Well, whether we like it or not, it's official: Old Man Winter has arrived in Southern Nevada. And while the severity of his icy grip here pales here in comparison to other parts of the country, he still can make life miserable for your landscaping and your pipes---unless you follow some simple tips from the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA).
For starters, mandatory winter watering restrictions, which limit landscape irrigation to one assigned day per week, are in effect through February 28. Make sure you water only on your assigned watering day; the restrictions apply to drip irrigation, and Sunday is not an optional watering day. To determine your watering group, visit snwa.com.
Meanwhile, the SNWA recommends you water your landscape in the midmorning hours to avoid afternoon winds, which could blow water onto sidewalks and streets instead of your lawn. This also will reduce the risk of icing that can occur if you water during the colder early morning or evening hours.
You'll also want to make sure your sprinkler system is ready for the chilly season. The SNWA recommends you turn on your sprinklers after you mow your lawn, and scan for broken or misaligned heads, as well as broken pipes. A twisted head could water your sidewalk instead of your grass.
Protecting your pipes and hoses from the cold weather also is vital in the winter months. Disconnect and drain garden hoses when not in use, and insulate your irrigation backflow device by draping a towel over it and cover with a bucket or protective cover that touches the ground. Wrapping exposed irrigation pipes with pipe insulation, insulated "faucet socks", an old towel or duct tape also will help protect your plumbing from the elements.
There's plenty you can do in the garden to maintain your landscaping's vitality and promote growth when winter's chill yields to the thaw of spring. Adding protective mulch on the soil around your plants will conserve water so you don't have to water as often. Also, be sure to stake new plants and water them deeply to prevent damage from winds and burning young leaves.
If you notice frost or a freeze has damaged a plant, leave it alone until warmer weather arrives and new growth appears. Pruning or transplanting a damaged plant during winter months can hurt or even kill it. The ideal time to prune trees and shrubs is in late winter, when plants are mostly dormant. Finish heavy pruning by mid-February, before buds show evidence of swelling. Don't prune more than one-quarter of the living tissue during the year.
Pool and spa owners also should take steps to protect their investment during the season. Running the filtration pump continuously during freezing weather can help avoid broken pipes and other weather-related damage. Be sure to maintain proper pool water level at all times, repair all air and water leaks, and remove and store all pool accessories in a clean, dry area. Also, consult your pool maintenance company for guidance and tips on winterizing your pool.
For more water-saving tips and information on the SNWA's many conservation and rebate programs, visit snwa.com.