Tuesday’s Tips — Watering Your Garden in the Cool Seasons

Fall is here, there’s no denying it, and to tell the truth we are loving it. There’s a certain sense of relief and a feeling that we can FINALLY catch up on all the things that were running just ahead of us in the garden all summer.

It’s time to catch up and clean up (click here for our fall cleanup tips). It’s also time to make adjustments to your watering schedules.

Durango Area

Those of you who garden in this region know that fall and winter watering can be very tricky. It all depends on how dry it is. When there is less atmospheric moisture you’ll need to water enough replace what the plants transpire. Unlike SoCal where the local water utility provides good guidelines for seasonal watering, Durango seems to either not have the information available or to have it buried so deeply in their website that it is not findable.

So we went to the Colorado State University Extension site for info. Here’s a link to Watering Basics  that you may already know — water early in the day, don’t over water, etc., but watering in fall and winter in this semi-arid climate can be a challenge so here are some quick facts to help your plants make it through the next few months:

  • Water trees, shrubs, lawns, and perennials during prolonged dry fall and winter periods to prevent root damage.
  • Water only when the air and soil temperature are above 40 degrees F with no snow cover.
  • Established large trees have a root spread equal to or greater than the height of the tree. Apply water to the most critical part of the root zone within the dripline.
  • Newly planted trees and shrubs will required more water than established ones. Water deeply and slowly.
There’s a lot more great information so click here to read the very thorough Fall and Winter Watering Basics from the Extension.

Coastal Southern California

At this point in the season plants are transpiring less water and so their needs are not as great as they were a few weeks ago. This is true even if it’s hot in the daytime because the days are shorter, nighttime temps are a lot cooler, and many plants are entering a dormant phase. Plant water needs drop by almost 30% in September so cut back your watering accordingly.

The one exception to this rule is when the Santa Ana winds are blowing. When that happens the air is extremely dry and you should give your plants supplemental water. This is especially true for container plants that may need to be watered twice a day when the hot winds are blowing. (Hint: misting them mid-afternoon will cool them down and help them make it through the most brutal Santa Ana conditions.)

The Irvine Ranch Water District does a really nice job of helping home gardeners figure out how to adjust their irrigation schedule and cycles. Click here for handy chart with suggested weekly watering schedules. You may have to make adjustments for your landscape, but this is a very good starting point.

And while we’re at it here are some good general tips for conserving water in either region and for preventing runoff — which in SoCal ends up in our ocean carrying all manner of nasty pollutants with it.

  • Water only when necessary – saves 1,100 gallons per irrigation cycle.
  • Water in the early morning, before 8 a.m., to reduce evaporation and interference from the wind – saves 25 gallons per day.
  • Check sprinkler system for leaks, overspray and broken sprinkler heads – saves 500 gallons per month.
  • Turn off hoses run when not in use and use a water-saving hose nozzle instead – saves up to 7,500 gallons per year.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks – saves 150 gallons each time.
  • Install a “smart” sprinkler controller – saves 40 gallons per irrigation cycle.
  • Place organic mulch throughout garden to reduce evaporation, even soil temperatures and inhibit weed growth – save hundreds of gallons per year.
  • Replace thirsty plants with California Friendly drought-resistant varieties – saves hundreds of gallons each year per plant.
BTW: Local university extensions are always great resources for any kind of gardening and farming questions you might have. And don’t be shy, if you can’t find it on the website, call them. They are happy to help.

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