Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
December, 2004
Regional Report

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A frog-eye sprinkler provides needed moisture to your trees and shrubs in the winter months.

Winter Gleanings

The winter season is a good time of year to do some catching up. For the most part, gardens are in their dormant mode, and we can turn our attention to planning for the coming season. While mountain gardeners will find the soil locked up solid, many gardeners on the high plains will find some warm, winter days that are perfect for getting outside and checking landscape plantings.

Techniques for Winter Watering
Fluctuations in temperatures and the lack of rainfall or snowfall can be a direct threat to trees, shrubs, perennial beds, and lawn grasses. If you experience dry conditions, it's a good idea to get in some outdoor gardening by pulling out the garden hose on a warm day and doing some winter watering. Use a heavy-duty screwdriver or garden trowel to dig down and see what the moisture level is like. If the soil is beginning to dry out 3 to 4 inches deep, it's time to water around the root zone of trees, shrubs, and yes, even your cool-season lawn grasses.

One of the most effective garden tools for winter watering is the frog-eye sprinkler. Set it at the dripline of trees and shrubs, and water each area for 20 minutes or so, then move the sprinkler to another spot. When temperatures are 50 degrees or above and you're watering midday, the water should soak in and provide needed moisture to plant roots.

If you're a newcomer to the region, you might be asking about the frequency of winter watering. I generally recommend letting the soil in your landscape be a guide (check as recommended above), but every five to six weeks during dry periods is a general rule of thumb if we have extended dry spells. Make sure the ground is unfrozen, and water early in the day so it can soak down to the root zone. The roots will thank you for the supplemental moisture to draw from on warm, windy days.

Be on the watch for the arrival of seed and plant catalogs. There should be one or two arriving daily, quickly rising to a hefty stack! Cozy up near a warm fire some winter's eve and partake of some good reading and jot down a wish list. Who knows what lies in store for next year's garden; maybe you'd like to add a new shrub or tree to replace one that is waning. There are lots of new perennials that might be fun to try growing in the garden, too!

It's fun to dream about future gardens and learn from last year's mistakes. While the garden is enjoying its rest, your imagination is free to wander at will, planning a new rock garden or a meadow of wildflowers. Enjoy the beauty of winter and plan ahead for another great season.

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