Watering Garage Stored Trees in Winter

JBP_85

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Hi Everyone,
I have my trees (Trident Maples, Bald Cypress, Dawn Redwood, Eastern Red Cedar) in my unheated garage at the moment due to the snow and sleet we've been having here in Northern Va. Nighttime temps over the next few days will dip down into the low 20s. I moved the trees into a Styrofoam cooler and loosely covered them with plastic in an effort to keep them a little more insulated. I just got these trees and they're all in small 3" or 3.5" nursery pots. They could use some watering (checked with a chopstick and a moisture meter) but I'm afraid if I water them they'll get damaged when the temp drops overnight. Is it safe to water them and return them to the cooler or should I wait until temps reach levels above freezing?
 

JudyB

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Hi Everyone,
I have my trees (Trident Maples, Bald Cypress, Dawn Redwood, Eastern Red Cedar) in my unheated garage at the moment due to the snow and sleet we've been having here in Northern Va. Nighttime temps over the next few days will dip down into the low 20s. I moved the trees into a Styrofoam cooler and loosely covered them with plastic in an effort to keep them a little more insulated. I just got these trees and they're all in small 3" or 3.5" nursery pots. They could use some watering (checked with a chopstick and a moisture meter) but I'm afraid if I water them they'll get damaged when the temp drops overnight. Is it safe to water them and return them to the cooler or should I wait until temps reach levels above freezing?
I think that if they need water, then water them. It's not good to water frozen soil, but unfrozen dry soil is ok to water. Just make sure they drain out and don't let them sit in water.
 

Waldo

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If you can keep your plants against the house wall of the garage, assuming it's an attached garage you will probably have enough heat loss to protect the trees . I have a remote sensor that send the temp of the plant location to a remote terminal. A good way to keep track of the temp near your plants.
 

JBP_85

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So the substrate is kind of a mixed bag as the trees are still in the nursery planters I received them in. So one of my tridents (1st pic) my cypress and redwood are also in the same mix. I have two other tridents that are in a coarser mix (2nd pic). The cooler doesn’t have any drainage holes. I just moved them into it last night when I saw the temp falling but as I said they’re relatively dry so no drainage water has collected in the bottom of the cooler.
 

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LittleDingus

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Unless temps are below freezing, I water both my garage and outdoor in pot trees at least once a week in the winter. How much water depends on how dry they look. But I try to strictly keep to at least once a week so that I can have a "deliberate gaze" at all my plants.

A "deliberate gaze" is one that focuses on the individual tree and looks for signs of change. The deliberate attention to each tree on a regular basis even (especially!) during the thick of winter is probably more important than routine watering. I can catch problems earlier that way! Sometimes I find a critter had been digging, or that, yes, the wind was stronger than I thought and the pots are much drier now and need more water, etc...
 

Paradox

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Hi Everyone,
I have my trees (Trident Maples, Bald Cypress, Dawn Redwood, Eastern Red Cedar) in my unheated garage at the moment due to the snow and sleet we've been having here in Northern Va. Nighttime temps over the next few days will dip down into the low 20s. I moved the trees into a Styrofoam cooler and loosely covered them with plastic in an effort to keep them a little more insulated. I just got these trees and they're all in small 3" or 3.5" nursery pots. They could use some watering (checked with a chopstick and a moisture meter) but I'm afraid if I water them they'll get damaged when the temp drops overnight. Is it safe to water them and return them to the cooler or should I wait until temps reach levels above freezing?

Is it an attached garage with a door that closes?
The only place in my attached garage that has gotten cold enough to freeze a bucket of water was next to the door.
My trees are about 8 feet away from that in the middle of the garage and I cant recall those trees ever getting frozen as long as I kept the door closed.
I water them when they are almost dry which is usually about once a week sometimes a day or two less, sometimes more
 

JBP_85

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Is it an attached garage with a door that closes?
The only place in my attached garage that has gotten cold enough to freeze a bucket of water was next to the door.
My trees are about 8 feet away from that in the middle of the garage and I cant recall those trees ever getting frozen as long as I kept the door closed.
I water them when they are almost dry which is usually about once a week sometimes a day or two less, sometimes more
Thanks for the insights! It’s an attached garage and I keep the door closed. They’re against the interior wall closest to the entry to the main house. I definitely feel better about watering them!
 

LittleDingus

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Thanks for the insights! It’s an attached garage and I keep the door closed. They’re against the interior wall closest to the entry to the main house. I definitely feel better about watering them!

If the garage is attached, watering isn't your only problem. I have two sets of trees in my garage at the moment. My redwoods and live oaks are on the interior wall under lights. Last night it was ~20F outside but ~50F under those trees. I have a second set right next to the garage door. Those were in the low 40F at the same time.

As the winter ends, prolonged exposures to temps above 60F might start to wake your trees up. I can say from experience that my maples and dawn redwoods started budding out in the garage 2 weeks or more earlier than their outdoor brethren this past spring. Our weather was such that I was able to safely move them outdoors...but that's not always the case.
 

JBP_85

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If the garage is attached, watering isn't your only problem. I have two sets of trees in my garage at the moment. My redwoods and live oaks are on the interior wall under lights. Last night it was ~20F outside but ~50F under those trees. I have a second set right next to the garage door. Those were in the low 40F at the same time.

As the winter ends, prolonged exposures to temps above 60F might start to wake your trees up. I can say from experience that my maples and dawn redwoods started budding out in the garage 2 weeks or more earlier than their outdoor brethren this past spring. Our weather was such that I was able to safely move them outdoors...but that's not always the case.
I hadn’t considered them budding early. I’ll keep this in mind as Spring approaches. The garage windows have a southern exposure and let’s in the sunlight. I have them positioned so that they get good light throughout the day.
 

LittleDingus

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I hadn’t considered them budding early. I’ll keep this in mind as Spring approaches. The garage windows have a southern exposure and let’s in the sunlight. I have them positioned so that they get good light throughout the day.
Even full exposure through a single pane of glass can cut the intensity 50% or more. Plus, windows cast a "shadow" so any one spot doesn't get direct light for long, typically. Trees that bud early in low light will etiolate. The internodes can get very long as the new growth stretches for the light. Depending on the species, it's development status, etc...the longer internodes can be a problem for future design.

Again, all this is manageable...and may not even happen in your specific situation...just something to be on the lookout for.
 

JBP_85

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Even full exposure through a single pane of glass can cut the intensity 50% or more. Plus, windows cast a "shadow" so any one spot doesn't get direct light for long, typically. Trees that bud early in low light will etiolate. The internodes can get very long as the new growth stretches for the light. Depending on the species, it's development status, etc...the longer internodes can be a problem for future design.

Again, all this is manageable...and may not even happen in your specific situation...just something to be on the lookout for.
Thanks for the heads up! Gave me something to read up on and research.
 

Carol 83

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I have a couple of crape myrtles, a Mulberry and a Satsuki in my detached, unheated garage. I water them when needed, usually once a week.
 

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