Dry soil, coupled with strong winter winds, can wreak havoc on a plant, said David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist.

“Even though it seems plants are dormant in the winter, all plants, especially narrowleaf and broadleaf evergreens, use and need water during the winter,” Hillock said. “When little or no soil moisture is present, plants can become desiccated and it’s more likely root damage also will occur.”

Despite the fact the groundhog did not see its shadow, indicating spring is on the way, there is still plenty of time left for wintery weather. When dry cold fronts are predicted, water the landscape at least 24 hours in advance of the front. Apply about ½ inch of water at the time of watering. A sunny day on moist soil helps warm the soil and root area, thus reducing the amount of time the roots will be exposed to cold temperatures.

Hillock said it is important to keep in mind moisture must be available below the frost line or frozen soil.

“When the soil freezes, if moisture isn’t present in soil pore spaces, moisture is pulled from plant roots to form the ice crystals. This results in desiccated roots, otherwise known as winter kill,” he said.

Although watering is essential during the winter months, common sense also must be practiced. If you have an automated sprinkler system, do not allow the sprinklers to come on during a hard freeze. This can cause serious damage to your system.

In addition, some plants also can be damaged if ice forms on them. Wayward water can freeze on your sidewalks and driveway, which can create a slick and hazardous situation for you, your family and others who visit your home. If the water runs out into the roadway, it can freeze and cause problems for passing vehicles.

Too much water can result in other problems during the winter. Cold wet soils can lead to rotting roots. Soils with more than ample moisture also may encourage winter weeds to germinate and flourish. Water only every two to three weeks and apply only enough water to moisten the top 6 or so inches of soil.

“If you have plants growing in above ground planters, make sure they are on your watering schedule, especially if the planters are located under the eaves of the home,” Hillock said. “It’s likely they will receive very little natural precipitation, even during a wet winter.”


Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Higher Education Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, genetic information, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or status as a veteran, in any of its policies, practices or procedures.  This provision includes, but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. The Director of Equal Opportunity, 408 Whitehurst, OSU, Stillwater, OK 74078-1035; phone 405-744-5371; email: [email protected] has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Director of Equal Opportunity. Any person (student, faculty, or staff) who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based on gender may discuss his or her concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with OSU’s Title IX Coordinator 405-744-9154.

Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
136 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)
[email protected]

Read more http://www.dasnr.okstate.edu/news/winter-landscape-requires-moisture


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