East Idaho’s Warm Winter and Early Spring

Kalie Larkin Expert Advice, Plant Care, Sprinkler Systems, Tree Care Leave a Comment

What a Warm Winter and Early Spring Means for Your Landscape

We’ve all been enjoying the beautiful March with the warm temperatures and clear days. It has been almost idyllic for homeowners and businesses alike. Though beautiful, there are a couple of concerns that and early spring and warm winter brings to mind. The first being whether or not we should be turning on our sprinkler systems (What if the weather turns cold and freezes?) and the second being how a warm March will affect the pests and insects we will be seeing this year.

Sprinkler System Startup

Due to the fact that plants and lawns are starting to show signs of life, people are debating whether or not they should turn on their sprinkler systems. The main reason in favor of turning them on is how dry things are. Even with a couple of small rain storms getting moisture to our plants, the wind is pulling it right back out. This creates an overall dehydrating effect. As we can never tell what Mother Nature has in store for us we cannot guarantee it will continue to stay oddly warm. It is likely we will get a couple of surprise freezes coming our way. Even if we do get a couple of cold days back down in the 20’s, the ground temperature will stay high enough to keep the underground portions of a sprinkler system from freezing. There are parts of East Idaho that require the backflow preventer to be above ground. If you are in one of those areas, it is highly recommended that if you have turned your sprinkler system on to be aware of any imminent cold nights and get a blanket or two wrapped around it.

The other main concern for those who have turned their sprinkler system on is how long to be running sprinklers. When it is still this early in the season it is best to not set up the clock to be running automatically until we are no longer in danger of a hard freeze. This is especially true if you do not want to wake up to an icy wonderland in your yard. Not only is the ice somewhat frustrating, it can cause die-back in junipers and evergreen shrubs that are iced as well as freezing off the first set of buds on deciduous plant material. This potentially makes the evergreens permanently unsightly and the deciduous plants slow to leaf out. It is recommended to manually have your system run through a full cycle about once a week depending on the weather. The cycle should be long enough to thoroughly water the plant material (including trees) throughout the yard.

Expect Tree Pests Early

The second concern that came to mind when thinking of a warm winter is how it affects insects and diseases we typically deal with here. If we have a typical winter we can anticipate that the pests will arrive around the same time each year. We need to remember that a calendar means absolutely nothing to a Pine Scale. All they care about is how warm or cold has it been and for how long. In other words, they are more attuned to the number of degree days they have had than they are to a specific calendar date.

A degree day is calculated by taking any given day’s average temperature and subtracting the base temperature for the area. If the result is a positive number that is the number of degree days added to your yearly total, if it is negative it is just said to always be zero as we don’t count negative degree days.  As of this point for East Idaho, we are approximately ten times further ahead in the number of degree days than our 15 year average. Unfortunately the insects like a nice warm winter as much as we do. This means we should be on an early lookout for symptoms and evidences of time sensitive pests such as Apple Codling Moth, Ash Borer, Pine Scale and Pitch Moth, to name a few. Unless we start to get some colder temperatures we anticipate that these and other treatments will need to be done at an earlier time to make sure we do not lose effectiveness.

If you have any questions or concerns about your applications or for your specific sprinkler system please feel free to call our office at 208-523-5296!

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