Q. A friend of mine told me not to put my garden hose away until we get a frost so that I can water my trees and shrubs. Isn't that awfully late?
A. Keep that garden hose handy until the first frost. Hydration will support the root systems of your trees, shrubs and perennials as winter comes our way. Just as we humans need water year round, so do our trees, shrubs and perennial root systems. And while our winters generally include moisture in the form of rain, sleet and snow, watering your plants well into fall will prepare them for the winter season in Illinois.
For those of you with evergreens, be sure to water them until the ground freezes. Giving them water throughout the fall season will help minimize damage to their needles that result from blustery winds and freezing temperatures.
Also take care to give your shrubs and perennials water. They, too, need water to support their root systems during our harsh winters. You do not need to water as much as you may in the summer months but should continue to water every 10 days or so throughout the fall.
Ideally, your trees, shrubs and perennials will benefit most from either the use of a soaker hose or drip system. It's recommended that you allow the water to seep into the root system for about 30 minutes to an hour under each tree or shrub. Set your hose to a slow stream to ensure that it is soaking in. This will ensure the roots are well hydrated as we head into winter. You'll find that giving your trees, shrubs and perennials some good hydrating during the fall will support their growth as spring arrives.
So keep your hose handy and give your trees, shrubs and perennials some much needed water this fall. As the first frost makes it presence known, you can then drain your hose and store it for the winter.
-- Wendy Reiner
• Provided by Master Gardeners through the Master Gardener Answer Desk, Friendship Park Conservatory, Des Plaines, and University of Illinois Extension, North Cook Branch Office, Arlington Heights. Call (847) 298-3502 Monday, Wednesday and Saturday or (847) 201-4176, ext. 14, on Fridays. Visit web.extension.illinois.edu/mg.