Winter Drought and Fruit Crops
It has been a dry fall, do you need to water perennials?
It has been a dry fall and some forecasts predict a dry winter ahead. Plants do still need water in winter, even when they are completely dormant. Unfortunately there is not much research out there on how to deal with drought in fruit crops in winter. Most recommendations are based on trees and bushes in the home landscape.
A general recommendations for most perennial fruit crops is to supply a good watering in late fall or early winter, just as dormancy occurs and before the ground freezes. The idea is to build good soil moisture that will carry the plants through winter.
It is important to remember that in the fall, irrigation should be tapered off but not shut off entirely. This is particularly true when we have a long and warm fall seasons. Irrigation is reduced in the fall because plant’s water needs are less when fruit is not being produced.
However, it is clear that water should NOT be withheld completely as plant growth, including root growth and stem enlargement, continues for many crops in the fall. Making sure your plants don’t enter dormancy in a state of drought stress will ensure they are well equipped to deal with harsh winter temperatures.
Be aware of your soil type, on sandy ground supplemental watering may be needed, due to the low water holding capacity of this soil type. If supplemental watering is required in winter it is best to water at mid-day and when temperatures are above 40°F so water has time to soak into the ground before any late evening freezes.
Remember also that in general newly planted orchards or plantings (less than 1 year old) are more likely to experience drought stress than established plantings.
Irrigating in winter may be difficult depending on your irrigation system and plans for winterizing it.