To water or not to water, that is often a question we face in the winter time. It is a question that cannot be answered without asking more questions: Have the rains started in earnest? Are we having a wet winter? Will there be long dry spells?
These are all questions that we don’t really know the answers to at this point, so you just have to wait and see. But there are a few things to think about!
If you typically have freezing temperatures in the winter (I had my first hard freeze on November 9…which is an entire month later than normal for my neck of the woods) then you should dismantle your timer. By this I mean, unscrew it from the faucet and the connecting poly tubing, and then connect the poly tubing back to the faucet, minus the timer.
Why should you bother with this? The plastic parts inside (and sometimes outside) the timer may still contain water, which will contract and expand when it freezes, causing the plastic bits to crack inside. This will lead to annoying and expensive leaks when you try to run it in the spring (if you are in our Sierra Gardens program, please note we cannot replace everyone’s timer every year, so please take care of the timer you’ve got and disconnect it and store it off the faucet for the winter!). It will be fine stored in a shed outside, just get it off the faucet. It’s good to remove the batteries as well, and start fresh in the spring.
There is no need to dismantle the drip system itself…it can generally sustain the cold temps, so I recommend you leave the drip lines in place.
If we have a “typical” rainy winter, the chances are that you won’t have to do any supplemental watering. But it is difficult to predict what is typical anymore, so you will need to pay attention. If we have a long dry spell at any time over the winter, check in with your plants. Stick your fingers into the soil. Does it feel wet? Then maybe you’re ok. Does it feel dry? Then you probably need to water. Your drip system will still be intact and hooked up minus the timer, so just run it as necessary (but pay attention, since your timer won’t be set up to turn it off).
The key here is checking in with your garden periodically, especially if it hasn’t rained for awhile. There is really no good way to check for soil moisture without sticking your hands in the soil. Don’t assume you know what’s going on beneath the surface just by looking!
Pull away the straw mulch and test the soil for moisture. The straw mulch will help it retain moisture longer than if it wasn’t there, and your soil will also not dry out as quickly when the temperatures are lower. If we have periodic rains the likelihood of things drying out is low, but not impossible!
You may have garlic and possibly a cover crop in the ground, along with your fall planting. With regular water, it should sprout within a couple of weeks. Other than water and perhaps a late winter fertilization boost for your garlic (see last month’s blog, “All About Garlic”) you really don’t need to do a whole lot, maybe some weeding.
Mostly, winter is a time to relax, enjoy the bounty of fall, and plan your spring garden!
Enjoy a happy and safe holiday season!
Sierra Gardens Coordinator