For the Time Being

For most of us, winter watering means dragging a hose.

For most of us, winter watering means dragging a hose.

It’s still devastatingly dry. In oreder to keep plants, shrubs, lawn, and soil alive in your Eastern Colorado landscape, you’ll more than likely need to water.

Here are some tips:

  • The best way to know if you need to water, is to poke a blade six inches into the soil, open a wedge and feel it. If it feels moist or is frozen, no need to water.
  • Check your soil at least every three weeks.
  • Don’t rely on a little bit of snow to do the trick. It often takes 10 inches of snow to equal one inch of rain.
  • Water when the temperature is above 40 degrees.
  • The best hours of the day for watering are usually between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. However, on very warm days, that window may be bigger.

Your neighbors, your wife, or your best friends might ask, “Why are you watering? Everything’s dead!”

That’s a perfect time to shine your intelligence. “They’re not dead. They’re dormant.”

There’s a big difference, and you know it.

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Why Wait for Fall

I first discovered fall planting about a decade ago. How? Springtime is too busy to plant in my own garden while keeping up with client demands. Summer? Well, it’s just too darned hot for both the planter and the newly planted.

Great things happen after the first of August, however.

First, nights get longer and generally cooler. This means that even if the day is hot, there’s often a respite between dusk and dawn — for garden and gardener alike. Longer, cooler nights help keep moisture in plants and soil. Stress levels go down.

Near the beginning of September, nights have become long enough to trigger changes in plant processes. What we notice takes place above ground — greatly diminished growth, the yellowing of some leaves, and a mellowing and quieting of most blooming activity. What we can’t see: Below the surface, roots are growing.

Growing underground in September, this new installation will start filling in next spring.

The convergence of lower overall stress and root growth make for excellent planting conditions. There is less opportunity for transplant shock. Even better, there is a good chance the new plant will root out in the still-warm soil creating a stronger plant next spring.

Another advantage of fall planting is cost saving. Garden centers regularly offer great bargains to clear their shelves. And, because it’s cooler you won’t be spending as much time and money keeping new plants hydrated.

Most plants benefit from dividing, transplanting, and planting in the early fall — from mid-August to the Autumnal equinox. This includes irises, daylilies, perennials, ornamental grasses, deciduous and evergreen shrubs, and small trees. Some sources say that grasses and evergreens do best if planted in the spring, but I can’t say I’ve found that to be true. Trees may also do quite well if planted after they’ve dropped their leaves in October.

You’ll want to get all your planting done by October. Not that all your plants will turn into pumpkins after October 1. It’s just you’ll want time to put in bulbs for spring.

Speaking of bulbs: Have  you placed your orders?