Don’t put hose away yet [UPDATED]Published 9:35am Monday, October 22, 2012 Updated 11:37am Monday, October 22, 2012
To quote Deb Brown, “if you want to have any hope of your perennials, shrubs and trees making it through a harsh winter, you need to keep watering.”
We have just come through the second driest September since the state has been keeping records. Nine-eight percent of the state is in moderate to extreme drought.
If your plants go into winter under stress, you could well lose them next summer. They won’t have the reserves they need to withstand winter weather. If we do get rain much of it will wash off dusty dry soil.
Drought damage on mature trees, especially, may not show up for two to three years. They will be less able to withstand insect damage.
Even if all the leaves are off the tree, the roots will be able to absorb some water.
Even lawns need water to make it through the winter. They are already stressed. Some people even have cracks in the soil in their lawns.
Dry soil means the frostline will be deeper than usual.
Dry soil will freeze sooner and the frost will move down more rapidly. Snow is an excellent insulator, but if it is late and the winter is mild, there will be more plant problems.
It’s not the cold that kills the plants, it’s the changes in temperatures when first it freezes then thaws.
To help prevent this problem mulch, mulch, mulch.
A foot of dry leaves, straw or hay is not too much. This will keep the plants where they belong, in the ground, not heaved out of it.
Take special care of trees and shrubs that are not native to the area. They are the ones most apt to turn up their toes.
If possible, water until the soil is below 40 degrees.
After that, you might as well drain the hose and put it away for the winter.
When you are mulching the flowerbed, leave as many dead stalks as you can.
They not only help hold the mulch and snow, the seed heads feed the birds.
The down side — if you are a “Martha” type — is that it looks messy and you will have to deal with the stalks in the spring, when hopefully, the soil is wet.
Wet knees are a small price to pay for a spring display of tulips and daffs that have been protected all winter.
Bev Johnson is a master gardener for Otter Tail County.