Wind Down Watering for Winter

Your plants and lawn have settled down for their long winter’s nap. That means you can take a break from watering.

We’re often asked whether a landscape requires irrigation during the winter. While the answer can depend on the weather, for the most part your plants and lawn are preparing for winter dormancy. That means they don’t take in as much water this time of year.

Let’s talk water requirements. Deciduous plants (plants that lose their leaves) don’t need water for photosynthesis or to maintain their leaves since they have none. Evergreen and semi-evergreen plants do carry out some photosynthesis, albeit at a very slow rate.

That said, all plants need some water to maintain cellular activity and structure, and for hormone creation and movement. During normal winters when we can expect between 5 inches and 6 inches of rain, you can get away with watering just once. I recommend choosing one winter holiday to water.

In particularly dry winters, you may need to supplement rainfall with two or three watering events. When this occurs, choose a holiday once a month during winter. Depending on the severity of the weather, warm season grasses may need water once every 4 weeks. Native trees, shrubs, perennials and trees may need water once every 6-8 weeks.

When you do water, make sure it’s a deep, thorough soaking. Of course, any effective rainfall during that month would eliminate the need for additional water.

Also, remember that SAWS sewer charges are based on your average winter water use, as measured across three complete billing cycles from mid-November to mid-March. So watering your landscape less in those months can save you money throughout 2020.

Picture of Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson was a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System before retiring. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you're likely to find him hiking San Antonio's wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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