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Winter Watering in Colorado

Why water in the winter?

Winter in Northern Colorado is an undeniably beautiful time of year. Landscapes and stunning mountain ranges are blanketed in snow, the sun typically shines brightly every day and people are in the spirit of the holidays. With so much to see and do, is it really necessary to trudge into the garden and water plants which look like they’re ‘sleeping’ just fine? Our answer: Yes! In order to keep your garden investment healthy and thriving, winter watering is extremely important.

Plants need moisture. And, although snow cover provides some moisture, it is often not enough to help your plants overwinter without a struggle.

On top of that, the snowfall and the temperatures in Northern Colorado can change drastically within a very short period of time.

This added stress can take a toll on even the healthiest of plants.

Start Out Right

A good late-fall watering is one of the best things you can do for your landscape before freezing temperatures set in.

Additionally, a thick layer of mulch will help insulate the plant roots from extreme temperatures while holding in valuable moisture.

Rule of Thumb

So how do you know when to winter water?

Keep this rule of thumb in mind; if we have no snowfall for four weeks or more during the months of November through March, it’s time to water.

Water only when air and soil temperatures are above 40 degrees with no snow cover.

Newly planted trees and shrubs will require more frequent waterings.

Application Tools

Many application tools can be used to water your plants including;

  • Soaker hoses
  • Watering cans
  • A garden hose
  • Soil needle or root waterer

How Much Water

Your trees or shrubs absorb the greatest amount of moisture at their drip line. This is the area which encircles the ground directly below the outer circumference of the tree branches.

Trees should receive 10 gallons of water per one inch of trunk diameter (measured at knee height).

This amount can be reduced if we have a moderate amount of snowfall.

For garden areas with hard, compacted soil, allow the water to soak in then wait and rewater to avoid runoff.


Never activate your underground sprinkler system in the winter. Any water remaining in the system will freeze and potentially damage the hardware causing a great deal of expense to detect and repair. And, always disconnect any hoses used for winter watering.

Some article information courtesy of Colorado State University Extension Office

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