By Sharon Faircloth, Master Gardener
We’re in the throws of another record, dry, winter. The dry wind that brings those unseasonably warm days in the winter, cause substantial damage. The seed catalogs are coming in the mail so spring MUST be just around the corner. Hopefully, we’ll get feet of that lovely moisture-laden snow in March and April to help mitigate the stress created from so little precipitation (without the damage that can come along with that wet heavy snow)!
In the meantime, if you have no snow cover but do have water rights, consider watering trees, shrubs and susceptible plants. Trees that are particularly susceptible are spruce, alders, mountain yews, maples, mountain ashes and conifers. Watering can be done when temperatures can get to about 40 degrees by mid-day. Ideally, you’d like to be able to get the water down about twelve inches and to give the enough time to soak in before temperatures drop. Also, try to water to the drip line and beyond if possible. If you’re on a well and watering outside is prohibited, you may want to contact a local arborist for a price to provide water, or look into getting a cistern. Our trees are precious and water will protect that investment.
Some ways to mitigate dryness around all plantings is to use mulch. Mulch can reduce moisture loss as much as 25-50%. It also protects soil against temperature extremes and erosion. Try applying 2-4 inches of heavier weight mulch away from the base out the drip line.
Colorado native plants are an excellent choice for your landscape. Natives are already acclimated to our environment, soil and local conditions. They are unique and attract a wide variety of wildlife including bees, birds and butterflies. They are also more pest and disease resistant than non-natives when planted in their optimum environment. Natives typically require little maintenance and resources, once established. There is usually little need for fertilizing or soil amendment; just keep weeds away and then let the plants go to seed in the fall. Clean out the dead stuff in the spring and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. As always, you have to choose the right plant for the right place for the best chance for success.
There are a number of ways to incorporate natives into your landscape. You won’t find natives at your local box store but there are local garden centers that source them and check out the Colorado Native Plant Society website for plant sales. You can also start from seed.
Combining plants and seed will give you a bigger impact faster. It’s very important to use the scientific names when choosing, as there are a number of similar varieties that are not native. Also, if you’ve ever studied the Noxious Weed website, you may have seen plants that you like and wonder why they are being demonized. One of the biggest problems with the “noxious weeds” are they are not native and have become invasive. You will find many examples of very similar plants that are native for you to choose from.
As in life, we can’t control the elements but we can control how we react and deal with them. We live in a magical environment where we have many, many challenges. Try incorporating natives into your landscape for a unique, water-wise alternative. If you’re looking for a new challenge, look into being a Native Plant Master! (http://conativeplantmaster.colostate.edu/)
Native Trees: CSU Extension Fact Sheet 7.421extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard.../native-trees-for-colorado-landscapes-7-421
Native Shrubs: CSU Extension Fact Sheet 7.422 extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/.../native-shrubs-for-colorado-landscapes-7-422
Colorado Native Plant Society: https://conps.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Low-Water-Native-Plants-for-CO-Gardens-Mountains.pdf
Native Plant Master program: http://conativeplantmaster.colostate.edu/