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When do I stop watering?

Posted by manoaction 5B, FoCo, CO (My Page) on
Tue, Sep 4, 12 at 16:35

I have my trees on a drip irrigation system that is working well for me.

The first frosts start to happen here in mid October. When should I blow out my system and switch to watering my trees only occasionally by hand?

Right now the trees are in dirt basins, should I bury the base of threes in mulch for the winter?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: When do I stop watering?

Stop the drip when you are concerned the lines or controller might freeze. It's not normal to bury the base of fruit trees in winter. In some areas this can lead to vole damage. If your trees are sufficently hardy for your zone they shouldn't need protection via mulch. What is recommended in your zone is to paint the trunks white with interior latex paint diluted 50% with water.


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RE: When do I stop watering?

Fruitnut is correct that mulch may encourage voles but I like mulch anyway and control the voles and keep the mulch. I wouldn't mulch trees only for winter protection but would keep it there year-round. I do consider mulch a must for fall planted trees- first winter.

Trees under mulch establish more quickly, all other things being equal but it is commonly recommended to pull mulch back in the fall to reduce the threat of vole damage.


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RE: When do I stop watering?

Thanks for the replies. My system is pretty simple. How cold does it have to be to break a pipe?


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RE: When do I stop watering?

I'll chime in here, having lost at least $1000.00 worth of fruiting trees, vines, and shrubs several winters ago.

If your trees are in basins you have two options; you can either bring them inside into a garage or shed (provided it's insulated) before the ground freezes or you can dig holes and put them pot-and-all in the ground. NO MULCH!

I was not able to plant all of my trees before the ground froze and I lost a lot of trees to simply frozen roots, but the most damage happened because of mice. I don't think it was voles; I've never seen a vole in Colorado. I had dug a long ditch in which I planned to plant my grapes. I thought I could just drop my pots in the ditch and fill it up with leaves to protect the roots from freezing. When spring came I took a look and I thought I could die. All of my trees were sharpened on the trunk as if they were going to be used for arrows. Little tiny teeth marks were all along the base. I still have not replaced everything I lost.

For what it's worth, the few things that did survive the mice did make it through the winter also.

The winter before this happened I put them in the garage. They did fine there but I had to keep them watered some. The biggest problem was that they broke bud way too soon and the aphid problem was unbelievable. This was not the easiest way to go but I did not actually loose anything with this method.

If there is a reason you can't plant them then you can do either of these methods. If you can plant them, even in their pots, then I would suggest this. You avoid the need for watering, for the most part, and the insects will stay at bay.

If you need information regarding when to expect the first frost the link is below. I would be more concerned about winter protection than when to stop watering.

Here is a link that might be useful: Colorado Climate Charts


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RE: When do I stop watering?

MH, I believe the meaning of basins here is basins made in the soil to help capture water not some kind of above ground basin.


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RE: When do I stop watering?

harvestman,

Oh. Oops:)


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RE: When do I stop watering?

harvestman is right, I did mean basins made in the soil, but your post was really helpful.

I've got an order of a few more trees coming in for fall planting, but they aren't arriving until the first week of November which seems crazy late to me.

Based on your comments, I'm going to go ahead and plant since the ground isn't likely to be frozen yet.


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RE: When do I stop watering?

If you have trees coming in November it's basically a crap-shoot. Two years ago I planted garlic in November and the soil was fine. I would get your holes dug and prepared sooner and then, depending on the weather, maybe even put black plastic on your pile so that it is warm enough to put back when you get your trees. Also, I think planning some support system would be good too. If the ground is frozen you won't be able to pound in stakes.

If you have things ready for the trees you should be fine. The roots are very sensitive so make sure you get their roots covered quickly if it's freezing when they arrive. I planted most of my trees in the fall and they all did great the next spring, except, of course, the ones I mentioned.

I have found that it's sometimes necessary to water even in the winter in Colorado. When we get a warm day and it hasn't snowed in a while, get out the hose and water them. I didn't realize how dry my peaches got two winters ago and then we got several days below -15 and the peach blossoms freeze-dried. I did not get even one blossom that spring.

I've learned to keep a hose wound up in the basement so it's not brittle and likely to break. Then I can water when a nice day comes along.

Just don't mulch!:)

And by the way, welcome to GardenWeb!


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RE: When do I stop watering?

My season is a little shorter than Ft. Collins and winters are harsher, but I stop watering my fruit trees in mid-Sept., then after the trees have lost their leaves but close to when the ground freezes, I will give them a good watering. I also usually see some rain/snow when I'm not watering--maybe 1/2" during that 6-8 week period, sometimes an inch or more. With cooler weather and their starting to go into dormancy, they don't need as much water as they do in July either.

The reason I stop watering is to let them dry down a bit and encourage them to go into dormancy, then make sure they have good soil moisture going into winter once dormant.

It really doesn't make much difference for most fruit trees, but for ones that had a late growth spurt or ones that just don't seem to like to go dormant, the dryness seems to help encourage earlier dormancy and I've had problems in the past with trees that didn't want to go dormant, then got whacked by a sudden cold snap that froze the leaves off.

You don't need to drain your watering system until temps will get cold enough to freeze it--if above ground and the lines stay filled with water, I would drain around the time of first frost. If the lines are buried, then they just need to be drained before the ground starts freezing, probably in late October. You can always play it really safe, though, and drain soon and go to hose watering if it is convenient.


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RE: When do I stop watering?

Mulch helps stop soil from exposing roots to extreme cold when freeze-thaw causes cracking if there is inadequate snow cover to insulate. This is a real danger in fall planting trees in cold climates and probably why it is so often discouraged by experts. Mice can be poisoned or trapped out which I do at my own nursery where I've mulched hundreds of fruit trees for decades.

However, if voles (field mice or pine voles) aren't dealt with they can be very destructive and mulch does encourage them by providing shelter and cover.


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