Punch list: Create a healthy garden – and then reap the rewards


Remember that your garden needs protection from Colorado’s extreme weather

We regularly read and hear about eating the right foods, exercising and keeping the mind active for happiness and longevity.

What are the guidelines for keeping our landscapes and plants healthy and productive? The protocols are called “plant health care,” a phrase coined by the International Society of Arboriculture that includes best care practices for trees and the entire landscape. The goal is to minimize pest, disease issues and plant stressors.
Here are some plant health care techniques. Next week we’ll cover pest and disease management.

Soil Quality and Health

Our alkaline, often high pH Colorado soils tend to be a clayey, compacted consistency with poor drainage resulting in roots striving for more air.

• Vegetables, perennials and ornamental annuals appreciate soil management that includes adding organic matter to create better quality or tilth.

• Plant health problems are often linked to poor soil conditions. Work arounds include raised bed and container gardening.

• Check out this helpful fact sheet on soil amendments and application rates: bit.ly/2JepxF9.

• Knowing the soil fertility can be a window that reveals what the plant actually needs. Soil testing results can point you the right direction. Start here: bit.ly/2sBzUbG.

Location and Choice

The first time you plant a shade-loving hosta in full sun, you’ll learn the importance of “right plant in the right place.”

• Study the plant tag for the light location it prefers and make sure it has enough room to grow.

Choose new plants carefully — especially trees, so they last for your grandchildren and beyond.

• Pick a different tree than your neighbors. Tree diversity means more chance of long-term survival and not being compromised by a rampant disease or insect. Green ash trees (genus Fraxinus) are not recommended because of the emerald ash borer’s arrival to Boulder County and eventual spread to other locales.

• Here’s a good tree selection list with planting tips: bit.ly/2HoeMtZ.

Water is Life

Our intense sunny days can be challenging for new plantings.

• If days are exceptionally warm, plant in the evening so plant roots initially have a few hours of cooler temperatures.

• New plantings need consistent moisture to get established, in extreme heat that may mean every day or every other day watering.

• Create shade during the heat of the day for new plants in full sun. For smaller plants place a tomato cage and tie an umbrella over it or cover it with a sheet or cloth for several days.

• Vegetables typically use a quarter inch of water per day, so water deeply about every two to three days, or more often if plants show signs of wilting early in the day.

• Water the lawn when it needs it — usually just twice a week if watered deeply. Water to the root zone — 6 inches deep. Light, frequent or shallow watering will not promote deep rooting. If footprints are left on the lawn after walking across, it needs water.

Sound Summer Routines

• Use grass clippings (chemical-free) or straw mulch to keep the soil cool, moisture in, and weeds out around vegetables.

• Renew or apply wood mulch (3-inch depth) around ornamental plantings, trees and shrub borders.

• Read all about mulch types at: bit.ly/2xOWliQ.

• Keep plant blooms deadheaded after they are spent or dried up — many plants will re-bloom.

• There’s still plenty of time to purchase and plant ornamental annuals for in-ground or container plantings. If the plants seem a little leggy (long growth with less foliage) just cut them back after planting. If the roots are compacted or circling in the pot, score or slice the sides of the root ball to encourage them to reach out into the soil and take root.

• Are your weeds out of control? You know what to do.


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