Answer: What you report RE: soil moisture sounds like it's right in tune with the needs of your plants. Brown tips are probably showing some root stress, but if it occurred at any other time of the year, I'd chalk it up to a late frost. You might want to inspect the dead areas with a magnifying glass. Look for webbing or spider mites (tiny as a flake of black pepper). Extensive feeding can cause the kind of dieback you describe.
At this point I'd continue with the watering schedule and shear the dead tips from the plants. No new growth will emerge from the dead tips and shearing them off will make the plants look more attractive as well as prompting new growth lower down on each stem. Spring is the ultimate pruning time but you should be able to do it now and the new growth will still have time to harden off before cold weather arrives.
Next spring you can lightly fertilize your plants to encourage healthy new growth.
Best wishes with your landscape!
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