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Winter Watering Guide: Caring for Newly Planted Trees During the Winter

Why is winter watering vital? 

In the fall and winter, trees drop their leaves and become dormant as they prepare for colder temperatures. However, newly planted trees experience the greatest growth in their root system during this time. Colorado often experiences dry periods during winter (two or more weeks without snow cover), which can leave roots susceptible to drying out, causing tree death or severe root damage. Not watering throughout the winter is the largest contributing factor to the mortality of newly planted trees. It is best to slowly give any newly planted trees 10-15 gallons of water before putting the hose away for the winter and to supplement with 10-15 gallons of water during dry periods and when temperatures are above 40 degrees. Do not water when temperatures are near or below freezing.   

Watering routine: 

  • Before winter: Continue to water your tree(s) until the ground freezes. Slowly (trickle over several hours) give your newly planted tree 10-15 gallons of water. Don’t forget to disconnect your hose so that it doesn’t freeze.  
  • During winter: Water your tree twice a month, with 10-15 gallons of water if the ground isn’t frozen. This is best done when the temperature is around 40 degrees and at mid-day to allow water to soak in before the ground freezes at night. Continue to check the moisture level of the root ball (the main mass of roots directly beneath the trunk), especially during long periods without snow cover.  

  • Following spring and summer: Continue to water the trees(s) once a week with 10-15 gallons of water and more when the weather is dry, windy or we have prolonged periods of drought and sunshine.   

Additional tree care tips for the winter: 

  • Mulch the base: Apply 2 to 4 inches of wood chips, bark or other organic mulch near the base of the tree, but not against it, to reduce soil evaporation, improve water absorption and insulate against temperature extremes. Some community recycling programs like Denver Recycles provide wood chips free of charge.  

Proper tree care during the winter months is crucial for tree health and survival. Following these watering and tree care tips can help your trees continue to grow and thrive. For additional information, read more from the Colorado State Forest Service on winter tree watering.

Don’t judge a tree by its cover: Winter tree & EAB treatment guide

DENVER — Although winter is the time when trees go dormant, it is a good time to start planning for tree care. It might be hard to tell in the winter, but not all ash trees are healthy and thriving. They may look okay on the outside, but the inside might be another story, and no matter the time of year a tree professional can help assess your tree.

For example, a large ash tree in Louisville was recently removed causing a bit of stir in the neighborhood. The tree provided valuable shade to neighboring houses close to the downtown area. But, despite the healthy exterior, what couldn’t be seen on the outside was that the center of the tree was hollow. A hollow tree can be a major safety issue.

“A cavity in a living tree can contribute to a tree being unsafe,” said Sara Davis, Urban Forestry Manager, Office of the City Forester, City and County of Denver. “When a tree develops problems, it is frequently difficult to decide when to replace or remove it. The one option you shouldn’t consider, however, is treating or replacing your ash tree yourself if you’re not a licensed tree professional.”

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