Winter desiccation, also known as winter burn, is a common type of winter injury that occurs in vegetation when the amount of water lost by chilly winter winds exceeds the amount of water the plant can draw up through its roots. The results are slow-to-green-up lawns or dead patches, perennial plants that are slow to emerge in spring, and browning/yellowing leaves and needles in evergreens and broad leaf trees. Chilly winds, dry conditions and frozen soils all contribute to this devastating condition.

However, winter desiccation can be deterred by maintaining proper vegetation precipitation during the late fall and early winter months and following a few other all-natural recommendations from the experts.

One of the primary ways to deter winter desiccation is to provide adequate water and nutrients to vegetation for as long as the ground is not frozen. Experts suggest one inch per week of water or saturation to the depth of 12 to 18 inches, along with using Brookside Agra's all-natural water conservation agent H2OExcel as a tool to reduce soil surface tension and allow hardened soils to absorb water and nutrients 3-5 times faster. Made from a proprietary blend of desert plant extracts, H2OExcel will not harm plants, animals or humans and has been proven to increase plant strength and root mass using less water and fertilizer.

"Increasing any plant's winter hardiness should include a good nutrient load going into dormancy. H2OExcel serves to increase the amount of plant-available forms of nutrients that are delivered to the crop prior to winter dormancy setting in. In addition to reducing water surface tension, it completes the system needed by the microbial life forms to convert existing soil nutrients into plant-available forms," said Ben Elliott, Brookside Agra soil and plant nutrition expert. "As ground freezing occurs, soil capillarity can be reduced, therefore when thawing occurs, grounds that are not treated with H2OExcel experience a water load that is not available in the root zone where ground temperatures can still be low. It then gives off excess moisture which is evaporated and lost. H2OExcel helps water to infiltrate the ground deeper and more efficiently. This effect increases the amount of water available to the plant throughout the winter even when there is a ground cover and freezing conditions. As long as there is adequate moisture in the root zone, desiccation effect is reduced."

H2O Excel, which can be blended with fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, is safe for use on golf course fairways, tee boxes and greens, crops, landscaping and vegetable gardens, among other uses. H2O Excel's product ingredients are on the Generally Recognized as Safe(GRAS) list, which is approved by both the FDA and AAFCO.

Additional expert-recommended options to manage winter desiccation include:

  • Using a burlap barrier and straw to cover vulnerable vegetation and deflect the wind.
  • Spreading a two-inch layer of organic mulch around the plant to cover the entire root system and reduce moisture loss.
  • Watering vegetation on warm days during January, February and March.
  • Observing plants in the spring when the ground begins to thaw and watering as needed if the rainfall is less than an inch per week.