After recent snows gave them a dose of moisture, and with temperatures heating up along the Front Range, early spring bulbs are popping up in landscapes and giving us a hint of the color to come. Crocuses, hyacinths, even some daffodils, and tulips can be spotted in gardens and flower beds.
The warm days might inspire you to add some color to your landscape. However, keep in mind that April in Colorado could still bring us heavy snowfall or even a freeze. Wait at least six weeks to plant most annuals.
If you must plant flowers soon, consider cool-hardy pansies.
When purchasing, check with garden center staff that the flowers are ready to plant. Pansies should be hardened off before putting them in the ground. If they have been kept outdoors at the garden center, they are probably hardened off and ready to plant.
Pansies that have not yet been hardened off need some protected outside time to get used to the outdoors. They need to adjust to night-time temps more than they need sunshine. Keep them outside on the patio in a protected area for about five nights before planting. If there is a frost or hard freeze, bring them indoors.
Once planted, pansies are frost hardy but will be seriously damaged by a hard freeze. If temps fall below 28 degrees, protect the plants from freeze damage like you would annuals in the early fall. Cover them with household items like sheets, blankets or towels – not plastic.
Gardening and landscape care can be a healthy hobby that helps us get outdoors and moving around. But proper form is important to avoid discomfort or injury.
Vary activities and tasks frequently and include rest periods in between to help reduce the strain from repetitive motions. If hands start to tingle or the wrist and fingers hurt or feel numb, this is a signal to take a break and switch to a different task.
Monitor positions and posture while gardening. Orienting the body incorrectly or uncomfortably even for just a moment can lead to pain and injury. For example, lift with the legs instead of the back.
Chose ergonomic tools. Small hand tools such as cultivators, weeding devices and pruners and even larger implements come in an assortment of ergonomic models. There are also tools for left-handed people and special tools developed for people with arthritis.
Simple tips to keep your hands more comfortable and pain-free during the season ahead:
During cooler periods such as early spring, garden during the warmest time of the day as cooler temps can impact movement and aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome.
Use wrist supports to keep the wrist in a neutral or immobilized position.
Avoid pushing with the thumb whenever possible.
Avoid pounding or pushing with your hands.
Use a full grip when you pick up and move tools, containers and other materials instead of pinching and lifting them with your fingers.
Rely on a drip irrigation system to water the garden and a sprinkler system throughout your landscape to water the lawn and other plants. This relieves you of the chore of grabbing onto and dragging hoses around the yard and attaching/un-attaching the sprinklers. The time saved on watering alone will give you more time to relax. Your muscles and joints will appreciate the break in the action to recover from those gardening tasks you absolutely need to do.
It’s too early to start planting, but it’s a good time to make a plan for a successful landscape this year. Recent heavy snowfall was much-needed, but it has not eliminated drought in the state, so be sure that your landscape plans are strategic and water-wise.
Planning a water-wise landscape
Start with the sprinkler system. When water is scarce, sprinklers need to be at maximum efficiency so that every drop you use and pay for has a purpose. Schedule your service now, before irrigation professionals are booked up.
If you’ve never had a professional audit of your system, do it this year. Make the repairs that keep your plants healthy and stop water waste.
Then consider some water-efficient upgrades like adding more drip irrigation or better nozzles on the sprinkler heads.
See what rebates might be available from water providers and cities for system upgrades. They can help cover your costs.
Keep up with maintenance. Poor maintenance practices lead to compromised plants that can be susceptible to insect damage and diseases. If your plants are drought-stressed now, their immune factor is already low.
Clean out the winter plant debris in beds where problems can start.
Consult a landscape professional about pruning non-flowering trees and shrubs to promote natural growth and vigor and about whether your lawn could benefit from springtime aeration.
Put the right plant in the right place. A water-wise landscape doesn’t have to be drab and full of rocks. Use plants that are meant to be grown here in Colorado’s conditions, and you can still have a vibrant, colorful landscape.
Grow some veggies in containers and water efficiently using drip irrigation.
Ask the experts. Whether you hire a pro or DIY, consult the experts before you choose what to plant. Reliable sources include CSU Extension, Plant Select®, Colorado Native Plant Society, and water providers like Colorado Springs Utilities, Denver Water, and Northern Water. They offer resources ranging from garden designs and watering schedules to grants for upgrading to a water-wise landscape.
A water-wise landscape will not only save water but also save you time and money while delivering many benefits.
It’s still winter-spring officially begins March 20—and heavy snowfall predicted this weekend is a reminder that despite the change in season, March is historically Colorado’s snowiest month.
Deep snowfalls—especially spring snow that tends to be heavier and wetter than powdery winter snow—can break tree limbs, smother and crush ornamental grasses and splay upright evergreens.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as we head into this snowy weekend.
Before the storm:
Got early bulbs sprouting? Protect them from breakage and damage from heavy snow loa ad. Early bulbs such as crocuses are more likely to weather the cold temps, but if the stems are greater than 2-3” tall, they could break under the snow, preventing those beautiful blooms.
Household items such as one-gallon or larger plant containers, empty buckets or even a sturdy bowl can be placed over plants to protect them from being crushed by heavy snow. Once in place, the containers work to your advantage by collecting snow that acts as an insulator for the plants.
