are likely to have a dry winter in which our plants will suffer from lack of soil moisture. If that is the case, make sure your plants receive the water they need. Keep your hoses and sprinklers handy or plan on turning your irrigation system on at least once per month depending on the weather. Re-winterize your irrigation system each time you turn it back on so your pipes and emitters don't freeze. Or, if you use the hose/sprinkler method, drain the hoses, put the sprinklers some place warm, turn the outside water off and open all the faucets to prevent freeze damage.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 887-2252.