Ask the Experts

Should You Water Your Trees in Winter?

Should You Water Your Trees in Winter?

These days, driving across North Texas has been interesting for arborists. A lot of trees appear vibrant and green, however, among the growing green are a seemingly arbitrary population of unhealthy trees.

This only shows that the extreme weather conditions in recent years have left some trees struggling. Dormant trees in DFW may appear lifeless and still at this time of the year, but it is very much active below ground. They feel the stress of harsh weather and are not immune to dry and cold conditions. Typically, it is a lack of water that does the most damage.

Long-term exposure to stress can lead to tree decline. A tree’s internal functions are still at work although dormant, and would need a regular supply of oxygen and water. Yes, it is possible for dormant trees to get dehydrated!

Remember, the tree’s roots never go dormant. They still need your attention and care.

Tips on watering trees in winter

  • It is best to water when the temperatures are above 40 °F.
  • A sprinkler system won’t do the job. Trees have different needs compared to turf grass, smaller plants and shrubs.
  • Using a garden hose, water low, and water slow. Give ample time for the water to infiltrate the soil, but not so much that it sits on the surface. Do this every 7-10 days.
  • To ensure complete coverage, water away from the tree’s trunk – ideally at its drip line – and water throughout the entire canopy area.
  • Water newly-planted trees or stressed trees more often.
  • Freezing winter temperatures can complicate how you water. If you have trees in big pots or a small garden, another option would be to fill a watering can or a bucket and use it for watering.
  • Remember, the bigger your tree is, the more water it will need.

While watering will ensure the health of your trees, be careful not to overdo it. Extra water may suffocate the soil and steal some of the oxygen that the tree’s roots need. Water evaporation still happens in winter temperatures, but is happening more slowly than it does in spring. Overwatering can also result in bacteria and fungus growth in the soil, which can be very damaging.

Other things you can do to help your trees

  • Mulching helps regulate soil moisture and temperature and provides the soil with the nutrients that they need.
  • Pruning dead or damaged branches will encourage new growth once the weather starts to warm while decreasing the risk of disease. Safety is not typically considered, but they are a great reason for tree pruning. Dead or diseased branches present a hazard. 

Keep watering your trees this season, and you’ll be surely rewarded with a beautiful, vibrant show come spring. If you are not sure of how to assess your tree’s health and how to exercise proper tree care during this time of the year, do not hesitate to contact us.