Since we had that great snow, it seems like there should be enough moisture in the soil, right? Good question. The only real way to know is to pull some soil cores with a soil probe.
On Sunday, March 3, I sampled several places in my front and back yards. The results can be so interesting that I recommend you get your own soil probe. Here’s what I found in my yard.
The entire soil was moist in areas of my landscape that are typically very healthy. When you pull the core, you’ll notice a color change in the soil if there is a moisture difference– wet soil is darker than dry soil. The core in the picture on the right shows moisture more than twelve inches deep.
This is an ideal situation this time of year, because it means the entire root zone is moist.This sample was from area of my lawn that usually grows very well. I don’t need to winter water this area.
The soil at the tops of slopes were a little moist. The second photo is from the top of a slope in my backyard. You’ll notice the soil is dark (moist) until 3 inches deep. Below that, the soil is light colored (dry). This is a good start, but you want to get moisture farther down. The good news is when the top few inches of soil is moist, it’s easier to get the soil to accept additional water. I’m planning to water this area.
In some of the “toughest” areas of my landscape, the soil was completely dry. I have three large spruce trees in my yard. Their branches intercept snow and rain.Their roots are very competitive for soil moisture.
I struggle to grow any type of plant within 20 feet of the trunk. I sampled several places 15 feet away from the trunk, and the soil was totally dry, The plants that are surviving in these areas will be my first priority for winter watering.
All of these results make sense. Areas that collect the precipitation and let it soak into the soil have the healthiest plants. Water is such a critical factor for plant growth in this climate.
Areas where I shoveled snow onto the landscape had moisture deep into the soil profile. You can see in the last photo the remnants of snow I shoveled from the front entry onto the front lawn. Good news, it worked. That soil core was totally moist all the way down.
So what should you winter water? Tops of slopes, exposed areas, areas where trees compete with water are all important to winter water in the next week or so. Wait on the areas that got plenty of snow. The areas of your yard that are typically healthy can also wait a while.