Watering Plants Through Fall (Advice from Mahoney's )

Watering Plants Through Fall (Advice from Mahoney’s )

This is not typically the time of year we think of drought. We usually talk about drought in months of July and August, but this fall has been extremely dry. In the month of September some areas in Massachusetts have received as little as 5% of their normal rainfall. Some areas are worse than others but we are all at the point of drought stress affecting both new plantings and even established plants.

Watering Plants Through Fall (Advice from Mahoney's )

Watering through fall prevents winterkill

On sunny days moisture evaporates from plants’ foliage. In the winter plants can’t take moisture in through their roots to rehydrate the foliage because the ground is frozen. When spring rolls around, the leaves turn brown and the plant can’t recover, this is known as winterkill.

Watering Plants Through Fall (Advice from Mahoney's )

By thoroughly watering your trees and shrubs until the ground freezes, your plants are more prepared to deal with the moisture loss that occurs during the winter. Plants like holly, azaleas, rhododendrons, and andromeda are most susceptible to winterkill because they have relatively larger leaves, and more surface area for evaporation to occur.

When we have an especially dry fall like we’re experiencing this year, winter damage is typically worse in the spring since the leaves have retained less water to being with. So please do your plants a favor and give them the water that they’ll need to survive the winter.

Tips for watering efficiently

To get the greatest benefit from the water used, it’s best to apply water at a trickle over a long period of time. The goal is to let the water seep down into the soil and saturate the area around the roots.

What you should do

  • If you have a large area it’s best to use a soaker hose, or to section it off and concentrate on those areas individually.
  • For individual plants it’s best to remove the nozzle and place the end of the hose at the base of the plant with the water trickling slow enough to prevent it from running off.
  • Use mulch around all planted areas to prevent evaporation from the soil surface.

What you should not do

  • Do not rely on lawn sprinkler systems to water trees and shrubs. They are designed to only moisten the top couple inches of soil.
  • Do not spray water at the plant with a nozzle. This will cause the water to run off, spread across the surface, and not reach the root system where water is absorbed.

More tips on watering from Mahoney’s here.

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