Proper planning provides plentiful pollinating plants

Although winter in Colorado is still upon us, the promise and close reach of spring from glamorous seed catalogs and southern states entices our gardening spirit. Even though the excitement of our beloved growing season is still months away, our project lists can be carefully refined now to ease this transition and avoid unnecessary work or added expenses.

When planning your garden or landscape this far ahead, take a moment to imagine the big picture and the whole timeline. Look at what you have to start with, what the highlights and harvest of the season will bring, as well as the eventual harvesting and turning down toward autumn.

Write down your goals, ideals and items of interest, then work this list in reverse. While following this list back to the beginning, the inevitable brings us to the unappreciated reality of gardening: cleanup, maintenance and site preparation. Start by assessing any larger projects or items that may require additional services such as planting trees, building raised beds, or installing irrigation.

Scheduling visits to nurseries, tree farms and landscape centers can also bring a fresh perspective on what needs to be done. Once your projects have a plan, revisit any areas from last year that may need to be addressed before breaking ground. Removal of unwanted trees, shrubs and hardscape along with repairs to walkways or support structures can be done well in advance of any planting or seeding. If the project is time sensitive, can it be completed before the last frost or will it be a juggle of time as the ground is starting to thaw? Will the addition of a raised bed, a water feature or new layer of mulch be beneficial to build now, or once trees and hedges have been pruned back?

Again, considering the entire scope of your project will save time come spring. After planning a project, think about the care and maintenance that will also be involved. Such as the planting of new trees, shrubs and sod requiring consistent watering for the first few weeks.

Along side a potentially new maintenance schedule should be aligning the time investment needed for these projects with of the rest of the yearly calendar. Many of us would love to vigorously plant before a vacation or work trip and come back to a fuller garden, but the practicality should be to prioritize accordingly. Seeing a neighbor add new sod to their front yard might give you an extra nudge on the schedule, but it may be more beneficial to wait until the foot traffic around other planting slows down.

Just remember, the reward of a stunning yard and bountiful harvest will only be amplified by the satisfaction of foresight and proper planning and execution. Our lawns and gardens are a labor of love, and should be adjusted throughout the seasons.

Mindful Winter Watering

Water usage and preservation in Colorado can be a very dry subject, but little is discussed about landscape watering during the winter months. Mindful winter watering means a shift in thought that changes with the seasons as well as following some basic guidelines that will give your lawn, trees and shrubs a greater chance to not just survive, but thrive.

Healthy plants, during winter dormancy, need continued precipitation to maintain root development and reduce plant stress for the coming spring. Signs of plant stress include slower growth, weakened leaf and bud development or even sections of dead plants altogether. When spring approaches, this stress is not just caused by freezing temperatures or lack of sunlight, but by extended periods of dehydration.

Colorado averages 1.5 – 2.5 inches of precipitation per month during the spring and summer, and the rate drops to a shocking .5 – 1.5 inches during the fall and winter. Be aware that 10 inches of snow is equal to 1 inch of rain. The mindful approach to watering refers to knowing when, where and how much water should be used to give our cherished environment the best chance of survival.

Between the months of November and April, watering once to twice per month is sufficient. Once the night time temperature stays above freezing, you can follow your normal watering schedule. Watering during mid-morning to mid-day is actually preferred and allows the water to soak in thoroughly before freezing overnight. Along with this, the daytime temperature should be above 40*F with the ground being soft, not frozen or snow covered. The most critical months to water are March and April when new root development is forming.

Focus your attention on areas that are affected by high winds, direct sunlight and areas that receive increased reflected light and heat due to the Sun’s southern position. Newly planted lawns, trees shrubs and bulbs should also take priority if water usage becomes a concern. While lawn and turf are the most abundant spaces of our landscape, woody plants, trees and ornamental plants benefit as well. Avoid watering cacti, succulents and xeric plants that have already adapted to our semi-arid climate.

Using a hose and hand nozzle, portable lawn sprinkler or temporary soaker hose give the most control while watering selected sites in your landscape. Avoid using permanent sprinkler irrigation as it may have a chance of being damaged from freezing temperatures.

After each session of supplemental watering, remember to remove the hose from the spigot to prevent freezing and damaging pipes. Watering slowly and concisely is the best method of application and if you are unsure of how much water to use, place a cup, solid pot or bucket under the area being watered until you achieve a depth of .5 to 1” of water.

For further information, fundamental reading or to ask a question about gardening, visit the CSU extension website or contact your local CSU Extension office.