Issue: November 9, 1998

Disconnect garden hose before freezing weather


I was told that I must disconnect my garden hose in the fall. It is a lot of trouble taking it out and reconnecting it to use. So, my question is why am I told to disconnect the hose? Don't I still need to water plants in the fall?


Yes, it is good to disconnect the garden hose in the fall. Yes, you do still need to irrigate plants in the fall and winter. The reason for disconnecting the garden hose from the hose tap is that on cold nights ice will form in the garden hose, and since there is usually a direct water connection through the valve the ice can move into the water lines and into the home.

As we were taught in school, water is a unique liquid; it expands as it cools and freezes. Once the ice starts forming, having first blocked any pressure release through the garden hose, pressure builds up in the water lines in the home. Then, somewhere where there is a weak spot in the water line (maybe many feet from the wall), the water line may break and begin to leak. Severe water damage to the home may result. Consider that it is very expensive to repair damage to the water line once it enters the home, so it is worth the extra trouble of disconnecting and reconnecting the garden hose. In the summer when there is no danger of freezing temperatures, this is not a problem.

You also asked if it was necessary to water in the fall and winter. Plants are alive even when they are dormant, just as we are alive when we sleep. Their physiological processes continue, admittedly at a reduced rate, but never the less they continue. Water is essential for the continued health of the plant. Because of the reduced rate of the physiological processes and because of the reduced evaporation at lower temperatures, water should be applied less frequently. During the autumn when the weather is cool, water once a week. During warm spells, you may need to water twice a week, especially if it is windy. In the winter, once-a-month irrigation is usually sufficient; during windy warm periods additional water may be necessary. In the late winter, often one of our very dry periods, it is important to ensure that there is moisture in the soil for trees, shrubs, perennials, and bulb plants.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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