Winter is here, but plants still need water |

Winter is here, but plants still need water

JoAnne Skelly

The recent wet weather is good news for plants. A deep watering before winter’s chill sets in will make for healthier plants in the spring, especially trees.

Concerning this winter’s projected precipitation, I read an article in the Nevada Appeal last week that said this winter’s storms would be affected by the “pineapple express” – a series of warm, wet storms spaced exactly 45 days apart.

The 1997 flood occurred during a pineapple express year. The snow, or infamous “Sierra cement,” was followed by a warm rain that sent the melting snow down into the valleys. Carson City, Reno, Douglas County and Washoe Valley were a mess for days.

This last storm was definitely warm and wet. If the 45-days prediction holds true, the next storm will arrive Jan. 11. We can only wait and see.

If the weather stays dry until Jan. 11, you will need to water your trees and shrubs at least once before then, as trees and shrubs need water at least once a month during the winter. Newly planted trees and shrubs may need water more often if the weather is not only dry, but also warm. Lawns and perennials should be fine without additional watering between storms.

Predicting the amount of snow or rain in Nevada is darn near impossible. It may be warm and wet, warm and dry, cold and wet, or cold and dry this winter. As Nevada gardeners, we have to prepare for every contingency, so winterize your yard.

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Mulch your roses above the graft to protect them, and spray the stalks with an antidesiccant – a wax-like substance that holds in the moisture. Use the same product on evergreens to prevent them from drying out. Wrap young tree trunks with tree wrap, pantihose or cardboard to shade them from the low winter sun.

A Master Gardener from Elko gave me a spray recipe to protect tender plants. He uses it primarily in the spring to protect new vegetables and flowers, but says it could work for marginal plants during the winter. I don’t know if it works, but if anyone wants to try it and let me know, I will share the information.

Here is the recipe: Five parts warm water, one part hydrogen peroxide, three teaspoons sugar and a drop of liquid soap in a 28-ounce spray bottle. Mix all the ingredients together until the sugar dissolves. Spray the mixture on your plants outdoors, and reapply it every two to three weeks, especially in spring as the new tender buds come out.

For more information, e-mail or call me at 887-2252. You can “Ask a Master Gardener” by e-mailing or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at

— JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.