During the storm:
Keep an eye on snow accumulating on trees – on both deciduous and evergreens. If branches are sagging under the weight, use something long such as a broom handle to gently shake the snow off the branches as high as you can reach. Start at the lowest part of the tree rather than at the top. If you start dusting snow off the top, it will add even more weight onto the lower branches. Starting at the bottom of the tree helps to keep those lowest branches from being overloaded to the breaking point.
If you have trees that are already leaning – or branches that are at a sharp “V” with one already growing more to the side than upright—avoid standing or putting the property under them. These may be signs of a tree that could fall over or a branch that could break under heavy snow. Cottonwood trees, for example, are often susceptible to breakage.
Branches of columnar, upright evergreens can spread apart under heavy snow. Shaking the snow off these evergreens can help minimize the damage.
After the storm:
Inspect trees for broken branches or “hangers.” These are broken branches that seem to be hanging on by a thread. Line up an expert to cut the branches properly to avoid insect or disease problems in these wounds later on.
For upright evergreens that have splayed, check at a garden center for material that can be wrapped around the branches to restore their upright shape.
If ornamental grasses have been crushed, they won’t bounce back. Plan a time when the weather is warm to cut grasses back. This needs to be done in the springtime anyway before new shoots emerge. If your grasses survived until now, congratulations!
Be safe. Got toppled plants with downed wires? Assume that any wire is energized and do not touch it. Contact local utilities to check it out before approaching it. If it is posing an immediate hazard, contact emergency services.
Children who grow their own vegetables are five times more likely to eat them, according to a 2015 study. Whether it’s at school or at home, gardening can benefit their health and wellbeing in many ways.
Consider involving your children in planning your garden, and garden alongside them when it’s time to plant. A 2005 study found that elementary school children who participated in gardening activities scored much better on science achievement exams compared to those who did not do any gardening activities. Those who worked in the garden with their parents were more likely to eat more vegetables as they grow older.
Let them select veggies, herbs, and flowers they would like to grow. Get them involved early in the process to increase their investment and help them learn. Planning a garden can help them practice math skills and expose them to the science of plants.
Teach them the value of veggies. At harvest time, weigh some of your harvests and write down how many pounds of zucchini, tomatoes, or other vegetables your young gardener has grown. Then go to the grocery store or grocery store app, find the current price of these items and help them do the math. Turn a math exercise into a source of pride knowing they’ve grown $5 in green beans.
Gardening connects us with Mother Nature, influences environmental stewardship, and is an ongoing lesson in a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition. Plus, children who spend time in green settings have improved creativity, imagination, cognitive function, and intellect.
In the remaining winter days, plan your garden and if you have children at home invite them to join you. You will all reap the benefits this summer and onward.
Here are few guidelines to minimize the potential negative effects of ice melt.
Snow and ice can wreak havoc on our sidewalks and pathways. The Front Range’s heavy snowfall can melt as the day warms up, then freeze in overnight temperatures, leaving you with a slippery situation. To avoid slips and falls, it makes sense to put down some ice melt.
But responsible use of ice melt is important for people, plants, and pets. Misuse can cause its own set of painful problems. Most ice melts include salts and can damage hardscape surfaces, burn paws, and even hurt human hands if handled improperly. It can also find its way into nearby lawns or plant beds where it can dehydrate and injure your greenery and pollute runoff.
Follow these guidelines to minimize the potential negative effects of ice melt:
Clear the way.
Shovel as much snow as possible from your walks before you put down the product. Ice melt isn’t designed to melt inches of snow, so clear the way before sprinkling it on your property.
Use it sparingly.
If you’re left with piles of ice melt after the snow and ice are gone, you’re using too much. You don’t need to cover the entire surface with the product. The salts can dissolve in the melting ice, spread out, and provide more coverage than you realize. You may not even need to reapply.
Clean up afterward.
Once the moisture has evaporated, sweep up the ice melt and throw it away. Don’t sweep the product onto your lawn or plants, where it can cause injury, or leave it to cause damage to your concrete, wood deck, or pavers.
If you’re finding icy areas after every storm, you might evaluate the cause. By making changes to prevent puddles and ice from forming due to drainage issues, you’ll need less ice melt—or none at all.
Are you thinking to schedule professional landscape services? Here are some tips for you.
After the recent deep freeze, it’s hard to believe that spring is just a month away. While you’re staying warm indoors, it’s a good time to plan your landscape for warmer months. Demand is high and professionals are already booking up, so get on their calendars now.
Schedule services that you will not do yourself. These include spring activation of the sprinkler system, getting the lawnmower in the shop for maintenance, and blade sharpening and aeration of the lawn.
Consider pruning. Consult a professional about maintenance on dormant trees that could prepare them to better withstand spring weather events. [NOTE: Do NOT prune any spring-flowering trees, shrubs or perennials. Fruit trees, crabapple trees, and lilac are all in this do-not-touch category.
If you are planning to renovate or do upgrades in your yard, schedule a time to meet with a designer asap so that the work can be scheduled and underway as soon as possible.
Review last year’s garden plan and revise this year’s plan accordingly. Rotate crops such as corn that need to be moved to new locations and make sure plants that love one another such as basil and tomatoes will be planted next to one another.
Get online and order seeds in order to have the best selection available.
Plan ahead so you can have the landscape of your dreams. Be patient—warmer days will be here before you know it!