While this fall has been great with the milder weather, it’s not been so great with the limited rain or snow. That milder weather led to many of our plants holding their leaves longer into the fall, which meant there was more moisture transpired through the leaves from the soil. Additionally, the warmer days in November, with many occasions where the temperature hit highs in the 50s to mid-60s, also led to increased soil moisture evaporation resulting in less and less soil moisture.
According to our local citizens who report rain or snow moisture events for CoCoRah (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network), we haven’t had the best moisture this year. From my professional perspective good, helpful rain events are at least one-half inch or more. That allows some reasonable penetration of the soil by the moisture, rather than just a settling of the dust. That deeper soil moisture helps the root systems of plants as a whole, which is pretty critical. That’s not to say if the moisture event is .25 to .49 inches that doesn’t help some — but certainly less since with lower moisture amounts there’s less penetration of the moisture into the soil.
In 2016, the Moab and Spanish Valley area had 11 moisture events of .25 to .49 and three of a half-inch to 1 inch, while Castle Valley had 18 moisture events of .25 to .49 and three of one-half to 1 inch. In 2017, however, at least through Dec. 1, the Moab and Spanish Valley area only had five moisture events of .25 to .49 and three of one-half to 1 inch, while Castle Valley had 14 of .25 to .49 and three of one-half to 1 inch. As you can see, we haven’t had as many of those .25 to half-inch events this year or more of the higher amounts.
This is one reason I have always recommended those living in places with gutters to position the downspouts into the yard since during any one moisture event that is the best use of any extra moisture. While saving it in a rain barrel is fine, unless you have a totally dry landscape, you are better off using that moisture as it’s available.
So where does that leave us for this winter?
In the western states it is always recommended that when we experience drier periods in December, January and February, our landscapes would benefit from having a good irrigation at least once per month. Considering the lack of moisture this fall it’s certainly something to consider even now. While it’s been quite a while since I have had calls about plants coming out desiccated at the end of winter it can happen. Since most of our plants roots are in the top couple feet of the soil, including trees, extended periods of no or limited moisture isn’t good. There is some limited transpiration with even deciduous plants during the winter and certainly more so with evergreens. Keep that in mind when there’s a warmer winter day and consider going outside and giving your plant’s roots a drink of water. After all, aren’t you happy for a drink of water when you are parched?
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Previous articles can be found on The Times Independent website. If you have a topic you would like to know more about call the Utah State University-Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558, or email Mike at email@example.com.
Thought for the day: “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”