The leaves are changing and the temperatures are dropping – it’s finally feeling like fall!
One of the most popular questions we get asked is “How long do I have to keep watering my plants?” The answer is complicated. People often assume that since summer is known for growing and fall is when everything begins to die back, it’s time to stop watering. Not just yet.
In this article, we will be covering the importance of watering plants in the fall as well as when you can finally pack away the watering can for the colder months ahead.
Fall Watering – Why it’s important.
Fall is when perennials and shrubs begin using their energy to establish their roots. In the summer, they’re busy beginning leaf and flower growth and then fruit and seed production. The fall is time for them to take care of their root systems so they’re healthy and strong for next growing season. Fall is good for this because the soil is still warm from the hot summer sun. The warm days, cool nights and rainfall allow for the plants to anchor themselves into the ground to prepare for the winter ahead.
If the fall season is dry then the plants will become dehydrated and you may need to provide a drink of water every week to help the roots along. If you’re not sure if it has been a “dry fall” then a good tip is to recognize that if the temperature is warmer than average and it is reasonably windy, then continue to water. Wind can harm your plant’s tissue which can affect the water traveling down your plant’s roots.
Your plants are working hard to transition from growing season to dormant season. The fluids are being transitioned downwards which is why their leaves begin to fall off toward the end of fall. If your plants are not getting enough rainfall or water from you, then their leaves may begin to dry off and fall but this could be harmful to their buds and cause stress if it is too early in the season.
It is important to make sure that your plants are hydrated so that they have the adequate water in their systems to deal with the wind, colder temperatures and drying sun of winter. Drying out because of winter sun and wind is known as “winter desiccation” and it especially affects young evergreen plants.
When to stop watering in the fall
So we’ve talked about plants needing water going into the colder months, but on the other hand too much water around the roots when the ground is cold can also harm your plants. So what’s the happy medium?
New Trees & Shrubs (especially evergreens)
You should plan on watering them about once a week until the temperatures begin to dip into the 30s for a week straight. Sometimes we have a mild winter so if that is the case, you can hydrate your tree in the winter months if there has been a lack of precipitation. Make sure that the temperatures are above 40 degrees or else it will freeze and could cause damage.
Your perennial flowers need a adequate water until we get our first good “hard frost.” Once that occurs a lot of perennials will start to die back if they have not already. Similar to trees, begin winding down the water as the temperatures begin to drop below 40 degrees. I would be more concerned with new perennials getting too much water in the fall and ‘rotting out’ over the winter and early spring. With that said, rarely if ever – should you water perennials after October 31st.
Watering your plants during the morning when you are able is the best thing you can do for them. By watering in the morning, the soil and roots have time to soak up all the water because the temperatures drop in the evening.