Friday, January 4, 2019

New Year's Resolution for your Landscape

by Kurt M. Jones
Chaffee County Extension Director 
Along with your list of getting more exercise, eating less, and losing some weight, let me offer some gardening resolutions that will help your garden, lawn and trees stay healthier as well.

I resolve to continue watering my trees and shrubs throughout the winter months…

Winter tree form
Dry air, low soil moisture and fluctuating temperatures are fall and winter characteristics in many areas of Colorado.  During extended periods, particularly October through February when there may be little or no snow cover, trees, shrubs and lawn grasses can be damaged if they do not receive supplemental water.
            The result of long, dry periods during fall and winter is injury or death of plant root systems.  The plants affected may appear perfectly normal and resume growth in the spring using stored food energy, only to weaken or die in late spring or early summer when stored energy runs out.  Weakened plants also may be subject to insect and disease problems later.
            It is important to water only when air temperatures are above freezing and the soil is not frozen.  Apply water early in the day so that it will have time to soak in before possible freezing occurs during the night.  If water freezes around the base of a tree or shrub, it can cause mechanical damage to the bark.  Heavy coatings of ice on turf grasses also can cause suffocation or result in matting of the grass.

I resolve to learn the names of plants on my property…

Suddenly the weight loss resolution looks easier, huh!  One of the first things that plant pathologists look at is what plant is being affected when abnormalities are found.  Many of us purchased our homes/properties with plants already present.  Especially if you enjoy sharing plant seeds or cuttings with friends and neighbors, it is especially important to know what plant is being shared.  A few years ago, a member of our beekeeping association was sharing seeds from a plant that he said the bees really enjoyed and it grew really well, low moisture, etc.  What was being shared was a noxious weed called common teasel…ouch!
Typical Colorado trees
I have also heard stories of other noxious weeds being shared such as meadow knapweed and myrtle spurge, both “A” List noxious weeds here in Colorado, and certainly not something we want to see propagated.
Some free resources available to help with identifying flowering plants include the Colorado Department of Agriculture Noxious Weed app for your phones or website available at  There are also a number of native plant guides available, one for mountains can be found at  Finally, to identify those pesky conifer trees on your property, navigate to our Conifer ID videos at  or navigate to

I resolve to make my home more defensible in the event of a wildfire…

Defensible space is an area around a structure where fuels and vegetation are treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire towards the structure. It also reduces the chance of a structure fire moving from the building to the surrounding forest. Defensible space provides room for firefighters to do their jobs. Your house is more likely to withstand a wildfire if grasses, brush, trees and other common forest fuels are managed to reduce a fire's intensity.
Creating an effective defensible space involves developing a series of management zones in which different treatment techniques are used.  Develop defensible space around each building on your property. Include detached garages, storage buildings, barns and other structures in your plan.
The actual design and development of your defensible space depends on several factors: size and shape of buildings, materials used in their construction, the slope of the ground on which the structures are built, surrounding topography, and sizes and types of vegetation on your property. These factors all affect your design.
Fire Mitigation- Before and After
            Hopefully, these resolutions will help keep your lawn and trees healthy, and your home safer during the upcoming fire season.  Good luck with your resolutions this year!

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