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Late Winter Irrigation Needed For Spring Growth
As landscape trees and shrubs come out of dormancy and begin spring growth, water in the soil must be available. Drought stress trees will develop small leaves with poor color, if leaves open at all. Irrigation in late February and March provides the needed moisture for the roots to take up and deliver to the growing leaves. Newly planted trees need irrigation near the trunk, but all other trees need water from the drip line (end of longest branches) to twice the size of the canopy. Make sure to apply enough water to moisten the soil 6 to 8 inches deep.
For more information on proper tree irrigation, please look at the drawings from an excellent brochure from New Mexico. Granted, the plant list isn’t appropriate for our area, but plant roots grow in the same patterns in both states.
Low soil moisture continues to be the number one concern in landscapes in southeastern Colorado. You can help ensure survival of your landscape plants by irrigating regularly. When the soil is dry, root hairs can die, making it very difficult for plants to take up water and nutrients next spring. By increasing soil moisture, the root hairs will be protected from desiccation.
The rule of thumb is that established plants need irrigation once a month and new plantings more often because of their smaller root systems. Irrigate when the temperature is above 40 degrees; watering early in the day allows moisture to soak in before the evening temperature drop. Remember to disconnect and drain the hose when you are finished watering.
The limited snowfall that southeastern Colorado receives rarely makes a difference to our landscape plants. It takes about 10 inches of snow to equal an inch of moisture, assuming it melts into the soil rather than evaporates directly into the atmosphere. So unless we have an unusually snowy winter (yes, please), don’t count snowfall as part of your irrigation plan.
For more information on winter irrigation, see CSU Extension Fact Sheet 7.211: Fall and Winter Watering at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07211.pdf or A Waterwise Guide to Trees from the New Mexico Water Use and Conservation Bureau at http://www.ose.state.nm.us/PDF/Publications/Brochures/TreeBrochure.pdf.
Sewer Adjustment Information
Gardeners who pay their water bills to the Pueblo Board of Water Works can irrigate their landscapes in January and February without impacting future sewer rates. Just go to the Board of Water Works website, http://www.pueblowater.org , click on Wastewater Adjustment Program, and fill out the online form. Or you can call their customer service line at 719-584-0203. You will need your customer number and the dates you irrigated your landscape.
Piñon pitch mass borer
Piñon pitch mass borer, Dioryctria ponderosae is damaging piñon and ponderosa pines in Pueblo and Fremont Counties. Damage is done by the larvae, a tan worm about ½ + inch long with a brown head. The larvae tunnel under the bark on the trunk and inner large branches, often near branch crotches, feeding on the water and food transportation system. Infested trees look stressed, with thinning or browning needles. In some cases only one branch or part of the tree may be affected.
Outward signs of larval feeding include masses of pinkish, gummy pitch near the feeding area, and cream colored dried pitch on lower branches or the trunk. When you pull the pinkish pitch away, the larvae may be pulled out with the pitch.
For more information on this insect pest, please the publications at http://wiki.bugwood.org/HPIPM:Pinyon_%22Pitch_Mass%22_Borer and http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/TRA/PLANTS/ppitch.shtml.
Pinon with both fresh and dried pitch
Photo: Sylvia Sanchez, Colorado Master Gardener
Very large pitch - fresh mass on pinon
Photo: Sylvia Sanchez, Colorado Master Gardener
Pitch mass borer photo from bugwood
Photo: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University
This is a wonderful resource for weed management preferences from Fremont County weed control. Download the .pdf here.
Gardening for Wildlife
The role of wildlife (animals such as insects, birds, reptiles and mammals) is critically important in natural and designed landscapes. Animals function as pollinators, consumers and the clean up crew, and add visual and auditory interest to our gardens.
All wildlife friendly landscapes should provide sources of water, food and shelter. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all habitat. The details of food source, nesting location and materials, reproduction schedule and overwintering habits differ between animals and can be focused toward the animals you most prefer in your yard.
Ponds, birdbaths and bowls can be used to provide year round water for drinking, bathing and, for some animals, reproduction. The container doesn’t have to be fancy but needs to hold at least a few inches of water and be weighted to avoid blowing over. Empty and refill the container frequently to keep the water fresh.
The best food source for native wildlife in your landscape is plant species native to your area. Add a mixture of plants to your landscape that produce a different types of leaves, pollen, nectar, seeds and nuts . Keep in mind that the needs of insect larvae or the young of birds and mammals may be different than the adults of the same species. You can supplement native food sources with feeders but be consistent about filling them.
Wildlife, no matter their size, need places to hide from weather and predators and to lay eggs or raise young. As with food sources, shelter needs vary according to species and ranges from below the soil surface to the tops of the tallest trees. Native plants can provide good shelter, but many ornamental trees and shrubs also work very well.
Rocks, logs, brush and dead trees can provide excellent natural shelter for many species. When natural shelter is unavailable, nesting boxes can be built and set up in the landscape.
Eco-friendly gardening practices make urban settings healthier for wildlife. You can increase the wildlife friendliness of your landscape by
- building layers in the landscape, with a mixture of groundcovers, forbs, shrubs and trees
- reducing the amount of manicured lawn and increasing the number and variety of plants, especially natives
- leaving seed heads and fruit on plants, especially in the winter
- decreasing/eliminating the use of chemical pesticides
For additional information on gardening for wildlife, please refer to the resources listed here.
Are you thinking of hiring a tree service to prune or remove a tree and not sure how to find the best option? Protect your landscape investment by asking questions before you sign a contract. Check references, discuss the practices the company uses, and get the agreement in writing. For more suggestions on what you need to know before you choose a tree service, click here.
Nationwide Gardening Resources
Two excellent resources for gardening information are eXtension (link) and PlantFacts (link). eXtension is an interactive site where questions are answered by Extension professionals from around the country. The website offers both searchable FAQs and an opportunity to enter your specific question. The PlantFacts website offers gardeners a single site to search for research-based gardening information nationwide. You can use this site to find Extension publications on gardening topics from Colorado State, Cornell, Utah State, Purdue and many other land grant universities.
Gardening With Native Plants
In times of drought or water restrictions, gardens planted with water-wise plants continue to thrive. By adding prairie natives to our urban landscapes, gardeners can develop a connection to the natural landscape, provide food sources for native insects, and decrease landscape irrigation needs. For more information on gardening with native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous grasses and forbs, please see the following CSU Extension resources:
CSU Extension Fact Sheet 7.421: Native Trees for Colorado: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07421.pdf
CSU Extension Fact Sheet 7.422: Native Shrubs for Colorado: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07422.pdf
CSU Extension Fact Sheet 7.242: Native Herbaceous Perennials: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07242.pdf
CSU Extension Fact Sheet 7.233: Wildflowers in Colorado: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07233.pdf
The Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens electronic newsletter provides frequent updates on the topic of gardening in support of native wildlife. You can subscribe at http://nativeplantwildlifegarden.com/.
Colorado Plant Database
Visit the Colorado Plant Database for information on native and non-native plants in our state. You will find details on where over 1,060 Colorado plants live, when they bloom, and suggestions on how to use them in your landscape.
Colorado State University Horticulture Links
CSU gardening information online:
CSU Soil, Water and Plant Testing Lab (click on Horticultural Applications for Gardeners):
CSU Turf program:
Colorado Master Gardener home page:
Colorado Master Gardener Garden Notes:
Other Horticulture Links
Colorado Native Plant Society:
Managing Alternative Pollinators: A Handbook for Beekeepers, Growers and Conservationists
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
National Pesticide Information Center:
Pueblo County Horticulture/Master Gardeners