It's been a surprisingly dry winter for the Sierra and Great Basin. So dry, in fact, that gardeners needed to compensate for lact of rain and snow by watering their trees, perennials and lawns from time to time during the cold winter months. But if your watering efforts were too little, too late, damage and die back, especially with plants that are strangers to the desert to begin with, are probably the inevitable results.
Some plants will survive and recover. Some will die. As the soil begins to warm with night temperatures rising, the damage will become more evident. Many drought tolerant plants -- the yucca, agave, hardy cacti and others -- will probably be just fine. Plants with deeper root systems might send up their new spring growth like nothing strange happened at all. Time will tell.
If you keep a gardening journal with maps for locating and tracking your plants, it will be easier to tell what's been lost. Whatever the case, this is the time of year to work on preparing and improving the soil for the typically hot, dry growing season to come. If there was little water in the winter, we can most definitely expect more of the same for summer.
Right now, though, as the lack of water continues, it's important to add moisture to your soil, especially for your large trees and shrubs, as well as your less drought tolerant perennials. For large trees and shrubs, twice a month, slowly soak the dripline areas (away from the trunk toward the outer edges of their branches), at least to a depth of 8 inches. Do this slowly so that the water does not run off, but rather soaks in.