JoAnne Skelly: Dry Northern Nevada winter means it is time to water trees, shrubs

Little to no rain in January doesn’t bode well for trees and shrubs come spring and summer. Unless you provide them with the water lacking from Mother Nature, you probably will see plants dying back on top or losing limbs and branches. This is particularly true for plants such as birches and roses or for those newly planted this past year.

While we may enjoy the beautiful sunny weather we have been having, cold wet weather would be safer for plants during winter. Plants continue to lose moisture through the winter especially when the weather is windy, sunny and mild. Water loss during these warmer cycles exceeds uptake and plants’ internal water storage becomes inadequate to meet the demand.

Daily heating and freezing accompanied by wind and bright sunny skies damages exposed limbs and trunks, most commonly on their south and west sides.

Sunburned and dehydrated bark splits, cracks and dies, especially if the plants have thin or young bark. Flower buds of many plants may dehydrate and abort over winter, eliminating spring flowering. Evergreen leaves and needles as well as buds and twigs may desiccate. If water stress is prolonged, entire plants die.

It is time to water your trees and shrubs. Lawns should be OK for another few weeks or more, unless they were planted last year. Water deeply enough to soak all the way around each tree to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. This applies whether you water by turning on your sprinkler system or with hoses. Shrubs, including roses, will survive on less water. Perennials need only the top few inches of soil moistened. After watering, avoid freeze damage to your irrigation system by re-winterizing it. If you use hoses, drain them; remember to turn off your outside water and open the hose bibs to let them drain too.

On another note, our wonderful 4-H Leaders Council is holding its annual Fabric and Rummage sale to provide scholarships to 4-H youth.

Donations of fabric, clothing, sporting goods and clean usable household items will be accepted Friday, Feb. 13, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fuji Park Exhibit Hall. The sale takes place Saturday, Feb. 14, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 15, from 9 a.m. until noon. Come find great fabrics, notions and hidden treasures at this sale, and help a 4-H youth go to college.

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


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