Outdoor watering during dry winters

Santa Fe xeriscape still green in November 2021.

Drought tolerant or xeriscape gardening makes a huge difference in the amount of water you’ll have to apply to your landscape. When the cold weather moves in, vegetation goes dormant and roots will largely rely on rain or snowfall. But for those exceptionally dry, warm winter seasons we offer some winter watering guidelines to consider.

Apply mulch to your landscape or you can just “leave the leaves.” Leaving fallen leaves provides some natural mulching and it also provides much-needed habitat and cover for pollinators and insects during winter.

In order for your plants to transition into a dormant state, water is necessary for a chemical change that’s needed for your vegetation to be able to adapt to a frozen ground. So for those exceptionally warm, dry winters a good rule of thumb is to water your landscape every 2 or 3 weeks as long as the ground isn’t frozen. The amount of fall and winter precipitation received should be taken into account.

Be sure to use your indoor grey water whenever possible, especially for your trees. Trees can be more finicky because they’re susceptible to root and branch die-back, leading to insect and disease problems. Capture water in a bucket while you wait for your shower water to warm up and also when you’re rinsing veggies in the kitchen sink. A small bucket will fill up before you know it and your trees will appreciate those extra gallons every week whether it’s a dry or snowy winter.

Finally, purchase a snow shovel if you don’t already have one. We’re expecting a dry winter but when the  snow does come, be prepared to shovel that snow onto your trees and other vegetation, especially from the hardscaped areas.

The bottom line is that we want our landscapes to thrive while also being mindful of water use. Waterwise pollinator landscaping is the best approach for Santa Fe because it considers the needs of pollinators while also supporting our urban forest with vegetation that is water and climate appropriate.